Between the lines: the Martha Brook founder opens the up the pristine pages of her life.

Martha Keith, founder of the semi-eponymous Martha Brook, caught the stationery bug early. She was just ten when she started her first business selling the kind of notebooks and diaries that made her heart sing then as now. Nonetheless, taking the path of safety and dependability, she studied science before going into the healthcare industry, where a successful career followed – and yet all the while, those gleaming cards, planners and bookmarks dancing around her head would not be silenced.



And so, in 2013, she left the corporate world behind her in favour of pursuing the passion that had obsessed her all her life: and thus Martha Brook was born. It wasn’t long before the plaudits came pouring in: in 2015, the business won Not On The High Street’s prestigious Start Up Success of the Year award, and in 2021, it scooped our very own Good Web Guide People's Choice award.

Here, she opens up her resplendent little black book of favourite things and flicks through the pages of her life. Follow Martha Brook on Instagram here.



Favourite place in all the world?


Sitting by the pool of a hotel called The Datai in Langkawi, Malaysia, nestled in the middle of a 10-million-year-old rainforest. My husband (also Martha Brook’s Head of Operations) and I went there on honeymoon many moons ago and it is the most magical and relaxing place in the world.


Dream holiday?


Right now, after two years of COVID, I’ll take anywhere warm with a pool or sea that’s warm enough to swim in! I spent several years of my childhood living in Singapore and would come home every day after school to jump in the apartment’s swimming pool, so being outside in water is my happy place.


Most coveted item right now?


Can I say a massage? I haven’t had one in ages and always find them so good for the soul. I’m always on the go, so find forced relaxation is very helpful!



Proudest professional moment to date?


Back in 2020 we decided to crowdfund to raise money for the next growth phase of Martha Brook. We turned to our community with no idea how they would respond and were blown away to total £220K, absolutely smashing our target. For so many of our customers and followers to invest in the brand that I started meant so much and more than anything else we have achieved.

Your dream future project?


Martha Brook is very much an ecommerce brand, but I am a big believer the retail needs to be experiential and in creating those opportunities for our customers. We hold an annual Stationery Social to bring our community together, but I’d love to take that one step further and have some physical space, for example in the form of a temporary shop space to really bring our brand to life.


Who has been your most inspiring mentor, professionally or personally?


A couple of years ago I met my current mentor at an event. He is an entrepreneur and strategic coach and after working with him on a project I asked him if he’d consider mentoring me. Having not had a mentor for a little while, it has been a game changer. Having the opportunity to regularly step back and reflect as well as get advice from someone external to your business that has been through it before is invaluable.



Where would you live if you could live anywhere?


As much as I love travelling, I do love the UK so probably somewhere here along the South West Coast Path overlooking the sea.


What book is on your nightstand/ kindle right now?


Last month we asked our community what the best book was you read last year to compile a ‘must read’ list for people wanting to read more in 2022. The runaway number one was Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens. I have just finished another book, so it is sitting by my bed waiting to be tucked into!


Best film you’ve seen recently?





Is it cheesy to say Encanto?! I am a big fan of anything Lin Manuel Miranda does, and this film is no exception. The music is outstanding, and the family dynamics are massively thought provoking around my own upbringing as the eldest of four sisters.


Best binge-watched TV show?


One of my husband’s most ‘endearing’ qualities is that he refuses to binge-watch anything, which means that watching any TV show takes forever and a show must be truly brilliant for us to get to the end of multiple seasons. We are finally on the final season of Schitt's Creek, which if I had my way I would sit and watch back-to-back for hours. It is hilarious and heart-warming, and the fact that we’ve managed to get through six seasons tells you it is 100 per cent worth watching.


Top podcast of the moment?





The last podcast I absolutely could not stop listening to was The Dropout, which tells the story of the rise and fall of Elizabeth Holmes, the founder and CEO of Theranos. I was hooked when it first came out and again at the end of last year during her trial. As a business owner myself, I found it the most unbelievable story, and it was a brilliant blend of true crime and entrepreneurship.


