Today Martha Brook is ten! Yes, it’s been a whole decade since I quit my corporate job and decided it was an excellent idea to start a stationery business. I’m super proud that Martha Brook began from small beginnings; just me in my house with one printer and some big ideas. A hell of a lot has happened since then. So, we thought it would be fun to reminisce on ten years of running a stationery business! Read on for ten of my highlights…
10 highlights of 10 years running a stationery business
1. Growing the best team ever
Martha Brook started just me! As anyone who has ever run a business solo will tell you, it is insanely hard work. As well as design and production, I was juggling the marketing, operations and, well, everything. I worked silly hours and muddled my way through improving things as I went, and probably not doing anything very well at all.
A year into starting the business I took on my first employee, that employee quickly because two, and we’ve grown from there! Over the last ten years there have been many talented women (and a few men!) that have worked in our team and helped turn Martha Brook into what it is today. Our longest serving team members who are still with us today are Alex (almost eight years!) and Pam (almost six years) in our production team and Hannah (also almost six years) in our design team, who are all just wonderful!
2. Mr B joining the business, and two little people arriving along the way!
A couple of years after launching the business, things were really starting to take off. I was still working crazy long hours, we’d quickly hit six figure turnover in my house, and I needed to make some decisions. My husband Chris and I decided to chat things through. We both realised how much we cared about Martha Brook, he was as excited about our mission as much me, and we decided to go ALL IN! He officially joined Martha Brook as our Head of Operations. It felt like such a big moment, and it still does.
Since then we’ve had two little people join our family after seven rounds of IVF, which has been something we’ve been quietly working on behind the scenes! It has been quite the battle and I’ve recently decided to talk about it, as fertility issues are something so many women struggle with in silence.
3. Moving into our first studio
One of Mr B’s mission back in 2016 was to help me to get the business out of our house. At this point, we lived with boxes literally everywhere: in the hallway, the sitting room, the kitchen, every bedroom. It felt like running a stationery business had taken over our lives! So we went studio hunting and found our first studio here in Brentford, West London. This was one of my biggest highlights; it really felt like things just got serious!
4. Launching our Stationery Advent Calendar
Ah yes, this had to be in here, didn’t it?! Now in its sixth year, this cult product has become a must-have for stationery aficionados. It even managed to get its own TV spot in 2018! There is absolutely nothing better than the feeling of launching a product that genuinely captures peoples’ imaginations and inspires people like the advent calendar has done. You can grab this year’s version before it sells out here!
5. Our enthusiastic and thoroughly lovely community
Our community is a big part of what makes Martha Brook who we are. One of my huge highlights of the last ten years is the messages we and I get from people letting us know the difference our products have made.
We’ve also had some brilliant community events, from our ‘Stationery Socials’ to online workshops. Bringing people together both virtually and in real life is always a massive highlight for me. And thanks to you lot, we’ve also managed to go viral a few times on social media! We might have (just about) got the message out about how to spell stationery, what do you reckon?!
6. Some amazing press features
I am so proud that our business has been widely featured in the UK press, from national newspapers to women’s magazines. Many of our products have been included in gift guides and I even managed to grace the cover of the Sunday Times business section a couple of years ago – crazy!
7. Our successful crowdfunding campaign
I started Martha Brook on a shoestring budget and am very proud of that, but we decided it was time to take things up a gear and go through our first fundraise to generate some pennies! When we launched our crowdfunding campaign, I had absolutely no idea how it would be received, so it was incredible to be fully funded in less than two days! I couldn’t believe how many people believed in what we are doing, and after working so hard on our campaign, it was a very emotional moment. We are proud to be a business with 500 members of our community as our shareholders.
8. Visiting Downing Street
There have been some very surreal moments in the last ten years of running a stationery business, and this is up there! Going inside is exactly how you might imagine; once through security, it felt like a smart London townhouse with lots of wooden panelling, high ceilings and traditional furniture. (I had to stop myself from having a Hugh Grant moment on the stairs!) What an honour to meet the Prime Minister and share thoughts on what entrepreneurs in this country need.
9. Our stationery being used all over the world
It seems absolutely mad to me that the business I started in my bedroom has sent almost half a million pieces of stationery to more than 50 countries around the world and counting! When we launched our advent calendar, I had messages from customers in countries as far flung as New Zealand who stayed up to make sure they got one.
And then a couple of years ago we took the step of opening a studio outside of London in Australia, which still feels like a pretty big deal! You can shop our Australia website here.
10. Winning some unexpected awards
Over the years, Martha Brook has been lucky enough to win several awards, from our local Hounslow Business Awards to some major national ones! Last year I was overjoyed that we won the People’s Choice ‘website of the year award’ at the Good Web Guide Awards. According to the judges, our community ‘voted in droves for their favourite stationery brand’, which made me very happy indeed!
Then earlier this year I was blown away to be awarded Great Britain’s Consumer Goods Businesswomen of the Year 2023, which was such a huge honour. It has given me the confidence to start mentoring, writing and speaking to help other entrepreneurs who are where I was ten years ago, which has been a huge highlight of the last year for me.
So, there you go! It is surprisingly hard picking just ten highlights from ten years of running a stationery business! I wonder if you have been following Martha Brook for a while, what you would pick?! I’d love to know in the comments and any extra highlights from you!
Thank you so much for however long you have been on this crazy journey with us. We really couldn’t do it without you. Here’s to many more years of Martha Brook! And what will come next? Keep your eyed peeled!
P.S. Love hearing what goes on behind the scenes? Did you know you can follow us on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, LinkedIn and now TikTok?! You can also follow Martha on her new personal Instagram here.