How to Avoid Badvice

This post is written for foodpreneurs but is really for anyone with a dream, a vision, an ambition or just an idea. It’s a post that will resonate with anyone working towards a goal or an end point. On the surface this is all about advice and support but it’s a really specialist area of advice and support that I want to talk about. It’s the area of advice and support that nobody asked for, that nobody really wants and that usually comes from a position of ignorance, arrogance and an over-inflated sense of self. The advice I want to talk about is advice that’s imposed upon you and is usually bad, oh so bad; so bad that it definitely falls under the category of Badvice. All is not lost though, I think I’ve found a way to deal with Badvice, or certainly one that is working for me so hopefully you can take it into your life and never have to politely nod and smile ever again!

I think we’ve all been in this situation before but imagine the scene: you’re meeting an old friend that you haven’t seen for years. The conversation is flowing and you’re reminiscing about old times. All is good. Then comes the precursor to the Badvice stream as they ask, ‘so tell me what’s new, what are you working on?’ Now, at this point you’re really excited to share your new project with your old friend. You’ve just started your own food business and you think you’ve found the next big thing. You’ve built your brand and sales are going really well at local shows and online. Your next step is to scale up to take the business to the next level. As you’re answering the question you can see that your old friend isn’t really listening and just looks like an opportunity to talk; and then they hit you with it:

‘What you want to be doing is…’

Boom. The Badvice Bombshell.

They go off into a monologue of how you should be proud of what you’ve done but if you could do these three things differently it would really make a difference. They also suggest trying a load of things that you probably looked at doing in your first week but realised very quickly that they wouldn’t work. They will talk at you with such confidence that it will leave you wondering why you never realised that the person you’d known for over half your life was a reclusive Richard Branson. Who knew that a Teaching Assistant would be so knowledgeable about running a food business?! Arrrghh!

That’s not the only form that Badvice can take though; the other type comes in the form of feedback and usually opens with something like: ‘can I just give you some feedback..’ Well you’re clearly going to anyway so don’t let me stop you! In my experience, this statement-disguised-as-a-question most commonly occurs after someone has tried a FREE sample of your product and tends to go a little something like this:

THEM: ‘Can I just give you some feedback?’

ME (outwardly): ‘Yeh, sure it’s a gift!’

ME (inwardly): ‘Go on…’

THEM: ‘I mean it’s not for me but if you could swap the cherries for raisins I think it would do really well.’

ME (outwardly): ‘Oh, nice one. I’ll give that a go. Thanks!’

ME (inwardly): ‘Cheers dickhead! Not already thought of that one. I’ll look forward to seeing whatever it is your business does and offering my expert advice on that!’

Unfortunately, I’ve found myself in these situations more times than I care to count (I cringe to think about it but I’m sure I’ve been the Badvisor at some point too), and I get that most people think they’re being helpful; however, more often than not it just acts as a little seed of doubt or annoyance that can grow and flourish. So, it needs dealing with, right?

Here’s a method that I’ve started using and it seems to be tackling the Badvisors before they can get into their full swing. It’s quite simple so maybe you could also get some success from this too. It goes a little something like this:

THEM: ‘What you want to be doing is…’

ME: ‘Can I just stop you there for a second?’

*walkaway and never come back*

Job done! Give it a try!

Now, on a more serious note, I’m not advocating rubbishing all advice out there. Entrepreneurship can feel like a very lonely world and I am a big ambassador for gathering opinions and success stories to build into your own world. Books, podcasts, consultants, family and friends are all fantastic sources of advice and support. I think it’s a good thing to surround yourself with people and resources that you trust. They’re great as a sounding board or to help coach direction or just to bounce ideas around because saying them out loud sometimes gives them arms and legs. However, if you are to take just one piece of advice from me, let it be this:

You don’t need anyone’s advice. It might help to substantiate what you were already thinking or to provide a different perspective but have the confidence in your own thoughts and convictions. You’re probably much much better at what you do than you give yourself credit for. Take a run at it.

Northern Munkee.

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Food Brands Paying It Forward

On the whole capitalism and business in general get a bad press. It’s viewed by many as a ruthless, Machiavellian world where it’s dog eat dog and I’ll eat your dog! Now, please don’t be alarmed, I’m not about to stand on my soap box but I do want to shine a light on some of the positivity that emanates from the Food and Drink industry and how some of the preconceived ideas are misconceptions

Firstly, let’s be frank: people are in business to make money. Unless it’s a not-for-profit organisation you need to accept that it will never be completely altruistic. However that doesn’t mean that it’s every man for himself; in fact, with the new wave of foodpreneurs, it’s far from it. Many successful new businesses will attribute some of their fortunes to the advice of other business leaders or a well-placed mentor. In my experience of the world of foodpreneurs I have been surprised at how open people are to share contacts, ideas and resources in a symbiotic bid for success. If you ever peek behind the curtain of foodpreneurship you’ll find an amicable, humble and transparent bunch willing to help, listen and advise. Some people call it karma, some people sat it’s ‘paying it forward’ whatever the term used it can be a great help.

