0 to 6 - The first 6 months of business
The first six months of business…
Yo yo yo..how’s it going? Sweet? Ok good!
Anyway, I’m going to talk about & break down the last two years into sections as I feel after each 6 months I could see a difference or a point whereby I could review the previous.
From the start, I knew I always wanted to scale Pleesecakes and grow it as a company/brand, I knew we had something unique that I wanted to share on a global scale, I also knew I didn’t know how to do it and two years on there are still a huge number of things that I still don’t know about scaling a business and business in general (should probably do a business course?).
I understand now that it is a constant development both personally and professionally, you’ll never reach a point and feel like you’ve reached a finish line, there will always be a new challenge that introduces itself…but the old cliché; knowledge is power – is true to a certain extent, but don’t sit around reading loads of books, you’ll learn more just getting stuck in sometimes. For example, you can read a load of sports tactics but until you actually get stuck in a play the sport you won’t actually know how it feels or if you’re good at it. It’s about finding a balance between the two. Educate yourself but also have some urgency about gaining practical experience in the field.
The first six months presented various obstacles, firstly, the complete naivety of the industry I was plunging in to. You have to break it down into sections, this can be adapted to any business venture. For me, I needed to have a space to set up production, various thoughts popped into my head…” we need a shop” …” we need to buy this machine” etc. there’ll be an overwhelming number of tasks to complete to get things off the ground, so breaking it down and prioritising will help massively!
Within two months of starting we had found a commercial kitchen to rent, which meant moving out of Brendon’s maisonette kitchen and having a space to produce the cakes in a half decent way, it wasn’t ideal but we managed there for the first year.
Secondly, and more importantly I needed to educate myself on food handling and health & safety, I did a hygiene course and we also came in to contact with a production manager named Ian (or old man Ian if anyone wants to follow him on insta) from Greggs Bakery (he was incharge of 200 staff, so knew production well), whose daughter had seen us on Instagram. He helped us massively and became part of the team immediately, teaching us basic operating procedures i.e. Temperature checks, critical control points, Health & safety and general production.
Once we had these basics in place we could move to the next on the list.
One of the main things was juggling production and social media content which has been managed by myself from day one, we never out sourced it to a company as we felt we may lose our personality and we always wanted to create new products, new content and generally keep it fresh. This helped with product development, because we had to keep changing up content we were constantly trying new flavours and recipes, so stay true to your remit and the message you’re trying send out.
In the beginning, I had this mad idea of a fully customised product, we offered probably 10-12 size cakes and gave the customers complete free reign on toppings, this was not cost effective and gave far too much control to the consumer (not that we were trying to restrict the consumer, we just had to create a sustainable business model), so we had to create a structure to benefit both us and the consumer. This is all part of building something, you do things a certain way sometimes, it doesn’t work so great, so you have to change it slightly. This is constructive development, small changes implemented over a period over time will build some double decent foundations with longevity, finding out what works and what doesn’t basically.
The next stage for me was learning the trade and industry, how to work out how much a cake costs me to make (material+labour+packaging=costings), sourcing suppliers for dairy, confectionary, packaging, there’s so many elements you don’t consider (well I didn’t) before starting a business. I also had to learn logistics, transporting a frozen cheesecake any length of distance is not an easy task. To date, this is still an issue, so we have developed ways and alternative products that are much easier to distribute across the country (look for opportunities that lay parallel to what you’re doing).
Now learning time management is something I’m still yet to master, but if you can you will see a significant change to whatever you’re applying yourself towards, structure your day, organise yourself, take notes, make lists…lots of lists! This is a key business skill, a basic business skill, but if you cannot do this you’ll struggle in more way areas than you think, it has knock on effect.
Next on the list was exposing the brand, obviously we had a massive boost at the start from Wicksy, but that didn’t mean we didn’t have to work hard. We would send out cakes to people in the hope someone would post on a social media platform, we weren’t paying for marketing or pr but were trying to do it in a cost-effective way. Fortunately, people bought into the story and it was picked up by other influencers and celebrities which in turn exposed the brand more so. Three months in, we were approached by a lovely lady called Anna from Madeleine Milburn Agency who offered to work with us on creating a recipe book (three months ago I was painting ceilings and rubbing down skirting’s and now we’re talking about writing a book), we got to work on creating a proposal to go out to publishers and signed with Quadrille November 2017. Buzzzzinnggg!
Things were so exciting, the hard work became bearable because we could see the bigger picture and we were building something special (I keep saying ‘we’, which actually means the entire team involved at this point, family, friends, employees, it wasn’t a big team but it was a great team).
Which leads nicely onto an important point. If you are looking to scale a business in any way, as mentioned in my first blog (lol I blog now), infrastructure is very important, you won’t be able to do everything so the team and people around you will contribute massively to the making or breaking of your venture, choose wisely and trust no one (no one meaning be very cautious who you let in to your business it’s a dog eat dog world), so be ruthless but to the good people you have around you, listen! Listen to what they have to say, listen to their opinions, they might not own the company but they may know something you don’t and the more you listen and work with them the more passionate and willing they become. If you do this genuinely, you’ll come across some priceless advice.
As mentioned earlier, there is constant development and refinement, especially with a start up, so for the first six months really focus on refining every element of your business, learning the industry and building a team.
The next 6 months get harder, honey moon period is over, the excitement has subsided and the realisation that this is going to be hard work sets in!
Pleesecakes had an amazing first 6 months, it was a complete blur and almost felt like a dream, but come 6 months I knew this was going to be a journey of ups and downs, good days and bad days, however I was never deterred mainly for the fact I really loved what I was doing and that KEY!
-Learn your industry
-Manage your time/structure your day
-Build a good team
-Strategies (how can you expose your brand cost effectively)
Holdtight 6-12 months blog…..
Each blog I’m going to try and give you a book, a podcast and a film that I think will help to spur you on and get you rinsing life!
Book: Zero to One – Peter Thiel
Podcast: Joe Rogan with David Goggins
Film: Notorious – Conor Mcgregor