For Mothers’ Day: Herts’ brilliant mum-daughter businesses

PUBLISHED: 12:00 02 March 2016 | UPDATED: 12:00 02 March 2016

Gilly Brown and Katie Nicholl

Gilly Brown and Katie Nicholl


To celebrate Mother’s Day on March 6, Sandra Deeble met three dynamic mother-daughter duos who have taken their relationships one step further – by going into business together

Sarah Parker and Mary SmithSarah Parker and Mary Smith

A family business relationship has the potential to create emotional strains and pressures that can be left at the door at work. And even the brightest ideas can fall flat. So how do successful mother-daughter businesses manage it?

The online divas

Online gardening shop Garden Divas was set up by Gilly Brown in 2007, while her daughter Katie Nicholl started the horse riding e-store The Horse Diva in 2010. They are based in Little Wymondley.

The daughter

Linda Payne and Zoe GristLinda Payne and Zoe Grist

We both like putting gifts together for family and friends, and creating a theme. I’ve loved horses since I was a child and now I have my own horse, but when I was growing up my parents didn’t have an equestrian background. I wanted to create a website for the non-equestrian to shop. In the equestrian world there was lots of tweed and green and I wanted brighter products.

Seeing mum’s business take off gave me the confidence to branch out and start my own. Working together is really good fun. We naturally bounce off each other. At times you know what the other person is thinking, although sometimes with family you don’t have the boundaries you would have with other people – you have to take a step back and say ‘this is work’.

When it comes to Mother’s Day, I have to think of a present that she hasn’t seen at one of the trade shows!

The mum

I’ve always loved gardening and when I saw these brightly-coloured gardening gloves at Chelsea it made me think that there might be something I could do. I remember thinking “Am I mad?” – but if you don’t try, you don’t know.

It doesn’t always work having a family business. You need to be aware that you don’t bring too much other family business to the table when you’re at work.

Katie is an absolute star and she’s good fun to work with. Her work ethic is absolutely brilliant. We both have something in us that makes us want to succeed and grow. And it’s nice to be recognised as a woman for something you’ve created yourself.

Find the stores at and

The property experts

Zoe Grist and her mother Linda Payne have been joint directors of estate agency Country Properties in Hatfield, a franchise business, since 2007. Before going into business together, Zoe worked in television production and Linda was the manager of the Tottenham FC membership club. They both live in Broxbourne.

The daughter

The best thing about working together is having complete trust in someone. For us that’s really important. The worst thing is that sometimes we forget to make mother-and-daughter time. We do so much business stuff together that I forget that my mum hasn’t seen her grandson or that we haven’t spent time together as a family. I think, ‘Oh, I’ve seen you this week’, but it’s been at work.

At work I call my mum Linda. We own the business 50-50. Sometimes if I’ve have a strong opinion and mum doesn’t agree, she will listen and then she’ll say, ‘I know why you’re doing it’ and vice versa.

We have different strengths and we have different roles. I do things like training and staff meetings. With our clients, we can be dealing with people in heightened stages of emotion – probate and marital situations. Mum’s Spurs background helps. She was used to dealing with fans who couldn’t get the tickets they wanted. Mum is fantastic at reading a person’s situation and keeping things calm.

The mum

I love working with Zoe. It’s a bit of a cliché to say, but we’re more like friends than mother and daughter. We’re a very small, close-knit family and I think that the opportunity to do something together felt right.

I’d had a bad experience dealing with an estate agent and I said to Zoe, ‘I think we could do this better.’ I believed that we could bring some normality and some true family values and customer service to an industry that is not renowned for that.

We were concerned that we’d tread on each other’s toes but we’ve created different roles for each other. Zoe’s very organised and she’s very good with staff. I am very much a people person and I think I bring a calming influence to the business. We have our differences but we respect each other’s business decisions. The trust is there.

Country Properties, Hatfield can be found at 7 The Broadway. Call 01707 271450.

Tea for two

Sarah Parker and her mother Mary Smith set up the Brewery Tea Room in the former garage of their Walkern High Street home, an old lemonade factory, that they’ve shared for 20 years, together with Sarah’s husband.

The daughter

We started the tea room six years ago. I had the seed of an idea and mum was really excited about it. I wanted to do something for the village and I think every village needs a nice tea room. We had no expectations at all. We thought we might have a few customers. But now every Saturday our high teas are chock-a-block.

Mum’s always baked. Her scones are legendary and her meringues are fantastic. She’s up at half five every day and there are days when I will be the one who says, ‘Let’s stop now’, and mum will say, ‘Let’s just do this extra batch.’’

It’s a dream working with my mum. How often do you get the opportunity to do that? When mum comes out into the tea room, everyone says, ‘Oh, there’s your baker!’ We’re very lucky. We’re doing something we both love. We rub along well together. I’m the business person and mum’s the engine room and the heartbeat.

The mum

Before we started the tea room, we didn’t really think about it a lot and we never really discussed it. It just happened. I like being in the kitchen. When I was young, 22 or 23, my mother-in-law taught me to cook. And my grandfather was a master baker. Cooking just seems to come to me. I like trying new things but my favourite cake to bake is a Victoria sponge. I do a lot of sponges and I let Sarah decorate them.

I’m not a business person at all. I do go into the tea room and talk to people but I’m really quite shy. I don’t really do a lot apart from cooking, but I couldn’t sit in front of the television all day. Cooking keeps me going and it gives me a purpose.’

The Brewery Tea Room is open on Mother’s Day. Call 01438 861 930.

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