There are thousands of examples out there but let me share one example of this positive light that I came across recently…

This example involves two businesses not selling in the same category, not geographically close and not even at the same stage of business development however they do share a passion: producing great food with a brand that people can get fanatical about.

FunkyNut5

Funky Nut Company was founded in 2014 on The Wirral by Julian Campbell and Vigor Foods in 2017 by Paul Rampal in Broxbourne. Julian is currently into his 4th year building distribution and sales of his nut butter brand empire and business is booming with plans to expand production facilities in early 2018. Paul is just beginning his journey with a range of cold-pressed protein balls that he plans to sell to gyms, coffee shops, cafes, farm shops, fine food outlets and direct to his adoring fans.

So, on the surface, two exciting young brands operating independently of each other with their own designs on being the next big disruptor in the market place right? Well, not quite; allow me to explain why…

So you know the fisherman analogy? Give a man a fish and he’ll feed his family for a day, teach a man to fish and he’ll feed them for a lifetime – that one? Well this brand of foodpreneurs takes that one step further because this man will not just feed his family, but he’ll teach you how to feed yours. Then he’ll let you borrow his rod and net. Then he’ll tell you where the best places to fish are and when he’s done all that he’ll fry up one of the fish he caught and invite you and your family round to feast. It’s kind of beautiful isn’t it?

So, with that extrapolated analogy in mind, look out for the symbiotic relationship25008907_154533361836501_4181817344659554304_n between Funky Nut Company and Vigor Foods blossoming in 2018. Now it’s only a simple step but it’s a brilliant gesture because this year will see collaboration between the two brands with a mass sampling campaign of Vigor’s cold-pressed protein balls with orders placed of Funky Nut’s nut butters. The beauty of this is that more people get to try Paul’s beautiful balls and get a cheeky reward just for being fans of Julian’s phenomenal nuts. It’s almost poetic isn’t it? The team at funky nut have done the same in 2016 with the Magnificent Marshmallow Company and the customer feedback to the unexpected squishy treat was great.

There may be some naysayers out there questioning motive but this is how the foodpreneur world works. You start out in business and at some stage you’ll be blown away by the kindness of an apparent stranger. It’ll be someone you admire, someone that’s been there and done that. However that stranger will have had their own apparent stranger just a short while ago, when they were in your position. Fast forward a short while into the future and you find yourself in a position to be a kind apparent stranger and thus the cycle perpetuates. It’s kind of nice that.

So here’s my plea…if you’re a new business: don’t be afraid to talk to your peers, promise they’ll surprise you; and if you’re forming your opinions of corporate fat cats in the Food and Drink industry: please challenge them; there are some awesome brands and people doing some amazing things. Oh, and of course, make sure you check out the collaboration between Funky Nut Company and Vigor Foods…who doesn’t love a freebie and new food forage?

Northern Munkee.

Do you have any great examples of the food industry working together? Why not give a cheeky comment below because if this has taught us nothing more…sharing is caring!

 

Big Ideas for Small Businesses

So the first thing I need to do here is come clean because I am a massive nerd. I love a good business book and I’ve read a good few. My book shelves are littered with frogs to eat, purple cows and moving cheese and my Audible account looks like an MBA lecturer’s wet dream. I have amassed a multitude of other regurgitateable business speak; but I don’t care. I am fully aware of the stigma that some of these texts carry and they are the root cause of cringeworthy conversations in board rooms across the world as big wigs play buzz word tennis as they seek to understand.

If you’re already in business you’ll know that everyone has an opinion. Everyone will believe they’ve got that silver bullet that you’ve missed in your business. Everyone will have something to say. So you need to be really cautious about who’s counsel you take and a lot of very successful business people will tell you that collecting advice is a road to indecision which can be true. However, I believe that knowledge is power and it’s that pursuit that keeps our ideas fresh and relevant. So, with that pursuit in mind, here’s my review of John Lamerton’s Big Ideas for Small Businesses.

northernmunkeebites.bigideasforsmallbusinessesBig Ideas for Small Businesses: John Lamerton

Rating: 9/10

Key Themes:

  • Ambitious Lifestyle Business
  • F*ck Fear
  • HIIT

Synopsis:

This isn’t about stealing John’s thunder…because you should just get the book…but let me give you my humble opinion on why you should get the book.

