A family affair

Categories: Behind the stalls

In the run up to Mother’s Day, the mums, sons and daughters of the Market reflect on their relationships and the ups and downs of running a family business


Mrs Sandhu on Preet
Preet is my eldest daughter and we get on very well. She helps me a great deal on the stall—she sets up the stall in the morning and comes back to help me take it down at the end of the day. Preet has a very artistic eye, she is very good at making the stall look its best. Preet also does the paperwork for the business because I just do not have the time. I am always in the kitchen working on recipes and cooking. We still make everything ourselves, so we have a real pride in what we sell. I like to sit and watch how much she enjoys herself with the customers. Sometimes it feels like she spends more time with the customers than helping me!

Preet on Mrs Sandhu
My mother is one of those people who can gather a few ingredients, put them together and create something wonderful. She is very good at thinking outside the box and choosing ingredients that people might not think would go together, but actually do. Mum’s background is Punjabi, where every family has their own recipe for a dish and people are very creative with food. The chicken pickle we sell was initially created for mum as a child, because she didn’t like the goat pickle. It was the first thing we sold at the Market. Our relationship is at the heart of the business. We both just enjoy working together and being part of the amazing atmosphere at Borough Market.

Northfield Farm

Dom on Tessa
Growing up I was into eating, but never into cooking. I wasn’t even into butchery until my early twenties. Our mum is an amazing cook and I’ve always loved food, but it’s only in working with her and in the business that it has gone from the mystery of mum’s food to working it out and understanding what it is she does. I do most of the butchery—though she does some too—as well as recipes, but we play off each other and are inventive with our personal ideas and pass them onto customers. There’s a synergy there, and that helps with selling. We have these recipes cards and when I give a customer one of them, I can say, “my mum makes that, trust me, it’s delicious”. There are a lot of family businesses that aren’t really family, they just use it as a marketing tool—we really are, and people like that authenticity.

Tessa on Dom
‘Lovely’ is the best way to describe it. I can’t find a better word. It is just really heartening. When Jan and I set this whole thing up, I used to carry Dominic round in a backpack, because it was the easiest way to get the business done. Our other son, Leo, was toddling and our daughter Charlotte was small too—just 21 months older. No one ever thinks their children will want to carry on and take over. Most children say, “no way” and do precisely the opposite. We are so incredibly lucky. Leo was always going to go into farming, but Dominic was different: I thought he’d go to university and into medical school. Then when he left school he just said, “no, I’d really rather get involved in the business.” His willpower was amazing to watch. The way he did shoulder after shoulder of lamb—because learning all comes down to repetition. He came down aged 20, took over as butchery manager. He was so determined. We supported him but he was the one here. We work on recipes together: my first love was always cooking. We love cooking together. It is possible to work well with your children or parents—we prove it.

Frederica, Charlie and Caroline Foster


Frederica and Charles on Caroline
Turnips was set up in Borough Market some 30 years ago by my mum and dad, Caroline and Fred Foster. Dad is somewhat retired—he prefers the golf course to the night shift these days, but mum is very much still the big boss!

Both myself and my brother Charles work with mum on a daily basis. Together we have really progressed the company—mostly, I believe, down to the family dynamic. We are so appreciative and thankful of our mum, who has provided us with so much opportunity and set an incredible example: from looking after crucial employees that have been with us for many years, to the day to day attitudes and motivation needed to run and grow a successful business.

Caroline on Charles and Frederica
We are an extraordinarily close family. At work Frederica and Charles are two of the most important—if not the most important—people on the stall. They’re very different: one is fast, quick witted and outspoken; the other is deep and thoughtful, so they complement each other and me. We have different roles and different headings under us: I still control everything, but they have their own responsibilities and as a team, I know I can fully rely on them. They are committed 100 per cent.

Being a family business can have some negatives—we’re all rather opinionated, so that causes some friction! When it comes to me telling another member of staff what to do, they sort of just do it, I don’t get their opinions back quite so strongly, though I encourage all staff to be open. There are numerous challenges working together: it’s really tough at times, but the positives far surpass the negatives because we’re all striving for the same goals. We all have this mad passion for fruit and veg and running the business. We more or less work 24-seven. Even at Sunday lunch, it’s all that comes up. Since they were born, it’s been around them, that’s all we talk about: work. Overall, it’s good. I fully rely on and appreciate them both as individuals. It feels like an incredibly special type of relationship, which is lovely to have.

The Gated Garden

Sharon on Amber
In times of need, Amber will come and help me. Though she doesn’t like standing around in the cold! But if we need help, she will come in when it’s busy—she’ll come in on Mother’s Day, for example. She doesn’t arrange flowers, but she understands the business, she goes to wholesalers for me. She doesn’t mind doing the grotty jobs. We are that kind of family: we help one another, we do what we can. I’m not around home much, because I work such long hours, so she does the food shop and pulls her weight at home. We’re lucky to all get along as a family.

Amber on Sharon
I have learnt the dedication it takes to make a small business work, so I help where I can such as with Instagram and the trends I see as a younger person. It seems rather obvious to me to help, especially when I have a mother who does as much for me as mine does. I do love the busy periods at the Market such as Valentine’s Day and Mother’s Day—it’s much more engaging and we actually work better together when it’s busier, as when it’s quieter there’s more time to bicker. Our working relationship is the same as our home one: mum is in charge!

Ted’s Veg

Kath on Sophie
Both my boys and my daughter are involved in the business, as well as my husband Ted, so it really is family-run. Callum is night manager; he sorts out the wholesale. Grant does a couple of markets and Sophie’s an all-rounder. Whatever is asked of her, whether it’s days, nights, running the stall or HR, she will get on and do. We never asked the kids to come into it; I’ve always told them, “be your own person and speak your mind, while respecting other people”. They worked with us to earn money over summer holidays and for better or worse, have stuck with it, though Sophie had a couple of years abroad in the meantime. It is rare, especially in farming: it’s hard work, it’s not easy, especially in weather like this, but it’s fantastic when you are trying to keep a business going to have family involved.  

Sophie on Kath
I was only supposed to be here six months—but I’ve been here four years. I enjoy the flexibility of instinctively knowing what needs doing and knowing that when I’ve done it, I can go home and relax. I also love working with mum; we bounce off each other, we have good banter. We’re more like friends than mother and daughter and that’s true of both our personal and our working relationship. She’s taught me the value of customer service and hard work—and I work all the harder, I think, knowing it’s a family business, because I value it more.