02 November 2020
Catherine, founder and CEO of Ossa Organic took part in our Innovating for Growth: Scale-ups programme earlier this year, so we wanted to find out more about how she leads her company and what it involves...
Ossa Organic is a food business on a mission to inspire people to change the way we eat, from choosing fast and convenient to nourishing ourselves for optimal gut health and wellness.
Our first product to market was organic and traditional bone broth, which was also the first to hit UK supermarket shelves in 2015. As a business we are focused on tradition not trend, and a lot of mine and the teams’ time is spent in educating and inspiring people to move away from 0% fat diet culture and processed foods, and instead to use ancient nutrition as a way to heal themselves and feel well. A great example of this was our Bone Broth Bar held in January of this year, where we held a pop up for three weeks in the iconic Selfridges food hall in Central London, serving hot cups of chicken, beef and vegan broths and chatting to customers about gut health and these nourishing traditions.
I joined the Innovating for Growth programme, just before the pandemic hit and the world as we knew came to a halt. During this time the programme was an exceptional form of support and motivation and reminded me of the many vital practices for entrepreneurs, which help us to refocus and reprioritise our working lives:
- To plan and think strategy in a quickly changing landscape
- To visualise my goals
- To be creative
- To collaborate
- To make time to rest
All of these now make up my primary focuses in a working week as I continually learn to be more kind and patient with myself and remember my favourite mantra, ‘You can do anything, but you can’t do everything.’
My weeks are always different as I do keep a routine, but am someone who thrives in a dynamic and varied environment. I spend every day working to grow and build Ossa but make my family and my children a priority as well as myself.
I am sure there are many female entrepreneurs who are mothers that understand if you are not giving time to yourself, you will ultimately fail. Self-care gives you more energy and ultimately it is this positivity and motivation that you can gift back to your family and your business.
Once I have completed my maternity leave, I will resume my weekly routine which includes:
- yoga three – five days per week before the house wakes up (a rare moment for stillness and inward reflection)
- I also practice meditation and do a 10 minute breath work session or journey most days. This helps me still my mind and some of my best ideas for the business or moments of clarity to make better decisions, come in this time. I always keep a notebook close by to jot down any ideas that spring to mind.
- I rest and recalibrate by using the sauna two times a week for 20 minutes, which promotes detoxification, gut health and digestion and gives me time to detox from the digital, putting myself in a space where it is literally impossible to check Instagram or emails.
I am a mother of three and have just welcomed our third child into the world, so I am currently on maternity leave. At such a pivotal time in a woman’s life, I have been so proud to take time out and realise what we have created in Ossa Organic.
Through my pregnancy, labour and birth (which took place at home) I sipped on bone broth and remembered how it all began. Ossa was born when I was pregnant with my first son and in search for an all-natural and organic source of nutrients for my body and found an elixir in bone broth. Hailed for millennia as “liquid gold", bone broth is rich in the nutrients from slow cooked bones including collagen, gelatin, glycine and amino acids to help seal the gut, strengthen immunity and much more. It was then I realised that there was nothing readily available and that it was time to share an alternative away from processed fast foods and bring these ancient nourishing traditions to supermarket shelves. Now, five years after launching, as a new mother I am able to enjoy the product that my body really needs during this pivotal time of rest and recovery.
Living my own brand
It has been so powerful for me to live my own brand over the lifetime of the business. I started looking into ancestral nutrition as a way of life seven years ago when I was pregnant with our first child. Ossa Organic was born five years ago, and since then, my team and I have worked weekly to inspire others to make their gut health a priority and to learn about bone broth and natural, organic and traditional foods. We share more on our blog.
My team and I have become experts at working remotely, considering the current times. We work on two team meetings a week which can be one – two hours long. We spend time looking at our micro and macro goals and then give each team member dedicated tasks.
As a female entrepreneur and a mom, the power of a strong team behind me is everything. To have trust and support from people who understand and grasp your business, gives me strength as a CEO and allows me to focus more on what I want to achieve for the business.
I work five days a week and start very early, as I am an early bird. I like to finish work by 15.30 to be able to collect the children, and on days this is not possible, I know I can make this time when I need to. This is vitally important to me.
I also spend a portion of time each week reading, researching, and discovering new ideas and trends in the way of health, mindfulness and biohacking. All these areas relate to Ossa and help keep me at the cutting edge and inspired.
I am most recently very interested in regenerative farming and soil health as all this links to the microbiome. Having left a corporate job where I was a Partner in a large firm in the City of London, I have spent two years out of that world and immersed in my own business where I have had the pleasure of being able to design my own life. The power of having control over how you work, allows you to create a life that suits your best interests. I believe this way of living has made me more productive and more inspired in both business and everyday life.
29 October 2020
Hi, and welcome back to part 2 of The Street Food Company blog (read part 1 here if you missed it)! After another great six weeks, we have finally finished the Innovating for Growth: Scale-ups programme and have managed to build a solid growth plan that we are so excited to start actioning.
After all the workshop learnings from the first half of the programme, part 2 really allowed us to tailor this work to our business with focussed one-to-one consultations.
Everything kicked off with one of the most overlooked areas of a business, market research. Not only did we have access to thousands of up-to-date market reports via the programme, we also had Oliver, our dedicated Business Library researcher. Oliver was able to help us answer specific questions we had e.g. were young people engaged in cooking sauces? How has COVID-19 changed people’s eating and cooking habits? Getting these questions answered gave us a much clearer picture about the opportunity in the market and how our products and offering could be as competitive as possible.
