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?
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 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’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.
All set up for the day
My day started at 4 am. I had to get ready for the Underground Farmers & Craft Market at Ms Marmite Lover’s home. To answer the many questions that probably popped into your head from my last two sentences, here’s a quick explanation. Ms Marmite Lover runs the Underground restaurant network, a loosely organised group of food lovers who either host supper clubs (open your home to strangers, cook and charge them to eat the lovely food) or participate in them or just support the whole enterprise. She took this concept one step further and opened her home to the general public and invited stall holders to come and take part.
I decided to participate and it was my first foray into marketing my baby business. Hence my 4 am wake up to prepare what I was selling that day, gomoku sushi, or sushi rice mixed with veggies. It was a day unlike any other I had ever experienced. Now I have had experience in organising fairs and even selling at them, but never my own things. There were lots of lessons learned on the day.
The biggest lesson I learned was to step outside my head and look at my business. I took part in this market to promote my cooking classes and my wonderful friend C did a fantastic job branding me and doing up labels, but I failed to provide a single large sign that advertised what I do. It was so obvious to me and I thought, if you look at the labels, it too is obvious, but what I failed to take into account, is that I am not doing a presentation, but selling in a room with 7 other stall holders with upwards of 200 people parading past my table. So next time, a big sign.
I made such an elementary mistake that I still can’t believe it. I failed to take people’s contact details. I tell everyone who is just starting out that you have to be proactive. Just don’t hand out information and wait for people to contact you, take their details and remind them of who you are. I didn’t take my own advice, so here I am, waiting for people who took my details to contact me. Hmmm, fix that too next time.
Lesson number 2, do not use a crowded market to introduce an unfamiliar product. No one was looking at my sushi, and I finally realized that no one knew what it was. At which point I opened it up and tried to give away some tastes, but it is after all, rice in a box. It was definitely tricky. Also, people were mostly grazing and snacking as they walked, so rolled sushi would have been infinitely more identifiable as well as easy to eat. My daughter’s friends had a feast with the leftovers.
I also did a cookery demo which I think went pretty well. I certainly had a big group of people crowding in to watch. It is very different using someone else’s kitchen and even though I brought all my own things, the set up took time and I will try and keep it more simple next time. I really have new respect for those people who can go into other people’s homes and demonstrate cooking. It’s a whole other level of complicated.
But my entire family came along for the day to support me and hang out and it was a great day. I met lots of really nice people, ate entirely too much amazing food and brought home enough other people’s food that we all had a lovely supper.
I have had a couple of people contact me about classes already so it was a great, it was a wonderful atmosphere in which to try out my little business and the response I got was really nice.
I hope Ms Marmite Lover will have me back for the next one. I’m already thinking of what I can make.
I have been wanting to consolidate my cooking and blogging under one roof for awhile now. It was also recommended that I buy my own domain and pay for hosting. That was the easy part. So now what? I managed to get my posts moved over, come up with some tabs, decided there should be a tab on translating as long as I’m at it, then the problems started. It turns out that if you have a non methodical mind, these things are very hard to comprehend, let alone navigate. Who said this blogging software was easy and anyone could do it? I couldn’t figure out how to add photos, I could upload them, but the same stupid tree that came with the template just wouldn’t leave. And that was just the beginning.
So I decided that I’m going to have to bite the bullet and pay someone. Now for those of you who’ve read my Scammed Again post know that paying people online has not worked out that well for me lately. So an anxious few days ensued when I realized that I was going to have to pay this so far very reasonable and friendly person my internet budget. It seems to have worked out, and I think we are on our way.
What this whole exercise has made me realize is that I am heading towards branding myself. Now, I’ve heard all that talk about personal branding and I always thought it was hooey. But, now it is starting to make sense to bring all the different things together under one label. Maybe there should be a tab for Dress for Success? I have volunteered there for 4 years and it is very much a part of my life. While I don’t think that I need to share my entire life with the internet world, maybe there’s information that I can share which would be of actual interest to people.
I’m planning to give it some thought over my holiday and hopefully come up with some decent content. I need to work out a schedule for my autumn classes and maybe even do a bit of marketing.
My next post will probably be about what a relaxing time I’m having. Fingers crossed.
Oh, by the way, I just signed up to participate in the second Underground Gourmet farmer’s market. in September. I will be doing a demonstration and potentially selling some stuff. I think I took a monumental step doing this, but as with most of my decisions, I didn’t think that much about it, it felt right. So I hope everything comes together, I’m not sure I have any time to be lounging around on the beach.