Last night was another fun sold-out event on food venture stories. Esc member Michal Bohanes reports. He is running a startup called Dinnr, teaching people how to cook by delivering all the ingredients they need to create a delicious dish at home.
The team at Escape the City dished up yet another “how to start your food venture” event. 100 hopeful corporate emigres mingled with food entrepreneurs who imparted their lessons learned. The below are my top five takeaways from the presentations given. In no particular order:
0. (running outside of competition since it doesn’t have to do with the contents of the event) The format was terrific. Six people spoke about their experiences and gave advice on how to cover crucial aspects of a food business, ranging from PR, Marketing to Operations. No time for Q&A, just one presentation following the next in quick succession.
I really liked this because I’m not a big fan of Q&A at such events because sometimes people use this to do self-promotion or the questions aren’t that good. Here, by not allowing public Q&A, these pitfalls were avoided and high quality of the content was ensured.
All of the participants stayed on longer so that people could ask them questions one-on-one. Great idea, well executed.
1.Don’t be a chest-pounding gorilla on Twitter.
brought that point home for me. For my business, I see every praise being given as an asset that I want to share with the world. But Hamish’s point was that re-tweeting a compliment is like going up to a bunch of strangers at a party and telling them “hey, the host just said that I’m really cool.”
How lame is that? I’ll definitely stop doing it (I mean the Twitter thing – at least I never said something like the above to anyone at a party).
This is, by the way, very much along the lines of what the wise man from the Oatmeal recommends when answering the question “How to get more likes on Facebook?”
(worth a click – very VERY funny)
2. Facebook won’t build your customer base, Twitter will.
Another strike for Hamish (but hey, I never said I was balanced). I’m realizing this more and more. I really enjoy posting funny stuff on Facebook, the wackiness is part of our brand. But Google Analytics tells me that none of our traffic originating at Facebook actually converted into sales (but we’ve only been trading for 3 weeks). And while a few likes do stroke the ego, they can’t buy me lunch.
Conversely, many of the instances we reached out to people on Twitter actually resulted in sales. We’ll definitely do more on Twitter going forward.
3. It’s all about the product.
Ben and Shrimpy
reminded us all that no matter what your positioning, marketing, buzzing, tweeting is about – if your product sucks, people won’t buy it. One of those eternal truths we all know yet it’s worth reminding yourself of it on a regular basis.
4. Rediscover childhood memories and passions.
mentioned that when pondering what his business should be, he recollected that ice cream used to be one of his childhood passions.
I’m generally not a full believer in the dogma of “follow your bliss” (too many people I know struggle as actors, writers, musicians because they followed their bliss without thinking if anyone wants to BUY their bliss) but when you can combine the brains for business with something you really like (such as gelato in Guido’s case), you’ll hit the jackpot.
And even if you don’t hit it financially, at least you’ll have worked with a product you love. As another entrepreneur friend told me the other day “the passion for the product is what will keep you going when the hard times come”.
5. Minimize the dependence on staff.
Oh boy, that one really resonated. Richard Thomson
recounted many painful experiences, admitting that a restaurant owner and manager essentially offers his staff McJobs and therefore isn’t likely to always find motivated people (to put it mildly). 20% of job applicants for his company are actually requested by the Job Centre to apply, so you can imagine their motivation and drive. At my company, we have had our fair share of bad experiences.
Our initial roster of eight delivery guys dwindled down to one single soul (bless you, Antony!) in a matter of six weeks. We decided to outsource to a delivery firm (and keeping Antony). Even if that’s more expensive, not having to deal with unreliable people is a great saving of emotional and intellectual energy.
I look forward to the next event. They are progressively getting better and the team is doing an outstanding job.
More info on the speakers from last night
- Richard Thomson, ex-investment banker and now owner of Otto Pizza in Notting Hill and download his slides here;
- Monique Borst, business development consultant who works with foodpreneurs – read more about her food business camps here and download her slides here;
- Sebastian Redford, ex-marketing, now runs Pizza Supper Club in Shoreditch, read more about Forza Win here;
- Guido Molinari, ex-investment banker and now founder of DIVINO, read more here;
- Hamish Cameron, currently working in advertising, moonlighting as a food blogger – read his blog here;
- Ben Sheinwald & Shrimpy Balfour, co-founded one of London’s top 20 food trucks – read more here;
- Victoria Stewart, features commissioning editor, Evening Standard – read her street food blog here.
If you want to follow them on twitter
As per Hamish’s talk, Twitter is a great way to start. The speakers: @hamishjcameron // @vicstewart // @forzawin_ // @rainbofood // @Monique_Borst
Thanks to Pistcahio Rose
The boutique bakery for Indian-inspired treats, provided some tasty goodies that I personally salivated over throughout the evening. Read more here. Check out the treats here. You can also find them on Facebook and Twitter.
Katy did some great tweeting through the night.
Thanks to The Hub Westminster
This event was kindly hosted by one of our favourite co-working spaces in London – who also happen to have special deals for Esc members. Read more here.