With this research in hand we decided to engage a design agency to help us reposition our brand and get the key messages right. During this design phase, we fortunately met with Alex and Ceyda from Briffa, a specialist IP law firm. They were able to give us advice about protecting trade marks and other business intellectual property, both in the UK and abroad, and reviewed our existing confidentiality agreements and privacy policies. We now feel so much more confident in protecting all our work.
Our final meeting was with Uday from Red Ochre where we brainstormed final thoughts and ideas from all areas of the course so we could confidently walk away with an actionable growth plan that will truly make a difference to our company.
We are now incredibly excited to launch our updated brand and products and to crack on with our mission of making truly unique, adventurous and fun products with crazy bold flavours that other companies are afraid to do; that challenges the status quo and pushes the boundaries of food and flavour. If you are as passionate and creative with food as we are, subscribe on our website and be the first to find out!
All in all, it has been a fantastic journey and couldn’t have come at a better time. I would like to thank the British Library for accepting us on this course with a big shout-out to Julie and Anna the Relationship Managers, who have been fantastic. Also big thanks to all the mentors who have helped so many companies with their growth plans in such volatile times.
Although it’s goodbye to the Innovating for Growth programme, we are now looking forward to joining the BIPC’s Growth Club and getting access to their amazing guest speakers. For those thinking of taking part on the course, all I can say is get over to the Innovating for Growth page on the British Library website and apply.
Thanks for now and Let Your Taste Buds Travel!
James and Kevin
30 September 2020
What does the future of business look like? In normal times many things can be uncertain, but with a pandemic almost everything is - demand might have increased, operations closed, plans paused, or business models changed entirely.
We know that businesses need as much support as possible and we’re here to help. Our newly launched free Reset. Restart programme helps you to understand your business, give you the tools to plan for future success and prepare for change in the short-term. The BIPC is here to help you take the power back and become more resilient, sustainable and agile.
To tie in with the launch of our new programme, we are featuring just a small selection of businesses who have come through the Business & IP Centre’s doors throughout the years and who have successfully adapted during the COVID-19 crisis.
“I manufacture a small range of alcoholic drinks from things that I grow or forage. So, by a year-long process of cold infusion I make fruit liqueurs, sloe gin, damson gin, etc. I also make two distilled gins, for which I grow some of the botanicals. On top of this, I run a small weekend cocktail bar, which showcases the products I make... A bit like a brewery tap room, the building I rent acts as manufacturing unit, bottle shop and bar. I also sell my products wholesale to local delis, bars and direct to the public through my website. There are lots of different strands to the business which I think was my saving grace when COVID-19 came along!
Due to the pandemic, we had to close the bar, which can be up to 90% of our income in some months. Very quickly I saw that alcohol was considered essential shopping (phew!). So I set up myself as an off-license with a table moved out into our doorway – we opened the day after lockdown. We had a lot of people come and buy direct from us – being an outside activity I think people felt safe.
The established online business went crazy. I offered free delivery to a fairly wide area of East London, which I did on my bike. I also created some new products, a hand sanitiser, two bottled cocktails which had previously been favourites in the bar and a bar in a box, where people could buy gin, tonic, snacks and have it delivered to their door. The new products and the free delivery were both taken up well by customers. And so we stayed connected to our customers and got by pretty well throughout the months of closure.”
Another business who has continued to flourish throughout the pandemic by capitalising on the benefits of an online offering is I Can Make Shoes. Its founder, Amanda Overs, explains how she’s managed to keep her head, or should it be feet, above water.
“During one of my mentoring sessions with Innovating for Growth delivery partner, Fluxx, they helped me realise the importance of starting an online community, which I went on to do. This community has steadily been growing and when COVID struck (which, in theory, should have put me out of business). I spoke to this community and heard what they wanted, which was online courses. I quickly pivoted my business, filmed and released my online course in two weeks and have since made over £100,000 of online course sales in under six months. It's kept my business open, my staff employed and opened up a whole new revenue stream.”
For Becky and Mother’s Ruin, it was also a good time to reflect on the business. “An opportunity to ask myself if I were to do it all again would I do anything differently? We had to incorporate COVID-19 secure regulations into the re-opening of the bar on Saturday 4 July, but it has also actually enabled me to do things I had wanted to do i.e. Table service, a smaller more sustainable menu, better use of staff resources, a lower impact business with lower overheads – all good.
Plus, I had been quite old school in my approach to the business, never borrowed any money and have no debts. I have always run the business in a way that has felt personally sustainable – and not having to worry about servicing a debt is great.
One thing the Innovating for Growth programme taught me when I thought I was looking to scale-up (as I thought this was the way that businesses inevitably must progress), was a clearer understanding of what I didn’t want. Which is a difficult but extremely useful lesson! Not to be confused with feeling like a failure because you don’t fit with what appears to be the standard of success...”
Another business, who previously used BIPC Norfolk for support on intellectual property, has also used this as a time to reflect and refocus their business. Hazel Russell, co-founder of The Wood Life Project, had onboarded over 20 retailers when they launched to wholesale in September 2019 and she partnered with Not on the High Street and Joules a couple of months later. By January 2020, they were looking to increase this number to 45 after a successful trade show. However, when COVID-19 struck, retailer orders stopped and conversations were put on hold.
