In this month’s spotlight on supplier, we’ve partnered up with the lovely Martha Brook. Founder Martha talks to us about her challenges and stories around the business.
Tell us a bit about yourself
Hello, I’m Martha, book lover, tea drinker and self-confessed stationery hoarder. I was that person who enjoyed going back to school, purely for the annual stationery haul!
After studying science at Uni, I went to work for a large healthcare company eventually becoming a business director, but that love of paper goods never left me. Hitting 30 I had a bit of a ‘what am I doing with my life’ crisis and took a week off work to write a business plan arriving the following Monday with a resignation letter in my hand. My Mum said at the time horrified ‘you’ll never make a living selling cards!”, but 8 years later, here we are.
Over the past couple of years what have been some of your major challenges?
Oh gosh, the last couple of years have been A LOT. Running a business in a pandemic and the stress of keeping your team safe felt overwhelming at times.
In 2016 my husband also decided to quit his job and join me as our Head of Operations, so that has added an extra intensity. Somehow, we survived COVID, successfully managed to crowdfund, grew our business, went through five (sadly unsuccessful) rounds of IVF, and remarkably we haven’t killed each other in the process!
When things returned to ‘normal’ after the pandemic what were the things you started doing again that you realised meant a lot to you?
The pandemic made me realise in a weird way how much I didn’t make the most of ‘freedom’. Growing Martha Book and looking after our four-year-old (also an IVF baby) took up most of my life and I had stopped doing things for me. Now things are back to ‘normal’, I’ve started trying to experience more, live more. I’ve even taken up the random hobby of ice skating! You never know what’s around the corner, so that thing you’ve always wanted to do, do it..
What do you love most about what you do?
We have the most incredible and passionate community, and there is nothing better than the amazing feedback we get from them. Whenever we get a message or a review saying how our stationery has changed someone’s life or made someone cry (in a good way), it reminds me why I set out to do this. I have a folder on my computer where I keep my favourites to read on hard days.
What do you least love about what you do?!
Haha great question, I don’t think anyone has ever asked me that before! As much as I love working with my husband, the fact that both of us do this and neither of us have a ‘proper’ job, the pressure to make it work can sometimes be a lot, and we talk about Martha Brook about 97% of the time. Occasionally he launches into business finances on the way to bed, and that really is where I draw the line.
A lot of our packages are sent for people going through something quite tough, whether that’s illness or a breakup or a tough time at work. What’s your go-to product or thing to do when you’re feeling the need for TLC?
Whenever I need to unwind, my absolute treat is to get a massage. I am a different person after some enforced relaxation!
What is a thoughtful thing someone has done for you?
I’m thinking a lot of my Dad today. Whilst the Father’s Day orders come in, he has gone into hospital for a hopefully lifesaving operation. On my 18th birthday he gifted me eighteen records that he loved when he was eighteen. Back then, there was no Spotify or even iPods, so it was literally a pile of CDs he wrapped up with a ribbon, which for my Dad was incredibly thoughtful. From David Bowie to The Who, they were all iconic albums that went on to shape my life in some way. I’ve already started working on a gift for my daughter’s 18th, which is a record book I write a letter to her in every year, and I’ll have to work out how to incorporate a musical element closer to the time!
Do you have a favourite Don’t Buy Her Flowers package and why?
My favourite is the ‘create your own’ box. I love the flexibility of being able to pick from all your lovely British suppliers and products for whoever I am buying for.
What makes you laugh?
I love a sitcom to unwind at the end of the day. We recently started Derry Girls, which I am ashamed to say I have never seen until now, and absolutely roared with laughter through the first few episodes. I went to a Catholic school and grew up in the 90s so felt I could relate to it on several levels, as well as it being brilliantly written and eye opening about the political conflict in Northern Ireland.
Three Words to live by?
Follow your heart.
You can find Martha Brook notebooks in our gift boxes.