So it may seem like I’m a little obsessed with my diet lately and maybe I am. When I gave up wheat, dairy and sugar 4 years ago, I thought I had my diet sorted. I gave up all the things that I was intolerant to and I should live happily if somewhat restricted ever after, right? Well no, that doesn’t seem to be the way it works. As I said in my last post, I am a sugar addict so over the years, I’ve slowly back slid into eating sugary snacks. It’s nearly impossible to be Japanese and not have any sugar since it’s in so much for the food. But it’s not the same as having a piece of cake. So with a few exceptions since my last post, I have been able to cut out all sugar snacks from my diet.
Now there is the sticky issue of carbs. I read the Six Pack Chick by Bridget Hunt and while her particular diet doesn’t fit with my lifestyle, I thought I would at least cut back on the grains and other sugar producing foods she mentioned. Well the combination has done remarkable things for my middle. I have lost very little weight but my middle is visibly smaller. My jeans are comfortable again but best of all, I feel lighter in the gym. So what was that stuff hanging around my middle? Who knows? I’m just glad it’s gone. It is very hard as a Japanese person to not eat rice. But where I used to have one biggish bowl, I’ve cut back to half a bowl. I’ve also experimented with quinoa for rice. While it is not as satisfying, it is fine as an occasional substitute. The only problem is, when you don’t eat anything starchy, it’s hard to stay full. So I’ve gone back to snacking regularly on Kinomi (shameless plug). Nuts really are satisfying things to eat and now that I understand that all fat is not the enemy, I love my two handfuls a day. As I have a tendency to go overboard, I have to remember that all things, even good fats in moderation.
But while the low carb low sugar thing seems to be working for me, it’s probably not the answer for everyone. So how do you figure it out? Is there a test? Do you have to consult a nutritionist? Anyone have the answer? Oh and I did have a small bowl of muesli with my two eggs this morning. Hope this is not the beginning of back sliding. It’s only been 3 weeks.
Well, I’ve done it. I was an exhibitor at the Speciality and Fine Food Show. For 3 days a 1 metre by 2 metre stand was my home. It had to be the face of my brand which is essentially me. But I’m getting ahead of myself. I guess I should have been blogging about the prep, but really I didn’t have the time or the mental space to chronicle that part. Suffice to say, it involved many stickers, much backing and forthing and even a list! I never make lists because I think lists lull you into a false sense of security. I think if I have everything on the list, I am fine. But what if I forget to put something on the list. See what I mean? Anyway, me and the ever growing list managed to pull it together to pack everything I need for the show into two large Ikea bags. Of course I forgot to photograph that, but you can kind of guess what it might look like. Actually I haven’t unpacked yet, I can go get a photo now.
Not too bad, right? But keep in mind, my stand is only 1m x 2m. It’s just the blue bags by the way, not the boxes in the background. Saturday was set up. I arrived at Olympia and found my stand and here is what it looked like. For some reason, the photo refuses to upload so you’ll have to use your imaginations. Just think of the photo below, but with nothing in it but a gross white cabinet,
I wasn’t sure about the ice cream shoppe look to the stand but what can you do? I was very thankful for the large but very beat up cabinet. I probably could have bought one for as much money as it cost me to hire that one for 4 days but then I’d have to get it there and back. It’s nothing that a little decoration can’t fix. But it was big with lots of storage and it kinda sorta locked. So it was good.
I had my wonderful friend H helping me for the whole time, it would have been a very lonely thing to have to do alone. Everything is better with a friend. Sunday, Monday and Tuesday, we stood in my stand smiling and trying to get people to sample Kinomi. Sometimes it worked, sometimes it didn’t, but I was very happy with the positive feedback I received. Now of course lots of people could have just been polite but I saw enough changes of expression (in a good way) after they tried them to know that they genuinely thought it was good. My neighbours on both sides were first timers like me and we were in the small producers area which meant no big corporations. Just lots of people like me, trying to get our products out into the world. Everyone was really friendly and positive.