Hazel explains, “This enabled us to focus our efforts on our online sales, via our own website, as well as Not on the High Street and Joules. We worked on our SEO/CRO, blogs, and used social media platforms to drive sales and grow brand awareness. As a result of this, our sales far surpassed those experienced last Christmas.”
Hazel continues, “The rise in sales can of course be explained by the change in consumer habits in the lockdown period; shoppers were no longer hitting the high street to find gifts for loved ones, they did this from the comfort and safety of their homes instead.”
Much like Becky and Mother’s Ruin, The Wood Life Project were also able to work on their sustainability, “During this period, we spent time preparing for becoming Grown in Britain (GiB) certified, and successfully gained accreditation in June. We also gained our Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) accreditation in July.”
Hazel is now looking forward and is currently working on a new range of products to complement their existing product range. These include seasonal children’s products especially for Christmas as well as some products for adults and the hospitality trade. They are also now back in discussions with the large retailers too. Watch this space for The Wood Life Project products in a retailer near you soon!
New products and innovations are continuing to pave the way for businesses to continue trading and move forward. Innovating for Growth alumna, Central Vision Opticians, founded by Bhavin Shah has done just that. Bhavin explains “We’ve had to adapt the business as a result of coronavirus and I believe it has had a positive effect. We were already a multi-award winning practice and I’ve always been looking at ways to innovate and offer more to our patients. As a result, safety now became a very important priority in a way that we’d never considered before. Not just for our patients but for my staff and myself. I re-mapped our entire customer journey from the point of first contact, to when patients entered the premises, how the examination was conducted to trying spectacles. After identifying all of the potential risk points with my staff, we planned and found ways to make everything as safe as possible.
I had been planning to invest in new technology that would allow us to examine our patients’ eyes in more depth, so we could identify problems more quickly and accurately. This technology also had the benefit that we could examine patients without getting as close as before, which meant that it would be safer as well as more thorough.
We also noticed a few common symptoms that patients were experiencing as a result of lockdown and working from home. Many children have become more short-sighted because of reduced outdoor time, excessive screen use and close-up work. We had already been successfully working on innovative programmes to help reduce the rate of this type of deterioration, so we were able to help many children who became short-sighted (myopic). We also noted a surge in patients who were experiencing symptoms of eyestrain as a result of working from home and additional VDU/screen time. We created blog posts and information guides to help alleviate the symptoms from home where possible and invited those with lingering eyestrain to attend the practice for a specialised assessment to solve their problems.
I believe that the crisis has helped to focus the way we help our patients and has increased the value we can offer in keeping their eyes safer and healthier with better vision than ever before.”
For Becky and Mother’s Ruin, there continues to be positivity, “It is hard to know what the future will bring for us. What the crisis has taught me is that the business does have a good resilient core, and that we can only live in the moment and try and respond creatively to changes as they happen. So I ask myself, is everything OK today? This week? And if so, I think that is all I can hope for, and I am grateful! I think being a tiny multi-stranded business makes all this possible.”
If you are looking to Reset. Restart your mind set, business model, market opportunities, customer offer, social and environmental impact, products and services, marketing, finances, funding options or digital productivity, visit our free programme page to find out more and to sign up to our webinars.
28 September 2020
We are once again following another business through the Innovating for Growth: Scale-ups programme, The Street Food Company. You can read last year's diary from JR Pass and The Good Slice’s diary from earlier this year. You will hear first-hand about the programme’s different sessions and how they are using these to focus and change their business direction. Let’s here more from James.
“Hi, I’m James and together with my co-founder Kevin, we started The Street Food Company. The business sparked from our backpacking adventures and tasting the world’s best street food, from Bangkok’s shredded mango salads, chorizo chilli mint hotdogs from Havana to the toasted coconut curries of Sri Lanka. Back in the UK, we couldn’t find the same electrifying flavours and inspiring dishes anywhere and were bored with the more mainstream dishes everyone was offering.
We decided to make a range of bold, adventurous and unique Street Food sauces that helped others easily recreate the world’s best street food with just a few simple ingredients, no need for specialist skills or hard-to-find herbs and spices. We started supplying university chefs to help them provide street food for their students, but the business has recently grown into theme parks, football stadia to pub chains and hotels across the UK. Our simple mission to help anyone easily recreate the world’s best street food that we find on our travels was well underway!
Fast forward to March this year and all that changed. All our customers had to close their doors and the food service sector as we knew it changed overnight. We quickly decided to turn our focus to diversifying our business and to launch a retail side for consumers who wanted to cook more adventurously at home with bolder world flavours. The Innovating for Growth programme couldn’t have come at a better time as we now had access to a group of specialist advisors who could help us in every aspect of our new retail growth plan, to ensure we focussed our limited resources in the right direction at such a critical time.
We kicked off with a session by Rasheed Ogunlaru, owner of Soul Trader. The meeting was not only a great way to meet and interact with the other businesses on the course, but it also focussed on us as founders and the importance of looking after ourselves and that we have a clear vision, mission and plan for our own lives as much as we should for our business.
The rest of the course was focussed on our growth plan, which centres around a simple one page Business Model Canvas tool, that helps you layout how you will deliver products and services that your customers value and will pay for. Our opening strategy session with Robert from Red Ochre identified the key to our growth as being:
- A clearer value proposition for our products.
