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Food & Drink
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Tell us your business story to date...
In 2010, I co-founded the wholesaler; Medical Supermarket. Our mission was to help to healthcare companies save money on all their medical, cleaning and stationery consumables. We grew fast, learnt a heap of lessons and I was eager to start over again in the food industry. So with a £500 seed investment I launched a pork scratching business.
I knew there was mileage in a brand if we could innovate. People are passionate about pork scratchings and no brand was yet to establish itself as premium or innovative. I'm a big believer that to run a successful business, you have to surround yourself with people far better at their jobs than you are. Cue Andrew Allen. One of my closest mates, he'd recently launched a digital marketing agency and worked on some of the UK's most innovative food brands. With him on board we could build a brand unlike anything that has ever existed.
The first batch of product we made took us 4 hours. We'd painstakingly packed each item, lovingly stickered and hit the streets. We sold all 100 bags within 20 minutes and headed home. Proud our concept was proved to be right, but in a weird way gutted we had to spend another 4 hours making product rather than out meeting customers!
We spent the next 6 months finessing our operations, ensuring we had a consistent, high quality product that could be delivered anywhere in the UK within 24 hours. Every penny we made was reinvested back into the business ensuring we grew our staffing levels so we maintained a proactive and hands customer service.
The game changing moment happened when we launched our pork scratching advent calendar. What started as a pipe dream then became an operational nightmare when we suddenly appeared on ITV This Morning and sold all our stock within a few hours, within the first week of November. We pulled a lot of all-nighters that week and managed to recover before the onslaught of Christmas!
Can you share your 3 bits of advice for fellow entrepreneurs or anyone starting their own business?
1. Make mistakes and embrace them. I made heaps of mistakes and continue to do so. If you're not prepared to be wrong you won't create anything original. Just learn from them and move on quickly.
2. There is no one better to sell your brand than you. With that in mind, employ all the functions of the business that give you the maximum time to be out and about meeting customers and promoting your brand. Recruit every other position first, customer service, account managers, operations, finance, marketing and then finally get a PA. Delegate everything until all you have left is sales. And only once you can’t possibly do anymore sales, then get a salesperson. I do as many roadshows as I can. I go to every sales meeting. I call and email and trawl Linked In for new business opportunities.
3. You are not alone. There is a vast network of entrepreneurs out there who have been in the same position as you and gagging to pass on their experience and words of wisdom. Take advantage of that and don't just stick to your industry. Some of my most inspiring conversations have been with entrepreneurs from the energy, technology and financial markets. Get out there and meet these guys, everyone loves a free coffee and the chance to talk about themselves!
What are the best and worst things about running your own startup business?
There is no such thing as a work life balance when you run a company, there is just life. You cannot separate these two elements of your world like you can if you are on PAYE. You think about the business every moment of the day. If you try and separate them, you'll find yourself struggling to ever get a balance. Instead, you have to integrate your business into your life and vice versa. Embrace the fact you have a start-up, make it part of the family, have fun with it.
The greatest buzz I get from running my business is the ability to create something from nothing and to see people that interact with us, loving what we do. We're not trying to change the world, we just want to do something we can be proud of and have some fun. I've met some incredible people on my journey so far and every single day I'm learning.
What do you think it takes to become an entrepreneur?
Procrastination kills a start-up in its tracks. I've learnt that that to keep my businesses driving forward I have to be willing to make quick decisions, based on few facts and mostly gut feel.
I'm a big believer in MVP (minimal viable products) and launching products as soon as we can, gathering instant feedback from our customers. With this we can tweak, improve, innovate and launch a more improved second version within weeks. We don't need to have all the answers, we haven’t needed heaps of market research, We just needed to get off our arse and give it a go, prepared to move as fast as we can to get our brand at the front of people’s minds.
Is there anything you can offer to help other startup businesses?
I love hearing from other start-ups who are having the same or different growing pains to us. The important thing to remember is that you are not alone. For every issue you face, thousands of entrepreneurs have overcome that exact problem in that exact month. That’s what makes our jobs so great, the fact we get to problem solve every single day.
One of the biggest learnings I've had along the way is the importance to get out there and meet people. Go to networking events, pick up the phone to your competitors, meet industry leaders and grab a coffee with entrepreneurs who run totally separate businesses. You never know what you may learn or who you may meet.
Is there any help that are you looking for?
Every day is a school day. I've had a very steep learning curve and as the business gets bigger that curve just seems to get longer and steeper. Entrepreneurs unfortunately don't know what they don't know. It’s difficult to keep on top of everything you need to run the business, from the financial to changes in health and safety legislation. That’s why it’s important to invest in empowered staff who can do the right thing for the business.
When I don't know something I've got a great network I can call upon whether that’s my staff, investors, suppliers or people we've met along the way.