Sisters Jane and Lucy Batham have launched an new online business, baking brownies from Jane’s kitchen in York. Catherine Scott speaks to two entrepreneurial young women with big ideas.
A wonderful aroma pervades the spotless kitchen when sisters Jane and Lucy Batham are hard at work.
The blonde pair, who many mistake for twins, together make up Tarte & Berry, a fledgling business which is already making a stir in the world of baking, in particular brownies.
Jane, at 30, is the elder sister by five years and the culinary brains behind the business whose on-line shop went live the week before Christmas.
Lucy, 25, who comes from a PR and marketing background, is also learning how to produce Tarte & Berry’s trademark brownies.
“I have always loved cooking,” says Jane. “Which is a surprise really as our mum was a terrible cook, so I have no idea where I got it from.
“I did a degree in business management and then went to work for Arla dairies in Leeds, which gave me valuable experience in food retail.”
It was during her time there that she noticed an advert for Gordon Ramsay’s Tante Marie Culinary Academy.
Their mother had recently died and left them some money and so she enrolled on the six-month course, where she learned to be a Cordon Bleu chef with a keen interest in pastry and baking.
Jane then went to work in London as head pastry chef in restaurants. She also worked for Bettys as a confectioner, finishing and decorating cakes.,
“But I always knew I wanted to run my own business in food. I could have done wedding cakes, but it just didn’t feel right. I really wanted to do something with Lucy and that’s really how Tarte & Berry came about.”
Lucy, a self-confessed chocoholic, was the perfect choice for Jane’s business partner.
She did a degree at Leeds University, and still lives in the city. She worked in PR and marketing and had Asda as one of her main clients.
“I have a passion for chocolate and cake, eating it mainly, but I am learning how to make it from Jane. It’s my ideal job.”
The sisters were very close growing up in Richmond and the death of their mother, when Lucy was just 16 and Jane 21, made that bond even stronger.
“Mum had a lot of properties in Darlington and so I think that may be where we got our entrepreneuring spirit from. I think she would have liked the fact that we were in business together.”
Jane and Lucy also have an elder sister, Jenny, 32, who is a lawyer in London.
“We had talked about doing something together for a while,” says Jane.
“I am nearly 31 and I really wanted to do it now.”
They knew they wanted their business to be based around food, be on-line and high end.
“We did a lot of research,” says Lucy. “ We went to London to see what was in fashion.”
“We thought about cupcakes,” continues Jane. “But that had been done and we wanted something that would arrive in the post just as we had packed it in my kitchen in York.”
After much deliberation they came up with brownies, with the aim of extending the range to other cakes, and desserts.
Then there was the problem of a name.
“A friend had designed some great packaging for us but we really needed a name. We toyed around with lots of ideas and decided that we wanted the word Tarte in the title as it gave a French feel and then it was just a case of playing around with other foody words that went well with the word tarte and berry fitted the bill,” says Jane.
They experimented with different types of brownies and tray bakes before choosing their favourite six.
“We go round a lot of trade shows and food festivals and see what sells,” says Lucy.
“Our best sellers are our salted caramel brownie bars.”
The women pride themselves on the quality of their ingredients and the fact that there is nothing artificial in their products. They also do two gluten-free products.
They come in a box of eight brownies (£15.95) although they are planning to bring out a box of four for Valentine’s Day (£11.95).
Each box has a personalised gift card.
“We don’t think there is anything like that out there,” says Lucy.
“We regard them as a treat and wouldn’t expect people to eat them every day but they are an affordable luxury.”
Even before their on-line shop went live Jane and Lucy were winning awards for their business idea. “We won the BBC Good Food Award which was amazing.
“It meant we got a stand at the BBC Good Food Show at the NEC in Birmingham and lots of great exposure.”
This month they won a small business award from Dragons’ Den’s Theo Paphitis and also Jacqueline Gold’s Women in Business award. And these two women have big ideas.
They already have their “treats”‘ as they describe their products, selling wholesale to local delis and coffee shops in the York, Leeds and Harrogate areas including Fodder in Harrogate who sell their Gluten-Free Raspberry & Almond Bakewell Bars and Gluten-Free Salted Caramel Brownies.
Jane and Lucy are not afraid of hard work. They travel the country attending trade and food festivals – they already have more than 15 in their diary for this year.
They are also in Leeds Trinity Kitchen from June 14 to July 12.
But their plan is to get Tarte & Berry into top end food retailers such as Harvey Nichols, Fenwicks and Waitrose.
“We know it is early days and we are aiming high, but we know about food retailing and we are very hopeful.”
Having met them I have no doubt they will succeed.
n www.tarteandberry.com or Twitter: @tarteandberry