- More defined target customers.
- Finding the right marketing activities.
- Identifying the right partners to sell the products through.
With a much clearer focus on what we needed, we dived straight into brand sessions run by Dave and Sandra from ABA, which helped us realise the importance of branding, it being the sum total of everything your company does and how it behaves. It’s how customers feel about your brand and not what you think they feel. This focussed our thinking on the purpose of our company, what we could be best in the world at and how we should communicate this to our customers.
Our company purpose has now changed from helping people to make street food at home to one with a much bigger mission of making truly unique, adventurous and fun products with crazy bold flavours that other companies are afraid to do; that challenges the status quo and pushes the boundaries of food and flavour. We are reinvigorated as the potential and possibilities feel limitless.
We excitedly jumped into a Marketing session with Helen from ABA where we learned to create detailed customer personas to really understand our customers, focus on communicating the emotional benefits of our products and to detail our customer’s journey to give a five star service at every touchpoint.
With customers on our mind, we met with Dean from Fluxx, an incredible product and service innovation company. We felt we knew our customers, but Fluxx challenged us to question our assumptions and delve deeper, suggesting great techniques like diary studies and split testing to really get inside the heads of our customers and understand how and why they use our products.
Last, but certainly not least, was financial planning with Julie from Metavalue. This session addressed our questions over budgeting, pricing and KPIs, helped us to create a financial forecast and plan and has instilled a commitment in us to review our P&L (profit and loss), balance sheet and key financial information monthly.
The programme has been incredibly useful in helping us work through our new business direction and we can’t wait to get stuck into Part 2 and let you know more! Feel free to follow us on Instagram and Facebook or contact us at email@example.com. ‘Till then, Let Your Taste Buds Travel!"
14 July 2020
Hello, I’m excited to share the progress we’ve made since we last checked in. Ups, downs, turn it all arounds… It’s been a wonderful journey. Pizza in the post is nearly a go! Please take a look at our website and subscribe to our mailing list to find out when we go live.
Calum and I haven't seen each other in person since March. We were meant to be working side by side from May through to October, hopping from festival to festival. Alas… we firmly believe that our challenges are our best teachers. We’re coming out of this stronger, with a better business in tow - thanks in no small part to the Innovating for Growth programme.
Often when problems arise our outlook can become narrow. We may focus on worrying about our own issues and have a sense that we’re the only ones going through difficulties. The Innovating for Growth programme has helped us see things from a wider perspective. Connecting with dozens of other entrepreneurs has been a joy, while the hours of dedicated service and expertise - beamed through Zoom from home to home - have equipped us with the skills needed to identify and execute on an exciting opportunity.
Very soon you'll be able to order a Good Slice through our website and have it arrive on your doorstep the next day. From San Marzano tomato, smoked burrata and basil to sumac yogurt, burnt aubergine, herb and sesame salad - we’ve worked to create a menu that sources local, but is truly global. And of course, as well as being healthy, fresh and sustainably sourced, every pizza will provide a meal to someone in need.
Members can choose to have pizza delivered weekly, bi-weekly, or once a month, from our ever evolving menu. They’ll benefit from free delivery and a discount. They’ll also be surprised with goodies from partner suppliers and other social enterprises. They’ll become a part of a community united by pizza and purpose. A community into which we’ll share recipes and inspiring stories, highlighting the amazing things they’re helping to achieve.
The Innovating for Growth programme has propelled us forward in what are incredibly tough times. The advisors and consultants have inspired us, and the wonderful British Library staff have been so lovely, and so organised! Our long-term goal is to ensure all people on this planet have the nutrition they need to lead healthy and productive lives. Thank you all for helping us get there. And to anyone considering joining the programme, go for it!
Peace, Love and Pizza,
Ed & Calum
21 May 2020
I never enjoyed cooking. Ever.
As part of my home education development, my Mum would often encourage me to take interest in ‘hands on’ activities but I was having none of it. I was never happier than when I was curled up with a notebook, planning a million and one random projects that I believed would be "the next big thing." One of my favourite projects was organising and leading garden tours around Mum's flower beds and our fishpond. The guest list usually included the local vicar and a myriad of elderly ladies with names straight out of the murder mystery programmes my Mum enjoyed watching in the afternoons.
I loved planning, but I never liked cooking.
Food dominated my upbringing, being a symbol of love and affection from both my Mum and my Grandparents. Sundays and special occasions were for incredible roasts laid on by my Nan, with the best cuts of meat and endless silver dishes filled with roasted spuds, Yorkshire puds and multi-coloured veg. When Mum went to work, and my sister and I would work on our studies (and multiple viewings of Sister Act), she would always fret about there being enough food in the house, despite the fact she had stock piled enough to survive a zombie apocalypse.
Skip forward 10 years and you will find me handing out dishfuls of homemade chilli, feeding the array of lovely customers that visit my street food stand, Heart Street, and spreading the message that food is one of the greatest joys in life. This is just one of the amazing privileges that have come my way since I launched the business in April 2019.
I always knew I wanted to run my own business. From the garden tours to my Open University Business Degree, I loved to organise and execute plans and to learn about the processes of ‘business’. Even during my, much misplaced, desire to be a performer I always knew what I really wanted was a cabaret club or a dance troupe. Something I created and that embodied my passions.