Can I be honest? I was sceptical. I’ve read my fair share of books claiming to herald ‘advice’ for small businesses and, more often than not, they fall well short of the mark. However this book really delivered. It is full of simple, succinct and actionable advice and it’s not told from a pedestal. John Lamerton’s book combines a biographical narrative with sufficient breathing room for business advice relayed in a no nonsense fashion. This approach forges a bond between mentor and mentee that creates a sense of togetherness which is not apparent in other business literature I’ve read.

I chose to read the book as a linear narrative (starting at page 1 and working through to 236) however it’s structured in a fashion that allows the reader to dip in and out as appropriate. This book represents the opportunity to do the smart thing and learn from someone else’s mistakes and reap the benefits of insight from someone who has been there, done that and probably made profit from selling the t-shirts.

Verdict: in a word – inspiring! I read this book in one evening. I genuinely couldn’t put down. Now I’m not going to say this book will definitely revolutionise the way you conduct your business but what it will do is provide a tried and tested framework that you can implement today.

Northern Munkee.

 

Foodies in The Den (15:5)

I love Dragons’ Den. There, I said it. I know some business folk are a dismissive of the show because it can glamourise the investment process and potentially mislead around the rigor involved in securing funding – but I just love it! You can also accuse the show of sensationalising some of the issues which could literally make or break a young business but we’re all adults here so surely we know what we’re letting ourselves in for?

There are many reasons to love The Den and if it is used correctly it can be the perfect platform to propel a small business to the next level which is a fantastic gift to the small business world. However, I love it for one reason: the business lessons. It’s a marvellous microcosm for the business world and emphasises some of the amazing abilities and frustrating failings of the entrepreneurial world.

I have watched the show all the way through but this series I decided not to be a passive observer and get stuck in to offer my thoughts on any foodie that makes their way passed Evan’s lair in the basement and through those ominous sliding elevator doors. So this series I’m going to pull out some of the business lessons gleaned from any brave foodie to enter The Den. I’d also like to point out that what follows is not a criticism but a critique; even if it goes badly wrong, anyone that demonstrates the stones to go on TV to bare all has my respect!

northernmunkeebites.dragonsdenbkdSeason 15: episode 5

Entrepreneur(s): Adelle Smith

Company: BKD

Elevator Pitch: children’s baking brand with an ethos of fuelling children’s imagination

Asking For: £80k in exchange for 20% equity

What Went Well?

The Product: it’s on trend. Baking and crafting has grown exponentially over the last few years and any activity that brings the family together is bound to resonate with a large audience.

Branding: the products all look fantastic, polished and very clean. It’s easy to see how the range would stand it out in major retailers. It looks premium and fits the premium price point and will certainly offer a point of disruption on shelf versus the beige competition currently on offer in supermarkets.

What Could Have Gone Better?

Subscription Sales: subscription offerings are another rapidly expanding market and brands like Graze have demonstrated that it’s a fantastically effective way to build a brand. However, this entrepreneur failed to capitalise on a potential USP that could support the brand in commanding a premium price point.

‘Strong’ Interest: unfortunately this is a trap that a lot of entrants to The Den fall into. Entrepreneurs are very keen to tell the Dragons which retailers have shown some interest in placing orders; but this isn’t something you can put in the bank. It’s a great encouragement but it’s worthless until the invoice is paid.

What Other Lessons Can We Learn?

Negotiation is a Game: I appreciate that emotions must run high in The Den but Adele’s poker face slipped when Peter Jones made his offer and weakened her negotiation position with both Dragons. I admit that I’d probably get a bit giddy and it must be really difficult not to react on the spot but it’s not a strong stance unless it’s a professional flinch!

Outcome: Success! 35% given to the serial foodie backer Peter Jones!

Would Munkee invest? I wouldn’t usually want to disagree with Peter Jones but did I mention I’m risk averse? The market for baking kits is evolving with the continued success of GBBO but I’m not convinced that the high volume retailers would back a premium offering in a big way. I’m sure this brand will have a lot of success in premium outlets but I’m not sure we’re going to be overcome by a sea of black and white, so I’m out – however I’d love to be wrong!

Northern Munkee.

