What It Takes to Make It In Food

Ever wondered how to get your business off the ground? Three start-up success stories tell us how it’s done

Meg Haggar, Raw Halo
Navigating your way to food start-up success is a tricky journey, with many obstacles awaiting you. Every successful brand makes mistakes, they’re inevitable. It’s not about avoiding making them, it’s all about how you respond and learn from them.

Firstly, and most importantly, the success of your business is determined by your product. Spend time trying to get that right from the start, and if it’s not right then fix it. Listen to your customers and improve your offering with new flavours and improved recipes. Ensure you have a scalable and reliable production. Once this is set-up and working well you’ll thank yourself as your production volumes increase over time.

Work hard at building up your various sales channels, whether this is online, via wholesaler or direct to trade. The more eggs you have spread across more baskets the better, and where possible you should avoid situations where a single customer dictates the success of your business. Look to international markets once you have built a good base in the UK, and focus on those regions that are easier to trade with especially in the EU.

When it’s time to shine and stand out from the crowd, find ways to validate your products, whether through awards such as Great Taste, or certifications by various bodies specific to your sector. And then shout about your success as much as possible. PR and marketing are powerful tools so find ways to maximise your opportunities and squeeze as much from your budgets as possible. And don’t forget to engage with your end consumers via social media. Remember it’s a two-way conversation so don’t be afraid to ask your followers what they like and dislike, make them feel part of the brand and you’ll soon have an army of brand ambassadors.


Richard Hollingbery, Godminster
One of the great triumphs that we were able to achieve, unwittingly, was the introduction to the market place of quality cheese wrapped in wax. Let me explain…

Up until that point waxed cheese had a reputation for being the ‘sweepings’, off cuts and questionable stock from the larger dairies. So suddenly here was a quality product presented in a unique way – two of the most helpful factors for any start up business!

A second great triumph was winning the Fresh Ideas award for innovation in the Global Food and Drink Industry Awards for our horseradish vodka in 2007. We should have capitalised more on that award and we have learned our lesson as a result!

However, mistakes in a company of our size could happen when there is a lack of planning or communication within the business. I have learnt that the more scenario planning, budgeting and forecasting, in conjunction with your team, then the less likely you are to make errors.

My greatest piece of advice would be to enjoy and praise your team on the fruits of its labour. Showing willingness to identify and address any problem areas head on is important for business progression, and we certainly live by this mantra.

My last piece of advice – embrace everything you do – you only get one proper chance!


Ben Branson, Seedlip
3 things I wish I’d known
Patience: Launching food and drink products takes a long time. It took me two years and that’s as fast I could possibly do it. If you are creating anything new or unique, prepare yourself that the actual product will take the longest.

Snakes & Ladders: it’s up and down, highs and lows, and the sooner you can accept that and actually embrace the rollercoaster and the unknown, the better. One minute you get an order, the next you don’t hear anything or get rejected.

Focus: so much to do, so little time, lots of plates spinning, lots you could do... but what should you do? I initially wanted to launch 5x products in two sizes – we actually launched one in one size and got really focused on making that the best it could be.

2 triumphs
Growth: From myself in my kitchen 18 months ago to having 20 employees, products selling in 10x cities around the world and Seedlip stocked in some of the best cocktail bars, restaurants and hotels in the world.

Family: Working with my mother’s farming side of the family using ingredients we grow and my father with his design experience on bringing the brand to life.

1 greatest ally
I didn’t and still to a large extent have no clue what I’m doing and my naivety is my most important attribute I have learnt to embrace. It means we try things and do things that if I had all the industry experience we wouldn’t even attempt. Enjoy asking the stupid questions!

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