Nila Holden, Founder of Nila Holden Ltd
Helping entrepreneurs launch their dream food business
To most people, success means building an empire. Watching my third friend bury her partner at retirement age, I questioned that definition…
My own husband is 10 years older than me. He was ready for a change of pace, but the award-winning biscuit business I’d built was thriving. How could I step away from it?
When the Conservatives introduced austerity, everything changed overnight in my public sector job. I had to make 13 people redundant in children’s services; we literally tossed our office furniture into skips.
Around that time, I learned to bake so I could make my own wedding cake; I got very good, very fast. It was my new husband who said: “Why not see if you can make this baking business work?” I officially started trading in September 2012 – six months after finishing at the council.
I found my niche product – biscuits – set up a website and did plenty of social media and events, but I was still shocked to get a Fortnum & Masons commission after only 12 months. They gave me six weeks to put a Valentine’s range in store! I was just a mum from Luton baking in her kitchen, but I had a rule: if an opportunity comes, embrace it!
Supplying a ‘name’ gave me credibility, but it also forced me to level up in my own mind. By 2015, I was making 4,000 biscuits a week for corporate clients; it was time to invest in commercial premises and hire staff. My mindset shifted again and dream clients like Disney, Harrods and Selfridges quickly followed.
Six years in, I realised I was now in charge of a production line – churning out 6,000 biscuits a week. Growing would mean more time and investment, and I no longer baked or cooked for fun. My friends were losing their partners, so it was time for a major rethink.
In 2018, I sold off parts of the business; today, I coach and mentor food entrepreneurs online – helping them learn from my experiences and set up businesses on their own terms. Being able to travel, spend time with my family and work anywhere in the world is far more valuable than any empire.