Today comes a very special ‘A chat with’ post; I love them all but when you get to share the and talk about a business an old friend is building it feels super exciting. Today I’m talking to Gem, owner of Borders Bakeshop. I met Gem in 2006 when I moved into halls for my final year of Uni; Gem was my next door neighbour and I have fond memories of bonding over baking, sweet treats and of course uni stresses! Since uni Gem and her husband have lived and travelled through various countries, but since having their daughter, Ella, they’ve settled in Scotland (though I’m sure Gem would love to be in Vancouver again!). We’ve always kept in touch and today I’m super excited to be spreading the word about her growing baking business.
Borders Bakeshop is a gourmet baked goods postal service that Gem runs through Instagram and Facebook. Every Monday morning Gem announces the weeks flavour, and come 7pm the order book opens with tasty treats delivered later that week. Boxes typically include brownie, marshmallows, fudge or truffles and I can confirm her bakes are incredible! I’ve tried many of Gem’s amazing bakes over the years (she introduced me to the wonders of Oreo truffles!) and sampled Borders Bakeshops peanut butter and s’mores boxes – boy oh boy is Gem good with her flavour combinations. The boxes received are always so professionally put together and she goes that extra mile to ensure the best possible bakes.
So let’s sit back, put our feet up and have a chat with Gem…
(P.s. there’s an extra special giveaway for readers below!)
Hey Gem, it’s so great to have you here. Let’s kick things off with a little introduction to who you are…
I’m Gem, an almost 30 year old wife to a cookie loving forester and mummy to a Gruffalo loving toddler. We’ve spent the last 10 years living in England, Turks and Caicos, Canada and Wales, finally settling here in the historic market town of Kelso in the Scottish Borders. I love to bake (obviously) and along with that I also love to eat, and pretty much base all my days out and holidays around where the best doughnuts, ice cream, milkshakes and cupcakes can be found! Travelling is my number one favourite thing to do, I also love music and photography and hiking and getting outdoors, and I’m never happier then when I’m in the mountains…or with a jar of Nutella in my hands!
For readers who haven’t heard of Borders Bakeshop could you tell us a little bit about it?
Borders Bakeshop is a gourmet baked goods postal service, I bake up tasty treats in my kitchen here in the Scottish Borders and then I post them out straight to your letterboxes! Each treat box is like a little selection box of baked goods – it changes week to week but there is usually always a blondie or a brownie, marshmallows, fudge or truffles and cookie sticks or rocky roads. There are 8 pieces in each box, and a new flavour each week. The week just gone was a Biscoff themed box, and other flavours that have featured in the past have been Ferrero Rocher & Nutella, Peanut Butter & Oreo, Rolo & Salted Caramel, Red Velvet and S’mores.
For me, one of the best gifts you can give is something tasty
I take orders every Monday. The new flavour gets announced at 7am on my Instagram and Facebook account, if you are a returning customer you can secure a box at that time, but if you are a new customer you can place an order at 7pm on a Monday night. I make 16 boxes each week, and so it is first come first served with the orders. I have two posting days – on a Wednesday and a Thursday, and each box is posted out 1st class with Royal Mail.
And how did the concept for Borders Bakeshop come about?
I have always loved baking, and for the past 10 years I have often lived far away from family and friends in many different places – sometimes abroad, and so finding companies who delivered edible gifts was always a bonus. For me, one of the best gifts you can give is something tasty… and if I’m not nearby to bake for my loved ones then I wanted them to still get something delicious to spoil them on their birthday or when a new baby was born etc.
My little girl Ella was born in 2014, and after making the choice to be a stay at home mom I knew I needed to do something to start bringing in a little bit of income too. Baking seemed like the obvious choice! I am a trained behavioural therapist and have always worked with autistic children, but after a move to the Scottish Borders with my husband’s job last summer there were no work opportunities in the field I’m trained in and so I turned to my number one passion.
It was an idea that had been brewing for a few months, initially I thought of doing a brownies by post service – and had thought of lots of awesome brownie flavours. However, there are quite a few companies out there who just do brownies. One night after a 3am wake up call from my toddler, it came to me – little selection boxes of different baked goodies including brownies. I couldn’t sleep that whole night with a million ideas whizzing around my head of all the different flavour combos I could do, and within a month or so Borders Bakeshop was up and running!
How do your decide on flavours and recipes, and do you have favourite/least favourite ingredients you can share with us?
The recipes I use are mostly tried and tested favourites of mine. I have had a baking blog since 2009 and so over the years I have built up quite a collection of recipes. I now have a great fudgy brownie recipe that I just tweak each week to incorporate the new ingredients of that week. I definitely have favourite ingredients – anyone who knows me will know I am obsessed with coconut, nutella and Oreo’s – so you will find lots of flavour combos that revolve around those ingredients! I’m not personally the biggest fan of chocolate orange, but it has certainly proved to be popular among my customers and I am also not so keen on salted caramel! It’s good to have some flavours that aren’t my favourite though because then I’m not so tempted to eat all the ingredients I’m baking with!
So what does a typical day look like to you?
Tuesday and Wednesday are my baking days, and the busiest days of my week. I wake up and get Ella her breakfast and get her ready for playgroup. She goes to playgroup for 3 hours in the morning, sometimes my husband is able to drop her off and then I get right to my baking. If I’m super organised and hardworking I can make at least 2 of the bakes, or sometimes 3 while she is at playgroup. Then it’s time to pick her up, and we usually try and do something fun in between pick up time and her afternoon nap – she loves to feed the ducks and so we’ll usually try and fit that in and a trip to a playpark.