Working my way through a number of jobs (recently revealed during a Zoom quiz, that number is 25), I fell in love with hospitality and worked my way to management. During this time I became vegan and started triathlon training. This combination fuelled my love for food as I saw how it could make me stronger and fitter. Plus, vegan cooking is amazing!
With my passion for planning, my restlessness in employment, my love for and connection to food and my ability to cook pretty decent vegan fare, it was inevitable. The natural development was to quit my very well paying job, take all my savings and get into debt to launch a very niche street food business in rural Norfolk.
Although I run Heart Street by myself, I never would have been able to get this far without the amazing support of my friends and family and the resources available to me through organisations including NWES and BIPC. I had frequently attended NWES workshops with various business ideas, none of which were viable. But in 2018 I attended a one to one meeting and pitched the idea of Heart Street.
You know, this could work.”
Those words stayed with me, through putting together a wildly optimistic business plan and receiving my start up loan, and I knew I would finally achieve running my own business.
NWES helped support the entire start-up process and provided me with information on the BIPC and the amazing services they offered. There was a wealth of support and contacts to offer advice, and many courses available — I specifically participated in any social media focused training. The most beneficial interaction came from a one-on-one with an accountant during my first year of trading — without that meeting, which was completely free through BIPC, I would never have financially survived my first year, let alone ended with some sort of profit!
I was lucky enough to speak at the BIPC Kings Lynn Hub about my experience as a budding entrepreneur, a truly lovely experience and just one of the many amazing opportunities I have had over this last year. I cannot express enough the importance of organisations like this for hopeful entrepreneurs, especially in such rural areas!
All of that seems years ago now, the energy and excitement of setting up my business sits in stark contrast with the daily worry and feeling of loss that COVID-19 has brought looming over 2020.
This year was due to be big for Heart Street. I had doubled my bookings, reinvested profits to grow the stall and cemented several private events. My reputation was growing and there wasn’t a single weekend in the year I wasn’t due to be out on the stall.
But like many other people across the country, and indeed the world, the pandemic brought everything to a smashing halt. Cancellations started dripping in and then flooded my inbox. Phone calls had to be made, accounts had to be looked at, ambitions and dreams had to be put to one side.
This was about survival.
Considering the horrendous occurrences that are appearing every day on our TVs, newsfeeds and radio stations it feels selfish to focus on what could seem such a minor inconvenience. But my business, as with many small business owners, has been a lifetime of dreaming, planning and hard work. It is the epitome of everything I care about, a culmination of love, kindness, childhood memories and my life experience rolled into something I am so incredibly proud of and I adore.
To have all of that teetering on the brink of collapse is incredibly hard.
But that is one of the risks of running your own business. And that’s when you have to dig really deep and remember why you wanted to do this in the first place. It won’t be the first time you have to do it, and it won’t be the last.
Starting your own business is not something to be taken lightly, freak global pandemics aside there are so many hard times involved, far more than I ever imagined. Financial concerns seem more prominent, you will work harder than you ever have, and surveys show 58% of small business owners suffer with mental health issues caused by isolation.
It is incredibly hard, but one of the best things you will ever decide to do.
So, my advice to anyone wanting to set up their own business? Be realistic. Think long and hard about if you are willing to risk financial security and free time for a potential pipe dream that may not even work? What would you feel if you don’t go ahead? Disappointed? Relieved?
Talk to as many people as you can. Get advice from organisations such as BIPC and make the most of any classes, webinars or online information they can provide. Knowledge is power! Talk to those who run their own businesses, whether they are in your field or not. Business advice books only get you so far and they won’t be as brutally honest with you as an owner who is down to their last penny!
Most importantly, remember why you are doing this. To be your own boss isn’t enough. What really makes this part of who you are? What message do you care about spreading? Who do you want to be in this world? Because that is what will keep you focused and hopeful through the roughest of times.
As for me and Heart Street, well; COVID-19 has definitely done a good job of derailing us but we are getting back on track. Researching grants and schemes and doing a little bit at a time to try to survive this storm. Survival is the key term here! Many of my street food pals have launched into delivery services, and they are proving rather successful, but this hasn’t been an option for me at this stage.
As such a fledgling business, with less than a years’ trading under my belt, I need to focus on survival and that means being conscious of cash flow. At this moment in time even buying stock would be too much of a financial risk.
Click here to see an image of Heart Street food.
So for now, I am just here, at my desk, in my little office, surrounded by newspaper cuttings, congratulation cards, recipe notes and a calendar full of black crosses.
And I’m doing what I’ve always done — planning.
14 May 2020
This year we’re following another business through the Innovating for Growth: Scale-ups programme, The Good Slice. You can read last year's diary from JR Pass here. You will hear first-hand about the different sessions, how they are using the programme to discuss diversifying and pivoting their offer during this time of change. Here we find out more from Ed…
Hello, I’m Ed, co-founder and Dough Man at The Good Slice - a social enterprise with a simple message: Eat Good, Do Good. For every pizza we sell, we provide a meal to someone in need. One-for-one. So far we've provided 5,000 meals to the children of Well-Wishes Nursery in Malawi, and 12,000 meals to London’s homeless community, via our partners Glass Door Homeless Charity.
We pop up at events across the country, including some pretty big festivals - like Glastonbury and Hay. There’s been a great appetite for our pizza and our purpose, and our one-for-one model is making a real difference. We’re therefore looking to expand into the delivery market - operating through delivery only Cloud Kitchens. Our experience on the festival circuit coupled with order enquiries from a number of corporate clients indicate that there is a real gap in the market for pizza with purpose.