If you were an animal, what would you be?


A brown cockapoo with lots of enthusiasm and energy who is very loving, enjoys long walks, but is frustratingly clumsy. Probably the dog form of myself!


What did you want to be when you grew up?


A nun, a stationery shop owner and then a Blue Peter presenter. Turning 30, I decided to pursue my childhood dream, and I’m confident I picked the right one out of the three!


Worst job you’ve ever done?


Both the best and worst job I have ever done was when I was a teacher for six months on my gap year on a tiny island called Tanna, part of the archipelago of islands that make up Vanuatu in the South Pacific. I was teaching children everything from English to maths to agriculture without a curriculum or any school supplies! It was mildly terrifying having to lesson plan every day and living so far from home without any running water or electricity, but it was also one of the most rewarding experiences of my life.


Favourite dish to cook?


We got a slow cooker a couple of years ago and it is a game changer in the winter. Being able to throw a load of ingredients in at lunchtime and have a whole meal in the evening is brilliant. I always make double, so the leftovers last a few days!



Favourite cafe?/ restaurant?


I’d probably say my local restaurant, the Fire Station in Chiswick. When I had my daughter who is now four it was a bit of a haven to pop in with a pram, and I’ve had many moments of inspiration there with my laptop too. Just one of those beautifully furnished places that always makes you feel welcome.


What tune always makes you want to dance?





It’s hard to pick just one, but I’d say David Bowie, Let’s Dance. An absolute legend and an absolute tune – I defy anyone to hear the opening ‘Let's dance - put on your red shoes and dance the blues’ and not tap their foot even just a little bit.


Favourite website or app?


Probably my most loved app is Spotify. I adore music and if listening to it always increases my productivity, motivation and mood.


Most useful thing on your desk?


My desk is a haven of Martha Brook items! But without a doubt it is my Life Planner. I genuinely do not know where I would be without it. It constantly inspires me and keeps me on track. The daily priorities section and self-care tracker is invaluable, as are the monthly planning and reflections tools. It really has been a life-changer for me, and I love that it is refillable so I can add in extra pages whenever I need them.



Which five people, dead or alive, would you find most interesting to be stuck in a lift with?


There are so many people I’d love to meet, especially inspiring women and entrepreneurs, but if we are talking about being stuck in a lift, I am going to pick five musicians who were gone too far soon that soundtracked my youth: Jeff Buckley, Kurt Cobain, Jim Morrison, Jimi Hendrix and Amy Winehouse. They would be able to provide some great tunes to pass the time, and because perhaps I could persuade them to hang around a bit longer.

Amy Winehouse -Virgin Festival, Pimlico, Baltimore, Maryland-4August2007
Laguna Beach, CA, USA, CC BY 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons


Favourite building?


I am going to go a bit rogue here and pick a beach hut. I find them endlessly charming. Probably a pastel pink one on a beach on the UK coast with space for a kettle and comfy chair. Heaven!


Favourite Instagrammer


There are so many accounts on Instagram I love, but someone I would recommend all young women follow is @em_clarkson. She is a self-proclaimed ‘professional oversharer’ but her content is empowering, hilarious and very grounding. She also came to a Martha Brook event we had a few years ago with fellow Brentford business Teapigs and she was thoroughly lovely.


Your screensaver?


My phone screensaver is a picture of my four-year-old daughter Hermione on a sunny New Year’s Day on the beach! She was conceived via IVF and really is our little miracle and the biggest source of joy in my life! I don’t think we talk enough about how hard fertility struggles can be, so I am always very open about it.


What would your biography be called?


You’ll Never Make A Living Selling Cards – what my Mum said to me the day I told her I was quitting my well-paid job to start a stationery business. Proving someone wrong can be a great motivator!


What would be your epitaph?


She Dreamed, She Planned, She Did.


By Nancy Alsop
June 2022

Nancy Alsop

Editor

Nancy is a magpie for the best in design and culture.

FIND OUT MORE