One night after a 3am wake up call from my toddler, it came to me – little selection boxes of different baked goodies including brownies. I couldn’t sleep that whole night with a million ideas whizzing around my head of all the different flavour combos I could do, and within a month or so Borders Bakeshop was up and running!
After lunch she goes down for a 2 hour nap usually and so I get back to baking, and I start assembling all the boxes and writing out the addresses of where the orders are going to. When she wakes up it’s more fun time – she loves to dress up, and is especially into building towers at the moment and she also likes you to read dozens of books to her over and over!
We eat dinner when my husband gets home from work, and then he’ll usually take her out on a bike ride or to do some gardening together so that I have more time to finish off the bakes, or slice them up. The getting out of the pans and slicing up into as even pieces as possible actually always takes longer than you think! I always make sure I’m done by Ella’s bedtime so I can be there for story time and prayers that we do together as family.
If it’s been a productive day I’ll grab an episode on Netflix with my husband and chill til bedtime! or if not I’ll get back into the kitchen! It’s a really busy day packing everything in. Sometimes I make things harder for myself by making triple layer brownies, and chocolate dipped truffles and so there are always more components to make then just four different bakes! but I always just want to make the bakes as over the top as possible because I enjoy producing something that you can’t really find if you walk into a run of the mill bakery/cafe on any high street. That’s what I like to think makes my boxes a little bit unique. 🙂
What’s the one piece of advise you’d offer to anyone thinking of starting their own business?
I know it’s not very original but just do it! There are always so many fears holding you back, all the what ifs! I always have them just before 7am/7pm on ordering day – Monday. What if no one orders this week? What if everyone is trying to be good this week? What if people don’t have the extra cash to order treats this week? I always worry that those notification won’t start showing up on my phone but sure enough every week they do! It’s so rewarding to be doing what you love for yourself. Like I said before, baking has always been this huge passion of mine, but it’s not just the baking itself I love – it’s the sharing of the end result! So when people share little pictures of the treat boxes they’ve received along with commenting on how delicious everything was or how much they enjoyed it all that makes me SO happy! I could bake every day just for myself and still be happy, but when baking for others and seeing the joy it brings to sometimes complete strangers who I don’t even know, nothing compares to that!
Often people order treat boxes as gifts, and so to think my baked goods are arriving on someones doorstep to cheer them up after bad news, or to bring them congratulations on their new arrival, or a surprise weekend pick me up that they weren’t expecting after a hectic week – that just warms my heart!
What’s the key to a happy life for you?
The key to a happy life is a happy family for me! I’ve always loved the quote by George Bernard Shaw ‘A happy family is but an earlier heaven’. Anytime that I’m spending time with my husband Byron and little girl Ella I am happy! We love exploring and getting outdoors together. We live in a beautiful part of the country so there is always awesome countryside on our doorstep to explore – we love going on bike rides around Kielder Forest in Northumberland, or going to National Trust properties and building dens with Ella, or of course going on foodie filled days out to Edinburgh where I get to visit all of my favourite bakeries for a sugar fix! So obviously getting to stay at home with Ella is just such a blessing for me, and so I am genuinely grateful to all my customers because if it weren’t for all of you buying my baked goods each week I wouldn’t have this amazing opportunity to be home with her each day being silly, playing hide and seek, getting crafty together or watching the Gruffalo and eating popcorn together (which is what she told me was her favourite thing about Mommy staying at home the other day!)
I could bake every day just for myself and still be happy, but when baking for others and seeing the joy it brings to sometimes complete strangers who I don’t even know, nothing compares to that!
And finally, who would you invite to your famous person dinner party (dead or alive) and why?
This was such a tricky question!! I think I’d have to say Gwen Stefani, I’ve been a No Doubt Fan since my teens, and anyone who knows me will know I always adorned my bedroom or Uni walls with wall to wall Gwen pics! So I would definitely like to have a chin wag with her, share a tear over her recent heartbreak and let her share all her cute kiddie pics with me!!
I’d also say Caleb Followill from Kings of Leon, purely so that he could serenade us at the end of our meal because they are some of my fave musicians of all time!
I would also extend an invite to Rosie Daykin – the owner of Butter Baked Goods. We spent a year living in Vancouver, and she is the owner of my favourite bakery I came across while out there – the walls are painted mint green and pastel pinks and they have every manner of sweet treats that you can imagine from peanut butter cookie sandwiches to pineapple coconut scones and mint s’mores to pumpkin spice marshmallows. I think her delicious gourmet marshmallows were what inspired me to start making my own because I knew airfare to Vancouver would be a bit excessive to help me get a homemade mallow fix – seriously if you’ve never tried homemade marshmallows you need to rectify that immediately, they are nothing like the ones you buy in the shops and are like fluffy tasty clouds! I’d like for her to share all her best marshmallow tips with me and hopefully she might turn up with a dessert like her famous coconut cake with cream cheese frosting.
And now it’s giveaway time! Gem is very kindly giving away one of next week’s Nutella and cookie dough themed boxes (you heard it here first!). Entries are open now and will close at the end of Monday 30th May. All you need to do is follow the steps below to be in with a chance of winning!
The winner will be picked at random on Tuesday 31st May and we’ll be in touch to get your address ready to send out your prize later that week – so keep an eye out on your emails! Good luck!
If you fancy catching a previous ‘A chat with…’ here are a few links for you –
Finally, I thought I’d put out a call to see if there are any small business owners you’d like to see featured in this series? Or perhaps you’re a small business owner and would like to be interviewed? I’ve got June’s all lined up, but I’m always open to suggestions so drop me an email.
Thanks for reading and good luck with the giveaway!