Meringue Girls on baking, motherhood and work life

She co-founded Meringue Girls in 2012 and has grown it into a massive business with a whopping 110k Instagram followers. This morning, Alex Hoffler talks social media tips and giving her daughter the odd Cornetto

Alex lives with her partner Neil and their 20-month-old daughter Indi in Hackney, east London.

What time do you wake up each morning?
Indi wakes up at 7am on the dot, not even 6.59am or 7.01am – she’s our alarm clock.

How do you feel?
Depends on what I’ve been up to the night before, and how many glasses of red wine have gone down in front of the TV! But usually pretty good.

What do you do first thing?
Neil and I have a mad rush through the shower while watching Indi – a lot of distraction techniques with anything we can find to entertain the beast while she jumps about on our bed. We then squeeze in a family nutribullet before Neil heads to work (he’s a teacher of autistic kids in Bow, and needs to get there on time).

Indi and I have brekkie – apricot wheats are the fave at the moment. The nanny share arrives about 8.15am; we share with another little girl down the road, and alternate houses every few weeks. Then it’s straight into MG HQ to start the email race.

Tea, coffee or juice?
All of the above. I recently did a juice cleanse for three days before a holiday, which was tough! But made me feel really good. I’m an Earl Grey girl generally, but I’ve been experimenting with having an emergency coffee now and again when I feel the slump, got to be careful though, I’m not used to it. I get the shakes.

What’s for breakfast?
Totally depends what’s cracking in the bakery, we like to eat as a team here, so often we’ll grab a loaf of bread from Pavilion and all have toast and eggs, sometimes our head baker will whip up a batch of cardamon porridge and sometimes we’re all too busy to think and it’s just a banana and a Nakd bar.

How is your week divided up (work/looking after Indi)?
I’m at the bakery Monday to Thursday and then I look after Indi on Fridays and at the weekends with Neil. It’s a really nice balance, as Mondays at work are the most hectic with arranging orders for the week, and Fridays I look forward to hanging with my homegirl.

Do you feel everything is balanced (or near enough) – family, friends, work, time for yourself/exercise?
I mean it’s hard, not gonna lie. It’s really difficult to juggle, but I think, through a lot of trial and error, we’ve managed to find a good balance, that’s just about working.

I really look forward to my days with Indi and it’s hard if the MGs have to go on a work trip abroad, and I either miss out on the fun, or have to leave Indi for more days that I’d like. I’m lucky to have a brilliant nanny share, and a nana who lives on London Fields, so we always have a fall-back plan.

Are you most productive in the morning, afternoon or evening?
Mornings for sure. I power on through until lunch, and then have a bit of an afternoon panic that time is running out, and I still have a to do list as long as my arm.

If you feel your energy slipping away, what’s your pick-me-up?
Recently, coffee and our new MG raw, vegan, salted caramel millionaire shortbread bites that have been fuelling our team through these dark winter months. We are experimenting lots with raw and vegan treats, that are refined sugar free – so we often have an afternoon taste sesh.

Meringues: still love them?

You make tonnes of meringues and cakes every day, are you over licking the bowl or do you still get stuck in?
Depends, I don’t ever crave a meringue, that has passed, but I’m always excited about what we’re cooking up in the bakery. I’ve got a real taste for dates, and we have nailed a refined sugar-free coconut ice covered in coconut oil and raw cacao.

You (as the Meringue Girls) have a huge following on social media, what are your three tips for building a good brand:
1. Think about your audience and who you are trying to reach, and what time they are most likely to be looking at Instagram. We’ve found commute times, and when they are hungry and lunch to be most popular. So approx 8am, 1pm, 6pm.

2. Try and remember what it is that got you inspired to build your brand in the first place. We always return to what makes us excited: girl power, food and anything rainbow.

3. Collaborate with other people, help a sister out, if you see another brand with a similar audience – dm them, and try and do a competition or collab.

Prior to launching the Meringue Girls, you worked in marketing. What skills transferred over?
I have a real business brain, that I def got from my mum – she’s got a real entrepreneurial spirit. In the marketing agency, I started as a receptionist, and worked my way up to the experiential team. Firstly, it taught me that I hate working 9-5 for a boss! But also a lot of great organisational skills and ways to manage a team.

The Meringue Girls team

What’s the Meringue Girls set up now – how many staff members do you employee, and to cover what roles?
Aside from myself and Stacey, we have our wonderful Sylvia, who this year became a shareholder and co-director of the company. Syl started as a part time baker for us in 2013 but in the last three years she has become vital to the smooth running of the business and we wouldn’t be where we are today without her. Then we have part time team members – a head baker, part time bakers, admin assistants, and our lovely Broadway Market meringue boy.

What have you found most challenging about managing people?
Most of our staff started out as mates and have become colleagues, it’s always hard to bridge that gap between friend and co-worker, don’t get me wrong, it’s amazing working with your friends but you have to keep an eye on yourselves and draw a line between work-time and down-time.

Have you found becoming a mother has inspired and motivated you, or does it hold you back?
It’s been totally inspiring and wonderful and amazing. It’s made me a lot more time efficient and organised. I totally don’t live the way I used to – not many Hackney Wick raves or all nighters happening these days! We still manage to have a bit of fun, but the hangovers and 7am Peppa Pig don’t mix well. So it’s saved for special occasions.

Are you strict with what Indi eats, or do you give her the odd sugary treat?
Indi was never a hungry baby – I found it really hard to start breastfeeding (managed in the end, just.) Now I am a bit of a feeder, and give her everything to try. So a few naughty nibbles, or Cornettos when she’s under the weather are def allowed.

On a bad day, what mantra keeps you going?
That she will be asleep by 8pm. That there is emergency gin in the fridge. That I am super lucky to have the people around me that I do. That I am so lucky to love my job. That tomorrow is another day.