 

 

Foodies in The Den (15:3)

I love Dragons’ Den. There, I said it. I know some business folk are a dismissive of the show because it can glamourise the investment process and potentially mislead around the rigor involved in securing funding – but I just love it! You can also accuse the show of sensationalising some of the issues which could literally make or break a young business but we’re all adults here so surely we know what we’re letting ourselves in for?

There are many reasons to love The Den and if it is used correctly it can be the perfect platform to propel a small business to the next level which is a fantastic gift to the small business world. However, I love it for one reason: the business lessons. It’s a marvellous microcosm for the business world and emphasises some of the amazing abilities and frustrating failings of the entrepreneurial world.

I have watched the show all the way through but this series I decided not to be a passive observer and get stuck in to offer my thoughts on any foodie that makes their way passed Evan’s lair in the basement and through those ominous sliding elevator doors. So this series I’m going to pull out some of the business lessons gleaned from any brave foodie to enter The Den. I’d also like to point out that what follows is not a criticism but a critique; even if it goes badly wrong, anyone that demonstrates the stones to go on TV to bare all has my respect!

northernmunkeebites.dragonsdenspicedbyrayeesaSeason 15: episode 3

Entrepreneur(s): Rayeesa Ashgar-Sandy

Company: Spiced by Rayeesa

Elevator Pitch: fresh-frozen curry sauce with low calorie and gluten free curry bases.

Asking For: £75k in exchange for 12% equity

What Went Well?

Family Business: the positive noise in this pitch was down to the individual who came across very well and the family element of the business added a great slice of personality. Passion, persistence and drive are fundamental to demonstrating entrepreneurial spirit.

Health: this is a fundamental trend in this product area and this focus will drive growth. Assuming the product tastes as good as Deborah Meaden asserted then this USP will help to differentiate the product against some of the more established brands in the category.

What Could Have Gone Better?

The Approach: it may sound impressive and it’s something you should be proud of but being approached by Sainsbury’s and Ocado is not something you can bank. I do appreciate that it will give some confidence but I’m afraid it’s just literature.

Lack of Market Understanding: ‘we don’t have competition’ is a terrible thing to say in the food industry and very unlikely to be true. There are very few brands and products that are inexchangeable. Most products bought are bought in favour of something else because the shopper doesn’t have an endless pit of money. In this example the competition is vast and Rayeesa’s product is easily substitutable for an ambient or chilled option.

Retailer Challenge: for me this single point killed the pitch. If retailers don’t get it, it will never sell. They’re absolutely right in that most shoppers in the frozen aisle are not looking to cook, they’re looking for a convenient, full solution which is why there are so few ingredients in freezers. Unfortunately Rayeesa’s vision that retailers would be willing to put a freezer in the ambient fixture is so far detached from reality. This type of initiative would not be completely impossible to secure but I would wager that it would warrant funding into the £millions plus the cost of hardware. Even in what Jenny coined ‘second tier retailers’ I can’t see it becoming a reality and, although COOK have made some headway, it’s a pipe dream.

What Other Lessons Can We Learn?

Know Your Strengths: for me this pitch is a great example of an entrepreneur that has the right behaviours and drivers to be successful. However, it also highlights Rayeesa’s need to seek market specific support and gain experience and insight externally. This is not a criticism. A lot of entrepreneurs become successful because they surround themselves by the right people.

Outcome: No investment today.

Would Munkee invest? No, I’m afraid I’m too risk averse for this one. The market is challenging and I don’t think the product offering is right. However there are a lot of positive aspects of this pitch so with a few tweaks I’m sure they’ll find success.

Northern Munkee.

 

Foodies in The Den (15:2)

I love Dragons’ Den. There, I said it. I know some business folk are a dismissive of the show because it can glamourise the investment process and potentially mislead around the rigor involved in securing funding – but I just love it! You can also accuse the show of sensationalising some of the issues which could literally make or break a young business but we’re all adults here so surely we know what we’re letting ourselves in for?

There are many reasons to love The Den and if it is used correctly it can be the perfect platform to propel a small business to the next level which is a fantastic gift to the small business world. However, I love it for one reason: the business lessons. It’s a marvellous microcosm for the business world and emphasises some of the amazing abilities and frustrating failings of the entrepreneurial world.

I have watched the show all the way through but this series I decided not to be a passive observer and get stuck in to offer my thoughts on any foodie that makes their way passed Evan’s lair in the basement and through those ominous sliding elevator doors. So this series I’m going to pull out some of the business lessons gleaned from any brave foodie to enter The Den. I’d also like to point out that what follows is not a criticism but a critique; even if it goes badly wrong, anyone that demonstrates the stones to go on TV to bare all has my respect!

northernmunkeebites.dragonsdennaturalnutrientsSeason 15: episode 2

Entrepreneur(s): Liam Sheriff and Craig Newbigin

Company: Natural Nutrients UK

Elevator Pitch: high quality supplement brand that offers 100% transparency and doesn’t contain artificial nasties.