Feeling more than a little nervous about the future, we were welcomed onto the Innovating for Growth programme in early April. On the 28th February, we’d received an offer to trade at Glastonbury’s 50th anniversary - possibly the biggest news Calum (the other co-founder) and I had ever received. A few days later we were processing the prospect of cancellation... In the weeks that followed, all of the weddings, festivals and events that we were wholly reliant upon from income were postponed for a year. Could there have been a better time to benefit from the expert advice and guidance delivered via this programme?
We kicked off with a workshop on the business model canvas. This session, combined with follow up work and a deep dive one-on-one on the same subject, encouraged us to explore how we delivered value. The framework lays bare what it is you do, how it is you do it, and who you do it for - placing your value proposition front and centre, with Uday, the external consultant from Red Ochre.
In the Growth Strategy meeting we identified our value proposition to be our pizza - freshly made with seasonal ingredients sourced from local suppliers who champion sustainability - and our purpose - we’re on a mission to share good food that enables communities around the world to live good lives. How we deliver this value and to whom are the key questions we went onto discuss with Robert (another external consultant from Red Ochre).
With a number of thoughts, ideas and strategies whizzing around, we moved onto talk branding with Al from aba - a brand and people agency focused on building brands with purpose. We discussed how brands that start with why stand to win the emotional and commercial battle (I can’t recommend Start with Why - Simon Sinek enough). The session cemented what we knew and inspired us to create content that will help tell our story. The Good Slice is a brand driven by purpose.
Calum and I left jobs in ‘the city’ after becoming disillusioned with what we saw as misguided homage to individual enrichment over the common good. In our eyes business as usual - with a focus on churning out short-term financial gains to shareholders - was/is broken. A 10,000km road trip through East Africa laid bare the fact that the world provides for seven billion people, but our greed and waste leaves a billion starving, while another billion become obese. We vowed to inspire change; to prove that business can be a force for good. This purpose drives us forward every day.
With renewed vigor, we moved onto marketing with Dave from aba. What size pond do you operate in? How is it changing? What size fish are you? Key questions we began to consider. Further discussion centered upon which channels to focus attention. Facebook, Twitter, Linkedin, Tik Tok, Google, email… this list goes on. Too often have we fallen victim to shiny object syndrome. I’d recommend Traction by Gabriel Weinberg and Justin Mares - a helpful guide to this ever evolving world.
Next up, product and service innovation - a big one for us given these challenging times. We joined the programme with ambition to expand into the delivery market - operating through delivery only Cloud Kitchens. These production kitchens would utilise the now ubiquitous food delivery apps on your smartphone, such as CityPantry and Deliveroo. Ahead of the pandemic, we were working closely with these platforms to identify areas of unmet demand. We planned to rent kitchen space from Karma Kitchen, the WeWork of commercial kitchens - once we’d established suitable locations. The focus was to be on corporate catering, delivering pizza with purpose to offices in central London. For obvious reasons, this plan is on hold.
Instead we have identified an opportunity in the chef-to-customer market. Pizza by post… With Adrian from Newable, we discussed logistics, operations and scalability. Work continues apace on this project - I look forward to updating you on progress in a few weeks’ time.
That brings us to the end of the first half of the programme. Each session has been immensely valuable, helping us as we pivot and manoeuvre the business into a position from which we will not only survive, but thrive. Please follow us on Instagram, Twitter and Facebook for updates as they come. Otherwise, I look forward to writing another instalment for you next month. Peace, Love and Pizza x
21 April 2020
With National Tea Day taking place on the 21 April, we caught up with Innovating for Growth: Mentoring alumna, Tina Chen, about her business HumaniTea, a tea beverage social enterprise that supports wellbeing and sustainability initiatives.
As a Taiwanese-American living in London, Tina was inspired by Taiwanese bubble tea and British tea drinking culture and decided to create the UK’s first plant-based tea lattes. Prior to launching HumaniTea, Tina worked as a Technology Consultant, performing project management activities for large-scale software implementations. After consulting for three years, she began her MBA journey at Imperial College Business School, where she honed in on innovation, social impact, and sustainability modules. Tina shares, “With my love for a quality cuppa and my desire to make a positive impact on society, I made a career switch from IT to just tea and incorporated HumaniTea in December 2018.”
Tina used the British Library’s Business & IP Centre (BIPC) to search for consumer research reports on the tea market, including Mintel and Euromonitor, which are available for free to Business & IP Centre users. “The market research reports provided me with valuable information about market size that would have taken me months and large amounts of money to gather if I only conducted primary research. Through secondary research, I learned about market trends for ready-to-drink tea, plant-based milks, and low-sugar soft drinks.”
In the UK, the soft drink sector is booming with sales valued at £15 billion. The flavoured milk drink and milk alternative sales are valued at £538 million, ready-to-drink (RTD) coffee sales are valued at £146 million, and RTD tea sales are valued at £23 million. Tina explains, “Consumers desire organic RTD tea with low sugar or health benefits. There is an expected increase in the range of RTD tea, like matcha and kombucha, as consumers search for heathier alternatives to RTD coffee and energy drinks. In fact, 1/3 of UK adults think cold tea is a good alternative to other soft drinks.”
