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Got to love a tasty sponge.co.uk but who is the Norfolk man behind cake revolution?

PUBLISHED: 14:13 12 August 2019 | UPDATED: 14:13 12 August 2019

Mark Joll

Mark Joll

Archant

Brought up in Norfolk and after graduating from the Royal Agricultural University, Mark started working for the contract caterer, Compass Group. After 15 years working in various UK and European purchasing roles for Compass, Mark & his wife Felicity moved back to Norfolk to start a family. Following an introduction to Iain Wilson (Byfords in Holt), they co-founded Sponge in 2009, the online cake company based in Holt. Mark, his wife & two girls live in Weybourne along with their two Border Terriers & cat. Gina Long talks to Mark Joll - Co-Founder of Sponge (sponge.co.uk)

What is your connection to East Anglia?

We moved to Norfolk when I was six months old, when my Dad started working for Bernard Matthews. He worked his way up to become Managing Director of BM, a role he held for all of the successful years of the company. Starting Sponge in Norfolk & having an unusual surname has meant local people often make the connection between us. I was always envious of my Dad in the early days of Sponge, he didn't have to explain to anyone what Bernard Matthews did. For me it always went along the lines of……Cakes? In the post? Really?!

What is your East Anglian Heaven i.e. what do you love most about East Anglia?

On hot days during the summer, we love to pop down to the beach and have a swim to start the day. To be able to do this & get to work in the same amount of time it used to take me just get to work when we were in London or Amsterdam, I feel extremely lucky.

What is your East Anglian Hell i.e. what you hate most about living here?

Getting stuck behind holidaymakers and not being able to get past them on some of the smaller Norfolk roads.

What's your favourite East Anglian restaurant?

We love The Pigs in Edgefield. The team there are great and our girls love the play area, so my wife and I can relax and enjoy our meal without being hassled.

What's your favourite way to spend an East Anglian evening?

Getting the bikes out, hanging the BBQ & various bags of food & drinks off the handlebars and heading down to the beach.

What's your favourite East Anglian landmark?

We walk our dogs along the cliff top in Weybourne every day but I never tire of the view along the coast towards Blakeney and Sheringham in the other direction. A beautiful stretch of coastline.

What's the best thing that happens in East Anglia every year?

We love going to Christingle at our local church in Weybourne. Father Phil always does a great job of getting us in the Christmas spirit and then afterwards we head off to The Ship around the corner for a few drinks. All the cake deliveries have been made and it's the perfect start to Christmas.

What your specialist Mastermind subject?

African swear words. My (South African) wife seems to have directed most of them in my direction during our (blissful) marriage.

What is always in your fridge?

Blueberries, my family know I get grumpy if I can't have them on my breakfast.

What's your simple philosophy of life?

As I get older, I am becoming increasingly aware of the speed the weeks seem to pass. I am trying to enjoy the present a bit more and worry a little less about planning for the future.

What's your favourite film?

I have always enjoyed getting lost in a good film but I don't have any particular favourite - just don't talk to me while it's on!

What was your first job?

Standing at a conveyor belt at the hatchery at Bernard Matthews sorting out the healthy chicks from the poorly ones.

What is your most treasured possession?

Probably our house, although it's as much the banks "treasured possession" as ours. We have done quite a bit of work to it, which was sometimes tough for us all to live amongst the mess while the work was being done, but we love the result and it's our little slice of Norfolk.

Who do you admire most?

I think that has to be the rugby player Martin Johnson. As captain of England he was a towering figure on the pitch who led from the front, was fearless & always had a wry smile on his face when the referee stopped play for something he thought he had got away with.

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What is your biggest indulgence?

At the moment it is our gin & tonic sponge.

What do you like about yourself most?

I gave up smoking several years ago but I am still pleased (and surprised!) that I was able to do it.

What's your worst character trait?

I'm terrible at small talk.

Where is your favourite holiday destination?

It would be a tie between South Africa and New Zealand; very different countries in almost every way but both absolutely amazing.

Best day of your life?

At the risk of my wife directing a new African swear word at me for not saying "our wedding day", it was the day I realised 
that Sponge was starting to get a decent following and our move to Norfolk was looking like it was going to be a permanent one.

What's your favourite breakfast?

A rare treat, but it would have to be a full English, black pudding, mushrooms, baked beans, the works.

What's your favourite tipple?

A very cold beer after a very hot day.

What's your hidden talent?

Coming up with new ideas for cakes which cause the bakery team a lot of hassle; our super sharing sponge being a good example.

When were you most embarrassed?

Any trip onto a dance floor is guaranteed to achieve that.

What's your earliest memory?

Realising how useful a younger brother was when faced with the decision on whether something was too dangerous to try or not.

What song would you like played at your funeral?

The rousing hymn, "I vow to thee my country", "Jerusalem"……

Tell us something people don't know about you?

If I hadn't been absolutely useless at the sciences, I would have loved to have been a Vet.

What's the worst thing anyone has ever said to you?

"Sorry, you're really nice but I just don't fancy you" - pretty challenging when you are a teenage boy who has convinced himself that he is the answer to all her dreams.

Tell us why you live here.

We lived in cities for quite a few years. We loved it but I told my wife that based on my experience of growing up in Norfolk, we had to try to figure out a way of doing the same for our kids. She agreed to the move and we haven't looked back.

What do you want to tell our readers about most?

When you next think about sending family or friends something for a special occasion or just as a "thinking of you" gift, please keep us in my mind- cake always puts a smile on people's faces! Do take a look at www.sponge.co.uk

To follow Gina Long @geewizzgee1 or Email: gina@hallfarmfornham.com

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