Asking For: £100k in exchange for 10% equity

What Went Well?

The Products: not only are the products on trend and relevant but the duo have proliferated sensibly and developed beyond the functional category. This may present some practical issues when working with retailers whose individual buyers may only look after part of their portfolio. However, having a range that differs in volume and margin is a powerful position when managing margin mix.

Reasons to Believe: having Holland & Barrett on board for a business like Natural Nutrients is a massive coup and absolutely the right retailer at this stage. This will have been a fantastic selling point.

Peter Jones’ Empathy: this isn’t something that you can prepare for but this was fundamental to the success of the pitch. The pair were subjected to harsh loan terms to secure previous investment and not many businesses get offered the opportunity to have a business leader support them in improving that situation. How’s that for belief.

What Could Have Gone Better?

The Numbers: margin is an issue that you can’t escape from and this company was walking a tight rope at a really early stage in the business. The retail price point is high and the margin they make is low; it’s a slippery slope from here but not unmanageable.

What Other Lessons Can We Learn?

Maintain Control: Liam Sheriff did a great job in negotiating a way to secure the investment but have an option to maintain more than a 51% share in the business. This will be important to the business going forward and ensures that there is a clear head driving direction. The inability to make a quick decision can be crippling for some small businesses.

Outcome: Success! 40% equity given to Peter Jones and Tej Lalvani with a 5% optional buy back if the business hits 2018 targets.

Would Munkee invest? No, I’m afraid I’m too risk averse for this one. The market is very clustered and dominated by brands backed by huge companies. I’d also have more concern over the terms of the loan and what was agreed in the past, for me that questioned the credibility of the business. However all Dragon’s made an offer so it looks like Munkee may be wrong!

Northern Munkee.

 

Collectives Boosting UK Businesses

Now is a great time to start up in business. Don’t listen to the Brexiteers and the naysayers. We are in a period of economic uncertainty and instability but that’s the point – it is uncertain so depending on how you fill your glass we could be in a positive or a negative environment. Now, I’m no Mystic Meg and I genuinely don’t know which way it will fall when we come through trade negotiations but I do know that it doesn’t mean we should give up, go home and shut up shop!

However if, like me, you err on the side of caution or even go as far as saying you’re risk averse then the current climate may mean that you change your approach to business; and that makes sense to me. Thankfully if you do think like that you’re not alone; help is at hand. This post looks at three examples of business collectives designed to boost small business inception, growth and expansion.

  • Incubate to Accumulate

Business accelerators or incubators offer start-up companies work or office space and direct funding. According to a report published by gov.uk this year there are currently 205 incubators, 163 accelerators, 11 per-accelerators, 7 virtual accelerators and 4 virtual incubators operating in the UK. Now is a great time to get involved with these start-up platforms as they’re on a rapid growth rate with just over half (54%) the number of incubators operating being created since 2011. Incubators and accelerators may still feel like a fairly new concept but for the foreseeable future they’re here to stay.

  • Sharing is Caring

northernmunkeebites.foodstars6Another fantastic example for food of using the collective to drive your business is shared commercial kitchens for food companies like FoodStars deliver. It’s a fantastic world where you can rent a commercial kitchen and avoid huge, crippling capital expense when you’re starting out. These guys are now offering facilities across Bermondsey, Bethnall Green, Vauxhall and Shoreditch so if you’re in the Greater London area and you want to start your own food delivery Empire or the next big thing in food or drink product development then it’s now really easy to do so!

  • The Power of the Crowd

Crowdfunding has received a lot of bad press in recent weeks and has been portrayed asnorthernmunkeebites.foodstars7.jpg bad investment which appears to have scared off a lot of serious investors however it’s still a very real, very viable option for start-ups. Crowdfunding has evolved in 2017 and I’m now seeing young businesses pitching for much smaller sums of money attracting city types, small business supporters and genuine fans! What could be better? So instead of giving away huge chunks of your business to ever more demanding portfolio builders, businesses are now using the power of the crowd to create fans, fans that will have a vested interest in evangelising and making your dreams work. Belting!

So that’s it: my guide for small businesses in using the collective to induce business growth, inception and expansion. As an entrepreneur you’re likely to be an independent, self-starter with all the drive in the world to do it on your own but trust me, it’s much easier to work with the collective.

Northern Munkee.