As well as the health benefits (all her flavours Matcha, Earl Grey, and Rooibos, contain low sugar and calories, exclude preservatives, artificial flavours, or any additives), ethical sourcing and sustainability are at the heart of HumaniTea. Their teas come in paper bags from Fairtrade, organic farms, oat milk is used instead of dairy as oat milk is one of the most eco-friendly milks available and making one cup of tea requires less water usage and releases less CO2 emissions than making one cup of coffee.
Besides performing market research, Tina also attended several events at the BIPC, including the monthly Inventors’ Club special food edition. “During these events, I exchanged networks with fellow entrepreneurs and gained knowledge on intellectual property, especially trade mark protection.”
However, registering her intellectual property hasn’t been a straightforward process. Four months after filing for four trade marks in December 2018, Tina received a cease and desist letter from the soft drink producer Schweppes. Now in a cooling off period until late 2020, Tina has gone on to file for a fifth trade mark and has successfully crowdfunded over £10,000 through the NatWest x Crowdfunder Back Her Business Programme. This will allow Tina to scale-up manufacturing and pursue a rebrand with the newly filed trade mark, HumaniTea. “Showing humanity is displaying compassion and kindness towards others, so as a social enterprise, we felt the name HumaniTea really embodied our business selling tea lattes to make a positive impact on society and the environment.”
Prior to the coronavirus outbreak, HumaniTea lattes were available at Imperial College London and farmers’ markets, like Borough Market. “As we possessed an offline presence, new social distancing rules meant that we could no longer trade at our main points of sale. We are using this time wisely to develop our brand image with a professional designer and prepare for production with a contract manufacturing partner as we scale-up from commercial kitchen production.”
Tina continues to engage with consumers via the brand’s social media platforms (Instagram, Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn). “In unprecedented times with unknown outcomes, I’m doing my best as Chief Tea Officer to form contingency plans and remain both realistic and optimistic at the same time. In 2020, we plan on manufacturing our vegan tea lattes in a factory and delivering all the pre-orders of our tea lattes and HumaniTea merchandise that we received through our crowdfunding campaign. We will continue our discussions with retailers and distributors and hope to bring our tea lattes to supermarkets, universities, office canteens, and online environments in the near future!”
Tina has also participated in the BIPC’s Innovating for Growth Mentoring Programme. “I was matched with a fantastic mentor Sam Duong, the CEO of Ming Foods, who helps guide and motivate me through his 16 years of experience in the food manufacturing industry. Through our mentoring relationship, I have gained so much knowledge on manufacturing, contracts, supply chain, sales, margins, cash flow models, and team management. Discussing with my mentor my company goals and desires for scaling-up my start-up, I feel confident about my business decisions with strong foundations in place. Sam challenges me to think beyond the present and prepare for the future, allowing me to grow and develop my entrepreneurial skills and focus on my goals. At one of our mentoring meetings, I visited Ming Foods state-of-the-art factory, where they produce duck pancakes and bao buns that are sold both domestically and internationally. I am inspired by the entrepreneurial spirit of Sam and the success of Ming Foods and have truly benefited from the Innovating for Growth Mentoring Programme. I aim to also grow HumaniTea and achieve UK-wide and international sales and bring the drink that’s good for humanity to our global community!”
To find out more about the Innovating for Growth: Mentoring Programme, visit our website. You can also book on to our free IP and business virtual one-to-ones with the BIPC reference team. Book your slot here.
14 February 2020
The Vegan industry is booming. Many people are changing their diet for any number of reasons from diet and health to environmental factors. According to a recent Mintel report (which is free to access in the Business & IP Centre) a rise in flexitarians has aided the success of the meat-free market, especially amongst the younger consumers.
The report shows 34% of meat eaters are reported to have reduced their consumption in the last six months, giving a recent boost in sales of meat-free foods (UK Meat-Free Foods Market Report 2018/19).
With Veganuary having recently ended, I thought what better time to present my findings on this dynamic market and continue the conversation. Having recently acquired a new role within the Business & IP Centre, I was keen to get right into it and creating an industry guide that highlights useful databases, publications and websites on key industries seemed the best way about it. I chose the vegan, vegetarian and free-from market after seeing a demand for it whilst on the reference desk and was surprised that there wasn’t already an industry guide created on this topic. It was one of the biggest emerging markets and it seemed a great idea until I ventured forth and realised why there wasn’t an industry guide on it already.
I started with the Cobra database looking for Business Opportunity Profiles (BOP) that would be useful for anyone looking to start, run or manage a small business. This is a useful database that holds hundreds of how-to guides, reports, factsheets and even small business ideas to get you started, which you can also access for free in the BIPC. But there were no leads there specifically for vegan start-up businesses. I did however manage to find a BOP on Dieticians and Green Grocers and a Mini- Business Opportunity Profile (MBP) on the Vegetarian/Vegan Restaurant and Vegetable box scheme. Not as much as I would have liked, but it was a start. The Small Business Help Books, located by the entrance of the BIPC, proved even harder, only finding general titles on How to run a sandwich and coffee shop and Starting your own Speciality Food Business and Jonathan Self’s book Good Money, which was an account of the authors own experience of a successful ethical business start-up. Maybe the market research statistics would prove more fruitful...
