Why January got personal

how to run a food start up, small business fails, foodie start up life,

· By Oonagh Simms

Why January got personal

It’s pretty hard when you create a brand around yourself- your story, your journey, your recipes, your thoughts- not to take things personally. My business is personal. Completely and utterly personal. So decisions that harm the business end up being hurtful and harmful to me. Everything from unpaid bills, reneged contracts, thoughtless comments. It doesn’t get ‘handled’ by an account manager, it gets picked up by me and, wow, does it sometimes get too much.

I had the worse start to this year I could imagine. It was LOW. The knock backs were coming all at once and it followed a very exhausting and tricky Christmas. The second week of January involved a lot of crying. It’s sometimes hard to convey that. People want to stock us and work with us because I have such a good ‘story’ it’s a narrative that sells stuff- passion, youthful exuberance, creativity. But when things go wrong they struggle to understand why you would be that bothered or upset by it. Its just business. Surely someone else deals with *that* stuff? Well in 2 weeks we seemed to run the full A-Z of small business pitfalls and I was ready to fold. I couldn’t find the strength or the love to keep it going.

Then the third week of January arrived with a shift.

We all were in the bakery- packing up stock and working on recipe development when a friend who was ‘working from home’ (i.e watching telly) texted to tell me that our Cannabis, Grapefruit and Pink Peppercorn marshmallows were about to be on ITV’s This Morning.  

We huddled around a laptop in the office, Saoirse Ronan was on having a chat about her new film and then up next…they were conducting a live review of CBD products.

Oh god, no.  

You’ve seen those features right- where they try something, and pull a funny face and spit it out and giggle because that’s good telly. I was having an awful month and there was no way I could watch my marshmallows being destroyed live on ITV. I fell silent. Straining to watch from behind my fingers. My stomach flipping with that persistent knot of dread that had been there since January 2nd

They had a sip of CBD tea, a nibble of Croissant and then it was our turn. And...they loved them. The actual words ‘I love them’ were used. And the presenters, Holly, Phil, Alice, all stood there eating them, enjoying them, chatting about them. An amusing anecdote was shared, Philip Schofield became worried he was high.

And we went viral.  

The ITV clip was picked up picked up by every single national paper from the Daily Mail to the Daily Star via The Mirror. All with our marshmallows right there, front and center in the pictures and CBD marshmallows as the headline.  



Things went crazy. Our online shop sounds a satisfying ‘kerching’ every time there is a sale. Well the kerchings just couldn’t keep up with the amount of sales that were going through. Within 2 minutes we’d taken more money than we sometimes make in a whole month.

Literally, as soon as I’m thinking of pulling the business we have the best January of sales we’ve ever had. It was incredible, we could barely keep up. We ran out of our CBD oil and we had to have an emergency run of packaging just to meet demand. Customers got in touch to tell us they loved them and they would be ordering again. But still, I wasn't really smiling. I knew I should be thrilled but I was, I don't know, just lacking in something. 

Then, last Friday we headed off to ISM in Cologne. The world’s largest confectionery trade fair. We were exhibiting for the first time. An event that was booked over 8 months ago but I had slowly been dreading over Christmas. We were exhibiting alongside established and loved brands with budgets matching their status. There we were designing and constructing our own stand in-between the buzz of professional joiners and builders. With each laminate gloss panel and HD screen on our neighbouring stands the knot in my stomach started to creep back.  

Are we doing the right thing? Are we ready for this? Is it going to be another crash? Are we going to look amateur?

And do you know what?  

It was the opposite. It was wonderful. Buyers, brands and distributors were excited by us. And that made me excited by us.People loved the stand, they loved the product and we became a place to be. A week of being out of the bakery, out of the office, not in front of emails or phone calls. Talking about the business, talking about the marshmallows, explaining why I make them and what makes them, it and me, different and special has been the boost I so desperately needed. It’s given me the confidence to really take on the rest of the year. The personal has made me happy again. So in just four weeks, January went from being the worst month of my year to the best.

Come on February- do your worst.





1 comment

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