Secrets of Small Business Start-Up Success

Starting up your own business is bloody scary. It’s a huge leap of faith whether you’re jumping in feet first and leaving the relative comfort of employment or you’re living a double life and trying to cultivate your empire in your ‘spare’ time. I have a great deal of respect for anyone that takes that leap. The reason that it’s so scary is that nothing is guaranteed, despite how many of your friends down the pub think you’ve got a great idea. According to 40% of small businesses are opened and closed within 5years; that’s bleak. However there is a wealth of support out there for experienced and budding entrepreneurs in the shape of literature, consultants and free government schemes. But how do you sift through all this information and concentrate it to relevant advice? That’s where I’m hoping to help.

Now the first thing to say is that there aren’t any silver bullets when it comes to business advice. I’m not in a position to say: do this one thing and I can guarantee your success. If I could I’d be a very rich man indeed! This advice is based on sifting through a lot of the available information and my own experience; don’t worry it’s presented minus the BS!

So here are my three secrets to small business start-up success:

1. Do Your Homework

northernmunkeebites.foodstars2If, like me, you have a guilty pleasure for BBC’s Dragons’ Den then you’ll be familiar with this line of advice. An uneasy amount of start-up businesses dive into a market which they know very little about but they are full of passion for. Now don’t get me wrong, passion in business is vital but misguided passion can be dangerous. Holidaying in Spain is not a good enough reason to start a business; that’s merely the seed of a business that will form the passion and resilience through the hard times. It should go without saying, but if you’re about to invest a big chunk of time and money into something you need to understand what you’re getting into. You need to understand if it’s a potential business or just a hobby. So my advice is get online, get out there, get abroad, get amongst your friends and family and get clued up!

2. Start-up for Success

I get it. One of the most exciting things about starting a business is buying lots of shiny new things; however my advice is simple: don’t. You may get guidance from some consultants who suggest that you need to be in control of the supply chain to manage your business effectively; for a start-up this is nonsense! If you can maintain quality and efficiency I would always outsource big sections of your supply chain to keep your business lean and nimble at the start to allow flexibility and ease of change. Companies such as FoodStars can provide that flexibility with a platform for start-up businesses in London by offering commercial kitchens for rent in Bethnall Green, Bermondsey, Vauxhall and Shoreditch – go and seek these guys out and save the capital expenditure for expansion plans.

3. Don’t Sell Your Soul for Sales

This point is key: YOU are the best person to sell your products or your business. I know it’s tempting to answer the calls of heavily experienced sales consultants when they sell you the dream of being able to get your product into mass distribution. Unfortunately you’re more likely to find a pot of gold at the end of a rainbow than a good consultant. Even if you do stumble across the world’s best salesman they still won’t sell your business as well as you do. It’s your baby, no one will love it more than you do.

So there you have it: my three secrets of small business start-up success. No silver bullets just sound advice. Enjoy!

Northern Munkee.


Has The Artisan Bubble Burst?

OK, so this post is a little uneasy for me to write because it’s challenging everything I love about the modern food industry but I fear that the artisan bubble might have burst!

northernmunkeebites.artisanfoodfestThis fear was first aroused after a disappointing visit a couple of weeks ago to, what was, my favourite food festival in the calendar. I bounced along through the sea of marquees with Mrs Munkee full of enthusiasm, gusto and a tingling palate ready for some fine food foraging. To my dismay all I was met with was wallpaper: gin, cheese, gin, uncovered cakes, gin, brownies, pickles, gin, pickles, pickles, gin, cakes, cider, jam, big corporate stand, big corporate stand, jewellery (?), massage tent (?), gin, tea, yoga (?) and a few more gin tents. Now you might be looking at that list and be thinking: ‘well, that sounds like a belting day out…what’s this chap’s game?!’ and I could forgive you for thinking that but where have you been for the last five years?! It’s all good stuff but give me something new! Food festivals used to be about discovering the next trend and challenging your taste buds and perceptions, now I struggle to tell them apart from what’s on the shelves of mainstream retailers. Does that mean that mainstream retailers have upped their game or does it mean that startisans have run out of road?

Farm shops, delis and food halls have also lost their way in my opinion. They used tonorthernmunkeebites.artisanfoodhall represent the little guy (or gal) making a go on their own and real show of local produce and talent. Now they might as well wear badges saying ‘Every Little Helps’.

I’ve written in the past about the unique market conditions that have afforded small businesses the opportunity to thrive in the food industry but is this a sign that the opportunity is waning? Have the initial visionaries graduated from standing in fields and facing the elements of British summer time in wellies and checked shirts to seated behind large oak desks in sought after London-locations adorned by Savile Row? Don’t allow me to mislead you, it’s fantastic that small businesses have earned their stripes in the farmer’s markets and progressed and built businesses that can compete in the tough Top 4 Retail environments but why has the pipeline dried up?

northernmunkeebites.artisanmarketCould it  be that this once empty space has been occupied and strangled by big multi-national corporations aware of the need to act on trends? Big manufacturers are now either investing into capex and developing their own ‘artisan’ ranges or buying up emerging businesses and welcoming them into the fold. This shift has sprouted a post-modern foodie who scoffs at the words ‘artisan’ or ‘artisanal’. Even the word has lost its way and become pastiche.

This post has been difficult to write because I type it with exasperation. I have gone through a real pyschomachia (thanks to my A-Level English teacher for increasing my verbosity with that word!) writing this and that’s because I feel like I’m in mourning. It’s less of a light bulb moment and more of a dimmer switch being gently turned down from light to dark.

But surely this can’t be it? Who can the revolution look to for their new champion? Wenorthernmunkeebites.artisanrevolution‘ve done all the innovating now and it’s out of our system and we should just be happy with bacon jam and popcorn. No. I’m not having it. If you’re a small business reading this hear my plea: don’t stop the revolution just because some of the leaders have left; keep challenging and exploring!

Northern Munkee.

Any thoughts on my wee rant? Pop them below whether you love or hate it because sharing is caring.