Visitors come in all shapes and attitudes. No one was horrible, but I did have some people who obviously aren’t trade but just in for a nosh. I don’t mind at all, I want as many people to try Kinomi whether or not they have the authority to stock them but if you know you’re just munching on free samples, at least make eye contact, smile and say hello. I don’t begrudge people tastes at all, it’s just not very pleasant when they do it silently without eye contact. On the opposite end were people who wanted to try them but felt they shouldn’t because they couldn’t buy from me. People are complicated.
Anyway, I’ve done my three days, I’m now doing my follow ups and only time will tell if any of the nice people I spoke with will stock Kinomi. I hope so but even if they don’t I had a great experience that I never dreamed of when I thought it might be a good idea to turn my snacks into a business.
I think next year I’ll do a bit more to the walls. Looking a bit bare I think.
I will leave you with a photo of H and H at my stand. Doesn’t it look like we had fun?
My Kinomi nuts are now available at Harvey Nichols. It is a very exciting thing for me as they are a premium department store and acknowledged as a fashion leader in the UK. But obviously this is just the beginning for Kinomi. So where to go from here?
I can just tell there’s another growth opportunity coming this way for me. Whee! (and I mean that sarcastically) While I know intellectually that growth experiences are good, emotionally I am unhappy about them. Why do I need to keep growing? I thought I was done, can’t be improved upon and all that. Growth periods are often uncomfortable, embarrassing and chaotic. You don’t notice for awhile after you come out of them because you’re still reeling from the experience.
It turns out that if you put yourself out there and take risks, then you continue to grow. Back in the 90′s, with two little kids, I thought I had achieved what I needed to in life. Obviously that’s not true, look what I’ve done since then. I now realise that it’s because I didn’t have time to think about me, I was too busy trying to keep two small people alive. That all got turned on its head with our move to Tokyo. Suddenly in addition to the wellbeing of the small people, I had to think about my adjusting to a new environment. Although I had family and geography going for me, it was still a tough transition. I managed, thrived and discovered that I was not cut out for suburban living. Then came the move to London which was much tougher. Children older, no support system and a pretty hostile environment compared to my warm fuzzy life in Tokyo. But I managed and 10 years later, here I am.
This is what I think. If you look back, there is a progression in your life. Things happen to prepare you for the next stage. Of course, stepping out into the unknown is scary. The thought of going out there and trying to sell my Kinomi nuts is pretty terrifying. But I have to remember that if I think it’s the right thing to do, then I’ve been logging experience all along to help me get there. Deep breath, off I go.
Here they are, on the shelf.
This week I participated in a trade show. I’ve done markets and I’ve run my own fairs but this was my first time at a trade only show. My lovely distributor invited me to come along and help sell my products at their stand. It was three days of being on my feet all day and meeting and talking to many many people. I enjoyed the experience tremendously, it was great getting direct feedback as people tried the products. I guess if I had to do many of them, the novelty would wear off, but since it was my first, it was much fun.
From spending three days with them, I know much more about what my distributors do and the kinds of products they carry. They are such hard working fun people and the lines they carry are so delicious that our stand was constantly mobbed with people. The first day I didn’t have time for lunch. Thank goodness I was standing behind bowls of nuts all day so I didn’t perish. There were five of us on the stand; me, my two distributors, another producer who makes cheese and a helper. We all got on well and managed not to bump into each other too much.
The people were definitely the highlight and it was fascinating to see the attitudes and the personalities that stopped and sampled my products. It was really gratifying that most people were very complimentary. I had some nice chats with pub owners, hotel food and beverage people and even met a man who is opening a gluten free, dairy free restaurant. How great is that?
Now that the show is over, the follow up begins and only then can the success of the show be gauged. I hope that I managed to inspire people enough so that they place an order and Kinomi can make its way out into the world. It’s fun to think of people I have never seen enjoying my products.
I leave you with a photo of my stand. The photo with me in it, wasn’t great so I’m not using it.
I wrote this last night and edited this morning.
