29 April 2020, 14:36 PM
  • Speciality Food speaks to Katy Spalter, the owner of loose leaf tea start-up K-T London, about the challenges faced by small businesses during the coronavirus outbreak
“I’m determined to keep my business alive”

The Covid-19 crisis has dealt a blow to many small farm shops, delis and food producers that rely on foot traffic at shops and events to drive their sales. One start-up learning to adapt to this challenging new trading environment is K-T London, a loose leaf tea business set up by Nottingham University student Katy Spalter.

After experiencing a tea ceremony in China, Katy discovered a passion for speciality tea. She set up her business to help pay her way through university and began trading in 2016. Now in her final year, Katy had hoped to start working on the business full time after graduating in June – but that will likely depend on what happens with the coronavirus outbreak.

“My passion is to do the tea business. It is a worry right now, but I’m really determined to get it online and use social media to get these sales so that I can keep it alive,” Katy says.

The majority of K-T London’s sales are driven by events, and Katy had booked up every weekend with vegan and speciality food shows or small local and artisan markets. Following the Government’s social distancing and lockdown measures, she says six months of events have either been postponed, rearranged or cancelled, meaning the business is losing out on anywhere between £500 to thousands of pounds from each cancelled event.

To fill the gap, Katy is working to boost her online sales. “I’m trying to pick up my social media quite a bit, mainly through Instagram, to try and generate sales online to get more traffic to my website.” She is also investing a Government support grant into online marketing, including advertising posts on Instagram and doing paid promotions on Facebook in the hopes of translating traffic into sales. “I’m quite apprehensive with it because marketing is so expensive. It’s very new territory,” she explains.

Having spoken to other businesses in a similar situation, Katy has taken heart in the fact that she’s not alone in having to adapt to an online-only marketplace overnight. “I am fortunate in that I don’t have any kind of running costs right now with regards to a warehouse, but I know a lot of other small businesses do, and it’s really hard. I know a lot of them are counting on getting the grant from the Government, but it’s really hard, especially with a lot of them doing fresh produce.”

Despite the many challenges of running a small business amid the coronavirus outbreak, Katy has also been encouraged by the continued support of consumers. “I think a lot of them are wanting to support small businesses, which is really refreshing to see.”

How has your business been affected by the coronavirus crisis? Get in touch via holly.shackleton@aceville.co.uk

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