Last night was SO MUCH FUN. And really educational. The way all Esc events should be. From what we saw on Twitter, it looks like everyone had a great time. It got Rob and I really excited about the future of Escape events. Josephine O’Hare from Well Seasoned (find Well Seasoned on Facebook and Twitter) kindly reports below.
The founders of three different foodie ventures made up the question and answer panel for last night’s Escape the City event.
The founders of FoodCycle, Aunty Junes, and Poncho 8 willingly answered all sorts of essential and interesting questions from the importance of a new venture’s location, to tips on funding your project, from the processes involved in up-scaling a business, to the legalities of employment – as well as everything in between…
All five members of the panel highlighted the importance of perseverance: Calvin from FoodCycle spoke of “the world’s longest meal”.
It took six months for FoodCycle to cook their first meal for those in need – matters of location, health and safety, finding volunteers, collecting the surplus food, and numerous other logistical issues delayed the process unforeseeably.
This tied in with something the Poncho 8 boys said: Everything takes longer than you think… And with something that the girl’s from Aunty June’s said: the fear of failure will drive you more than anything else…
Location, Location, Location
As in property, it would seem that in starting a foodie venture it’s all about Location, Location, Location… The Aunty Junes’ girls spoke of how important it is to know your market, your customer, and your environment, and the Poncho 8 founders suggested it is better to keep your sites in close proximity to one another.
This is something we are looking to learn from here at Well Seasoned as we try to launch our range of ‘Little Pots’ (a seasonal, British take on pesto) across the West London delis; chilled distribution (or driving a Polo with a coolbox) between Park Royal, Notting Hill, Pimlico, Balham and Sloane Square is just too much for us at the moment, so we have intentionally targeted clusters of delis or larger independent stores to ensure our first steps are safe and manageable.
Equally, keeping one’s restaurant outlets or targeted retailers in close proximity means that you can know your clientele through and through – essential. Poncho 8’s story of unsuccessfully opening a site in Soho, after their huge success in the City, highlighted this perfectly.
The market in Soho was wildly varied compared with the homogeny of Spitalfields or St. Paul’s, and it wasn’t what the boys were used to.
Brand and Identity
The necessity to establish a brand and identity that you are happy with from day one was cracking advice. Poncho 8 reckoned that it was better to take the financial hit up front and save yourself the expense and the faff of re-branding at a later date.
Equally, a transitional period further down the line will inevitably put a dampener on business. This is something that I am delighted that my new business partners did when they set up Well Seasoned.
From day one Well Seasoned has had bold and beautiful branding which reflects the gourmet, yet rather wacky nature of our product.
In fact, our branding, website and campaign ‘Food for the Here & Now’ were up and running well before our ‘Little Pots…’ – perhaps a reflection on the challenges faced by independent food businesses trying to develop their own product, but also evidence that building a brand before your launch can be really helpful.
Finally – all panelists referenced the huge influence that bloggers and social media have in the market now. Like it or not, food blogs can make or break a business, ‘likes’ of Facebook count, and amusing and regular tweets can drive people to volunteer for your organization, eat your street food, chose your burritos, or buy your ‘Little Pots of Autumn’..!
A big thank you to Adele and all the others at Escape the City for putting on last night, and to the panelists for their openness and advice. I’m sure that the evening will prove to be hugely beneficial as we put your wisdom into practice.