Well today was the day. Last night, all the components of my little Kinomi boxes were finally assembled in my flat. 10,000 boxes, 10,000 cellophane bags (okay I could only carry home 1,000 the other 9,000 arrived today), stickers, ribbon and of course my many kilos of nuts.
I did an event this evening at Craft Central with Creative Clerkenwell called New View of Clerkenwell roof party and market. My friend Amanda Li Hope has a studio there and I have supplied her with nuts for the last 2 open studios. The organizer of this show liked them enough to want me to participate despite the fact that I am not a designer maker. As this would be a show full of designers and creative people, I wanted my Kinomi nuts to look their very best. My gap year student bagged and boxed many nuts for me this morning so that I could bring them along to the market.
Ready for market
Now London has had the driest spring for some time and they are talking of water shortages. You certainly couldn’t tell that today when the skies opened up and the rain just came pouring down. So much for the roof party, the event was very wisely moved to the basement of Craft Central.
I had a wonderful time introducing Kinomi to a new audience and getting some enthusiastic feedback. The little boxes were well received, people thought it was a great look, very high praise coming from people in the design industry. The highlight of the evening was when one of the designers came back after purchasing 2 to buy 6 more to send to parents and in laws in Japan. Kinomi is going home, how fun is that?
Thank you Charlene from Creative Clerkenwell, it was a great evening.
So I went to visit hubby in Prague over the weekend. I’m not a huge fan of flying but one of the things I like to do is buy books at the airport. I always arrive pretty ridiculously early at the airport so have to wander around killing time before they even announce my gate. That’s the perfect time to get lost inside one of the book shops. I am not a sophisticated reader, I tend to read chick lit with the occasional real book thrown in there.
So I found myself on Friday looking for a book. Now as my head is currently full of thoughts about my Kinomi nuts, I found myself drawn towards books by entrepreneurs. I found Super Business by Fraser Doherty. He is the young man responsible for Super Jam, a jam made with just fruit and fruit juice which I had been buying at Waitrose. On a quick aside, I found another fundamental difference between my hubby and me. I always choose a book by the synopsis and the cover. He says he never goes near a book that has a synopsis on the back. So there you go. Anyway, back to the book. According to the synopsis on the back, he started his business at 14 with his gran’s jam recipe and he’s now stocked in all the large supermarkets. This is his story on how he achieved that. So I bought it, and read it on the plane and finished it the next day (it is a short book).
There is so much useful advice crammed into the book that I’m going to have to read it again. Maybe not the parts where he tried to perfect his jam recipe, but the parts where he talks about how to sell your brand and things you can do to promote your product. I have bought my share of books by business people over the years ( I fly a lot) but this one may be the first one I’ve actually finished and want to use. Maybe because it’s not full of jargon but just a straightforward account of what he did and why he did.
Thanks to Fraser, I am working on a Kinomi page for my website and have started to think more about how I can promote the brand. Maybe flying’s not so bad after all.
So in part 1, I told you about how the Kinomi nuts came about. Now let me tell you a little bit about what it took for me to make a little cellophane bag of nuts into an actual product.
I could not have done any of this on my own. You know it takes a village to raise a child, it’s a bit like that. You can’t do everything by yourself and do it well especially if it is a new venture. I have gotten to this point thanks to the support of many people who very patiently held my hand. So thank you.
As for the details, first there’s the spreadsheet. It appears to be an essential tool for all product development. What did people do before them? I remember back when I had a corporate job, we had spreadsheets. Or should I say, we had blank copies and we filled the data in by hand, calculated it in pencil and when we made changes, we would have to erase each cell and recalculate the entire thing by hand. Thank goodness the calculator had been invented or I’d still be at it 22 years later. Back then, only the department secretary had a computer so she would only input the final copy. She couldn’t be running spreadsheets for 5 different people with the same deadline. But I digress. So the only spreadsheet I had to work from was a template for running a cafe which is kind of the right idea in terms of it being food, but entirely wrong for what I need. But I used this until last night actually when wonderful husband made me a custom one that actually reflects what I’m doing. Yaay!
