Q&A with Martha Holli’s founder Rachel Gisby

Q. Hi Rachel! We love Martha Holli’s. Please explain to the readers what you offer.

A. At Martha Holli’s we offer handmade bespoke wedding cakes, afternoon tea catering, donut wall hire, macaron towers, wedding favours and vintage china hire. We have a lovely 1960s vintage caravan we use to serve our afternoon teas from which works great for outdoor summer weddings.

Q. Who’s Martha Holli? Where did the name come from?

A. The name came from the caravan. When I bought her, she was already named Martha and had a lovely vintage-style nameplate on the back. The caravan model is a Fisher Holivan so I put the two names together and came up with Martha Holli’s. A lot of people assume I am Martha, but I don’t mind that. As I offer a few services, I didn’t want my brand name to being something specific like Martha’s Cakes or Martha’s Afternoon Tea! I wanted it to be about every aspect of what I do.

Q. How long have you been going and how did the business come about?

A. I have been going since 2018 so I’m fairly new to this, but I’m loving being part of the wedding industry! I have spent my career as a chef working in great restaurants around the world, I returned to the UK to put down some roots in my home town in Hampshire, and thought it would be an ideal time to set up my business. It’s a slow burning process, and a lot of work was required to get things off the ground, but I am really happy with where I am now.

Q. What’s your background?

A. I have spent my career so far as a chef, and still do in between weddings and events with Martha Holli’s. I trained in London at Westminster Kingsway College and worked my way up the ranks in great kitchens with great mentors. The pastry section has always been a favourite of mine so I spent many years focusing on this section of the kitchen and soaking up as much knowledge as possible.

Q. Talk us through the acquisition of the caravan!

A. I saw it for sale on eBay on a bleak January day! I bid and won, not thinking about the fact I had no tow bar on my car and it was a four hour drive away in Norfolk! My dear friend Fleur offered a helping hand and we drove the eight hour round trip to collect ‘Martha’. When we arrived, the seller clipped her onto the car and off we went slowly home. My parents very kindly let me store her in their back garden and on arrival home we spent a good half hour YouTubing how to get it off the car! To celebrate we spent the evening in the caravan with Prosecco and card games and, quite bizarrely for a wet day in January, dad got the BBQ on! It was magical.

Q. What’s your favourite thing about your business?

A. I love meeting all the happy couples to discuss wedding catering or wedding cakes. All weddings are different and that’s what keeps the creativity flowing. It’s great to be a part of someone’s big day and I love hearing all their plans. Its so nice to be able to have input, especially with cakes, whether it’s matching colours to the venue, or using the same type of flowers on a cake to tie everything in together. My favourite thing is that every day is different.

Q. Where did/do you source your vintage china?

A. I started collecting vintage china around the same time I got the caravan, I knew it was something that would tie in nicely together so everywhere I went I visited the local charity shop and picked up a few pieces. I was often lucky enough to find whole sets! My husband’s granny volunteers in a charity shop and she often keeps things aside for me bless her, she is really good at finding tiered glass cake stands which I love!

Q. What is it about sweet stuff that you love?

A. I think it’s the creativity I enjoy the most. I love bright colours and things that sparkle. Making donuts and macarons I have a lot of fun as there is an endless amount of sparkle and sprinkle you can add. I believe you can never truly learn everything as things are evolving so much and new trends come through so its exciting to always be learning. We are so lucky to have online videos and tutorials at our fingertips.

Q. Talk us through some of your cake/macaron flavours/afternoon tea menus

A. I have a classic afternoon tea option which includes sandwiches, scones, tea and cake and all the trimmings. That’s my most popular, or I have a deluxe package which is the same but includes more sandwich varieties and more sweet treats. You can mix and match packages so you get a variety, and we also offer a children’s menu. You can add vintage china which includes all the cake stands and tea pots as well as everything else you can think of to have an afternoon tea party for a set price per head. I have a wide variety of cake flavours with my most popular being lemon and passion fruit which goes great with a white chocolate ganache for fondant covered cakes.

Q. Where do you get your inspiration?

A. I generally get my inspiration from my client’s idea of what they would like their wedding to be like. Hearing their ideas gives me inspiration to create something personal to them. I also take inspiration from local cake makers and cake accounts I follow on Instagram as its great to see what everyone else is doing and learn from them as well.

Q. What areas do you cover?

A. I am based just outside of Winchester, I cover Hampshire, Wiltshire, Berkshire, Surrey, West Sussex and Dorset. I have also done a few events and cakes around South London and would be keen to do more in that direction.

Q. What does the future hold?

A. Hopefully lots of business! I am looking to build a kitchen/consultation room in my garden so I have more of a professional space to hold cake tastings and wedding consultations as well as bake and decorate all my cakes from. I think its important to keep your home life and work life separate so this would definitely be a step in the right direction.

www.marthahollis.co.uk

 

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