The EMIS Database which offers company information and sector research on the top emerging markets proved the most effective with reports on the Global Dairy Alternative Products Market (2019-2024), Global Meat Substitute Market (2018-2025) and Global Gluten-Free Food Market (2018-2025). You can access all of these reports for free in the BIPC. Additionally, Mintel a widely used market intelligence agency on consumer and lifestyle markets provided a broad range of useful consumer trends reports such as Attitudes towards Healthy Eating, Lifestyles of a Generation and Free-from Foods. But I wanted to find more alternative product reports on the UK market.
Global Data’s Veggie Butchers report although not a recent report, could provide vital insight into meat alternatives (sausages, kebabs, mince etc.). I knew ‘niche’ industries would be difficult and I was happy to find useful content within the broader realm of veganism, vegetarian and free-from foods. But I was determined to dig as deep as I could and using various key word variations I was able to discover useful reports to add – I was especially excited to find a report titled Veganism on the Upswing on EMIS, and Passport proved very useful with reports on Vegetarianism and Other Meat-Restricted Diets and excitedly a report titled A new vegetarian boom is in the making. It seemed I was able to extract key reports that would prove useful for anyone wanting to venture into this industry and I was very happy that the Vegan, Vegetarian and Meat alternative space in terms of market research was on the rise and I look forward to seeing this go from niche to mainstream in the near future.
Meron Kassa, Business and IP Reference Specialist at the Business & IP Centre London
Meron has worked at the British Library for over six years, working in several other reading rooms including Maps and Manuscripts, Asia and Africa and Rare Books and Music before landing a role within the British Library’s Business & IP Centre last year as a new member of the team, where she delivers reference work and will soon be delivering 1-2-1 business advice clinics, as well as workshops and webinars on a regular basis.
20 November 2019
After giving up his day job as a Chartered Quantity Surveyor, Rupert Holloway, decided to set out on a new career path which he was passionate about, after some good, bad and ugly ideas, Conker Spirit was born.
What is the day in the life of an ‘entrepreneur’? for want of a better word – and I wish there was. Well, I can tell you he's restless, feverously ambitious and has a sense of entitlement to anything he puts his mind to. It begs the question, then, as to how this is balanced with life outside the business, namely (in my case) a happy wife and kids…
Despite this sometimes overbearing drive for achievement, I’ve somehow managed to shun the stereotype of working every waking hour of the day – being the part-time father, the absent husband…I hope this opinion is shared by my wife! I do have my weekends and the majority of my evenings are spent chilling with my wife, Emily, on the sofa.
I’ve mused over how I’ve managed to pull off this magic trick, and I think I can put it down to two main factors: by building a great team at Conker so that the fundamental functions of the business don’t solely rely on me; and by building my life and work around each other – they are not at odds, and most of the time not at war.
This work-life balance stuff really fascinates me. After all, it was one of the main drivers for ditching my day job to build my own business. Back then, six years ago, I wanted to even-up the stakes.
Today there is a less brutal split between my two worlds of ‘work’ and ‘life’, and also in the person I am in the office and at home. I’m no longer ‘bipolar’ in my persona. When I was a Quantity Surveyor, I remember the feeling of literally switching to 'Surveyor' Rupert as the lift doors opened on the sixth floor of that Southampton office building. Now, because I do what I genuinely love and nothing is forced, work and life seem less at odds with each other.
What’s more, my work life and home life feel like one and the same. Emily works part-time in the busiess and has quickly become integral to every decision and problem we solve. As a result, Conker is our (4th) baby. It really is a wonderful thing and I feel very lucky. I know that having ‘the wife’ in the office would fill some with wide-eyed dread, but for me, I miss her the days she's not there.
While my work-life balance is perhaps more even-keeled than the archetypal entrepreneur life might suggest, the real battle comes with being ‘present’ in the now. My mind is often full of the next Conker conundrum I’ve got to solve, rather than living what is going on in the room. It’s a challenge sometimes to remain 'present' and focused on the moment with the family, rather than deliberating the next major decision to be made.
Having made some drastic decisions six years ago to follow my heart in my career, I’ve realised that life is as complicated as you make it. There are days that can be very complicated indeed – more complicated, I think, than we are biologically and mentally designed to cope with.
A couple of years ago we bought a house a one-minute walk from the Distillery and the local school, further aligning and synchronising my work-life dance. With three kids to distribute Monday to Friday, our mornings are completely car-free. The school run I had always feared is now a complete doddle.
But the real gem is that picking the kids up from school is just a 20-minute chunk out of my day. I know that many people don’t have the same luxury, and I try and take it whenever I can.
While this makes me feel pretty lucky, I don’t actually believe in ‘luck’, or rather that’s not what I’d call it. I believe ‘lucky’ people are simply more ‘available’ to take up new opportunities and exploit them. It’s not a divine intervention, rather a flexibility built into your life and mindset that allows you to make the most of the best option that presents itself to you.
We hang an awful lot of meaning, guilt and obligation to what has been, honouring past decisions and investments, rather than seeing each new opportunity or challenge objectively. Shunning these shackles of the past is the real skill of the entrepreneur, and of anyone choosing their next subject at school or changing their career path. The key is being free to adapt and evolve to a new situation, and not making life so complicated that you are not ‘available’ to grasp it.
You can hear more from Rupert from the Inspiring Entrepreneurs: Leaders in Luxe event recording on our YouTube channel, along with the founders and co-founders of Jennifer Chamandi, House of Hackney, The Jackal and ME+EM.
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