So I start calling wholesalers to try and see if I can get prices to plug into my spreadsheet. Run into snag number one. Hard to ask for prices when you don’t know how much you need. Kind of figure it out and run into snag number two. They will only do business with a real company. Which leads me to incorporating and opening a business account. The business account was a nightmare to open because even though it is with the bank we do our regular banking, they hadn’t gotten our change of address so I couldn’t open the account until the addresses matched. Why are banker’s phone numbers such a huge secret? I don’t have a direct number for the man responsible for my account. And I say responsible in the loosest way possible. But there I go again.
Anyway, after more stuff like above, I finally get to the point where I can go buy the first of my ingredients. Here is what I own now.
approximately 70kg of nuts
I also bought a ridiculously large cookie sheet and the world’s largest bowl. The spatula is for scale.
Armed with these new toys oh and did I mention the vaccuum sealer? I am ready to start producing. This is what the finished product will look like.
I will let you know when they are available for retail purchase. Fingers crossed, that happens soon.
I know I know, I go for months without a post then, bam! Two in a row. Well a lot’s been happening and I’d like to share.
Friday night I did the Underground Night Market. For those who have read my previous posts, you know this is the only market I do to publicise my cooking classes to the outside world. For those who read my post from Friday, you know this is where the Kinomi nuts got their start.
With my third outing, I think I can say that I have finally gotten used to doing a market. My preparations were so much more relaxed. This time I didn’t do a cooking demo, or Dragon’s Den panel. End result, much less stuff to schlep. It also meant that I could give a little more thought to my presentation and here is the end result.
We were really lucky with the weather. It was a gorgeous day which turned into a gorgeous evening. The market started at 6 pm and people started trickling in. Soon, it was a steady stream of people, most looking like they just got out of work but all looking for a fun and interesting night out. The live musicians in the garden and the DJ in the bedroom really provided a wonderful soundtrack to the evening. I chatted with many people both explaining my flavoured nuts and my classes. It was fun to have people say, ” Weren’t you at the last one? My wife brought some home.” I even met a guy who knew the previous owners of my flat and had been there. What a small world. Thank you to everyone who stopped by my table, it was lots of fun chatting with you.
There was a really buzzy mellow atmosphere, it felt almost like a private party. The market was officially over at 10:30 but when I left at 11, there were still people hanging out, enjoying the evening. Met lovely fellow stall holders, I was finally relaxed enough to have a chat with them.
Another one under my belt, thank you, Ms Marmite Lover for hosting a wonderful evening. Really looking forward to the next one.
I’ve been running my cooking classes for about a year now. Sometimes I have students, sometimes I don’t, but I figure it’s important to keep doing it so I do. But a very interesting thing has happened as a result of my classes.
I have hinted in past blog posts about the flavoured nuts I do for my students being very popular. Well, it’s official. It’s now it’s own product called Kinomi which is Japanese for tree nuts. How did I get here? Let me backtrack a bit. In December when I participated in the last Underground Market, I took part in a Dragon’s Den like panel which gave feedback on new products. My flavoured nuts were very favourably received and a distributor saw real potential in them. So we started working together to see if they could really be a product. I discovered very quickly that my brain is not set up to process spread sheets. I can read them (sort of) once they are done, but no way could I put one together. Thank goodness for inhouse help in the form of my wonderful husband whose brain is structured that way. I realized I could spend 2 days working it out for myself or I could ask him and have it done in 5 minutes. Knowing when to ask for help is a humbling but essential part of setting up a business.
So many times, I thought the project had reached a dead end, the numbers didn’t add up and I was ready to give up. But J from the distributor wouldn’t give up, showing me how to look at a problem from different angles. Ultimately, we came up with a product that is very cool looking and will hopefully appeal to people.
I wish I had a photo to post of the actual product, but I am still waiting for all my supplies to arrive. I’ll write more about it later as this could easily turn into something too long to read. Watch this space.