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Madeleine Harley on setting up her own marshmallow business in Lymington

PUBLISHED: 10:27 23 March 2015


With the remains of a student overdraft and no previous experience, Madeleine Harley took the plunge and set up her own marshmallow business in Lymington

Madeleine has fond memories of baking with her Mum during her childhood, and spent many weekends picking fruit to turn in to delicious desserts. As she became more confident, she would adapt each recipe to suit her taste, and was always looking for the next challenge.

Unbeknown to her that next challenge was just around the corner when she was diagnosed with Coeliac disease. Not wanting her dairy allergy to put an end to her baking, Madeleine started to look in to recipes that didn’t include milk to satisfy her sweet tooth. She explains: “I’d actually always disliked marshmallows, but I thought I’d have a go at making some as I’d actually be allowed to eat them.”

After finding a recipe online, she made a big batch and started experimenting with different flavours. She continues: “I used peppermint, strawberry, gin, peanut butter, whatever I could get my hands on.” With her family acting as her guinea pigs, Madeleine honed her recipe and ended up with a product that she knew she wanted to bring to market.

Fresh, local ingredients are the basis for Madeleine’s business, and her core range focuses on classic flavours such as lemon meringue. She does however, try something a little more unusual every now and again, and her Orange, Lime & Basil marshmallows were surprisingly popular.

Running her business entirely from her family home, Madeleine is hoping to move out and rent her own house so that she can increase production and “give her parents back their kitchen.” She currently has a stall at Lymington Saturday Market and enjoys selling directly to customers. She says: “It makes me so happy when people come back week after week. I have customers tell me how they’ve looked forward to a square of marshmallow every evening; it’s great to hear from people who have enjoyed something you’ve made.”

When it comes to promotion, Madeleine relies on social networking and word of mouth. She has just become a member of the New Forest Marque and Hampshire Fare, and has set up her website, Thinking about the future she comments: “In five years time I hope that Harley Sweet is going strong. I see myself still heading up production, but I hope that I’d be able to hire some staff.”

Running her own business is a huge achievement for Madeleine as she says: “Small though my business may be, it’s something I created with the remains of a student overdraft and zero business knowledge. Ten months later, it’s going well, and I love what I’m doing.”


The facts

• Name: Madeleine Harley

• Business name: Harley Sweet

• Length of time in business: 10 months

• Number of employees: 1

• Ethos: Marshmallows that are fresh, handmade, packed with flavour, and made with the best possible ingredients

• Location: Lymington

• Contact:, 07597 397921



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Sir Michael Colman at his farm near Basingstoke - After retiring from the family’s famous condiments business, Sir Michael Colman’s passion for English peppermint has seen his farm near Basingstoke turn over a new leaf. Viv Micklefield gets invited in for a cuppa.

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