Happy birthday - 3 years old today!

Friday, June 12, 2009
Yes - it's my baby's third birthday. Monday 12th June 2006 I opened the doors for my first day of business.
Photo courtesy of Miette who also started their business at the same time as me

What a day that was. No phone calls, no emails, nobody calling in. Nothing. Zip. Had I done enough marketing in the previous weeks? You don't want to do too much before you're set up and ready, but on the other hand, especially when you don't have a shop front, you have to let people know you're there. It was a nerve racking day.
You can't wait for business to come to you though - you have to be proactive. The next day I got down to organising some promotions for the fathers day which was on the Sunday. On the Wednesday I got 2 orders from the 'Take Home Friday' promotion I had advertised around the 2 business parks in Tewkesbury figuring that Friday might be a good day for people to order meals to take home, then on the Thursday I got my first email order 'We'd like to try some of your yummy food please'. And on the Friday 3 orders for the Fathers Day came in. I had begun.

Business Plan

Interesting article in the Sunday Times business a couple of weeks ago, following up a few years on from 3 people who had started their own business. One said having a business plan is all very well but it's not till you hit the market you really know where your market is - then you can tear the business plan up and start again. That is exactly what I found. What I do now bears little resemblance to the original plan.

From Barcelona to Broadway

The original plan drawn up in 2 hours on a table in Barcelona was similar to the ready meals businesses like Cook! and two others they profiled in the Sunday Times that we had picked up in the airport at Stansted as we waited for our flight out. But unlike those business models which were based around their own shops and selling to farm shops, I could deliver the meals direct to people's homes. That is how it started. A few weeks into doing this people were saying 'that's great, but could you actually come and cook and serve it at our house'. So with help from friends and family in the begining that is exactly what I did - giving customers what they want rather than what you think they want is a simple, but essential principle.

1 or 2% Return

They say you only get a 1 or 2% response from leaflet and flyer drops. I can say that that figure is absolutely spot on. But that 1 or 2% when you are a small, and, especially new business can be all you need. I had been dropping those leaflets everywhere I could think of around the local area. At the same time I was starting up, so were Michael and Catherine Foster of The Big Cottage Company. They were getting enquiries for catering, and they came accross a couple of leaflets I had posted up. Other people they had called had been to busy to come and see them, I went over that morning when they phoned, and my business took a side step to the left and went in a whole new direction.

What's next?

The question they always finish with in interviews. The diary is already pretty full for the rest of the year now. Next year is starting to fill up and I've almost got the first booking for 2011 - that should keep me busy for now.


Big thanks goes to my parents, brother, grandmother, friends and clients who have given support and helped make it all happen over the last few years!


Jan said...

Yay - Congratulations to you James!

Helen said...

Congratulations! It must be incredibly hard work and I am in awe of anyone who can make it a success. Well done.

Trig said...

Congratulations. Thankfully, my first day of full responsibility is still some time away. But I'm preparing for it.

James said...

Thanks everyone!

Helen - when you really enjoy what you do, and you've got the freedom of working for yourself it really doesn't feel like work.

Trig - You go for it when you're ready. You'll never look back.