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?
Happy New Year. This is a post I meant to write at the end of last year, but in true procrastination form, never quite got around to it.
2011 was a very eventful year for me and the world. The world you know about, but here are some highlights from my year, good and bad.
The year did not start off great with my dad in the hospital recovering from heart surgery. I learned that Japanese medicine is crap at telling you worst cast scenarios, so he went in thinking that this was a routine procedure (triple bypass) and came out not knowing his PIN number. I couldn’t make it to the surgery due to the masses of snow on the ground, so arrived to find my dad in ICU post op, completely disoriented, hallucinating and looking ancient. A bit of a shock when no one has prepared you for it. Anyway, a year on, he is making slow but steady progress to the point where he is starting to make more sense and according to my mom, his eyes are regaining their focus. I’ll be home next week so I can see for myself but it did really make me think about existing as opposed to living. He was a vibrant, vigorous man who at 85 had a very active social life and was out on his own all the time. Maybe it would have been better for him to have had a couple more years on medication but maintaining his lifestyle as opposed to having a surgery that will probably rob him of maybe two years of his life. He made the decision so this is the way it turned out but it does make you think. My kids came out to help and they were wonderful, they took turns so my mom would have support for an extended time as opposed to everyone turning up for 2 weeks and disappearing. My son, who was on his gap year stayed for a month taking his grandpa for walks everyday even if it was to the end of the condo building and back.
Back in London, I resumed my cooking classes and pursued the opportunity to turn the roasted nuts I serve in class into a product. Working with a distributor, Kinomi was born. I had never done anything like this before and I know if it wasn’t for J, I would have given up. By the end of May, I had a product that I could actually start selling. I had really good feedback at the first show I did and there is nothing like having someone who isn’t your friend like what you are selling and actually pay money for it. The next step beyond that is having people who haven’t even met you buy your product. Obviously we all do it all the time but when you’re on the producing end, it’s surreal in a good way. By the end of October I was selling in Harvey Nichols. Hopefully they are selling well enough so that the store is willing to keep stocking me. I even got a little write up on their website http://www.harveynichols.com/hnedit/food-and-wine/whats-in-food-wine/kinomi-nuts-by-hiromi-stone-at-harvey-nichols/. I have also started selling in some local shops and hope to grow the stores I supply in 2012. Any suggestions or leads are most welcome.
My husband came home after a year in Prague and so the whole family went to Hawaii on our summer holiday, including my parents. My niece got married, the first of the nieces and nephews to do so. We became empty nesters in the autumn when my son went off to university. He and his sister are at opposite ends of the country having very different experiences, but they are both enjoying themselves so my day to day obligations as a mom no longer exist. I now enjoy them when they come home and know that the chaos in the house won’t last. They are kind, smart, thoughtful young people and I am very proud of them. And did I mention funny, some of the best times are when we all sit around after a meal and just “banter” as my kids call it.
2011 turned into an unbelievable year for meeting new and wonderful people. I guess it is because I am now doing something specific that I can tell people about, I have met some really interesting people. People have been so supportive and kind, I really appreciate it and hope to do the same for anyone else who might need a hand. I am also settling into the neighbourhood and making new friends. It’s great to feel connected to a neighbourhood and see people you know in the street to have a quick chat. This is probably the friendliest place we’ve lived in, we are very lucky to have found it.
This is definitely turning into a novel so I will sign off. But you can’t look back on 2011 and not mention the earthquake, tsunami and nuclear disaster that hit my country. The people who live in that region are used to natural disasters, they had training days and scenarios worked out for what to do when a tsunami hit. This one exceeded everyone’s expectations and just wiped the area out. As tragic and horrible as it was, they can rebuild. But the man made disaster of a nuclear meltdown, the effects are so long lasting I worry about the future of the region and Japan. As a Japanese person living overseas, I was very proud of the way the Japanese people reacted in the face of the tragedy. I was also touched by the outpouring of support globally The last time I gave any thought to Japan in the world was the 80′s, when Japanese cars were being smashed in Detroit and Japan bashing articles were fairly common in the American press. I guess a lot has changed in 30 years.
Okay, I’m really done now. I don’t make new year’s resolutions because I’m not that great at reflection or forward planning. I hope that 2012 is a wonderful year for all and may we take a step closer to peace.
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.
It’s now been over a year since I started teaching Japanese cooking in my flat. During the course of that year, I have been fortunate to have had the support of many friends who took my classes as well as a wonderful array of people who have simply come to learn Japanese cooking.
I decided to throw a drinks party for my cooking class students and people who had expressed interest in my classes. It was a good way to launch my autumn classes as well as introduce my students to each other. So I sent out my invites using a spiffy e mail marketing programme and waited to see what would happen. It is hard to plan for numbers when many people don’t RSVP (pet peeve). In the end, I figured between 25-30 people would show up. I planned my nibbles carefully since I wanted to showcase the kind of things they would learn in class but also make it reasonable for me to make quantities for 30 I did a couple of different kinds of sushi, fried tofu balls, salmon and of course, my Kinomi nuts. I also had goody bags with Kinomi nuts and a class schedule to take home. My florist, A florum on Caledonian Road did a spectacular job with the flowers and the flat was ready.
Gorgeous flowers, but I failed to take a photo of the table set with food.
I stepped into my dress just as the first guests arrived and then it was a non stop whirlwind 3 hours of socialising, nibbling, answering the door and generally keeping things going. Not that anyone required any help, people did a great job of meeting each other and getting to know one another. There were so many fascinating conversations going on, it was hard to decide which one to join in. The food was going too, a good sign for me as a cooking teacher.
All too soon it was over. I had a great time and it appears my guests did as well. I do love a good party, so I’ll have to plan another one soon.
PS Thank you to my friend S for the photo. Without her I wouldn’t have any evidence that it happened.
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.
It was fabulous! For those of you who read my post after the last market I did, you know it was a “learning experience”. Well I was determined to put some of that learning to good use and signed up to do another one.
So here’s how this one unfolded. I went the day before to help set up. This already gives you an idea of where I was since the last time, I couldn’t even think straight the day before, I was so furiously trying to get ready. But this time, I simplified greatly and my merchandise was ready to go on Friday, the day UPS finally delivered my packing material after the wonderful www.cakescookiesandcraftshop.co.uk people got my order out the day after it was placed. Funny how everyday since Tuesday, the UPS people claim to have tried to deliver when I’ve been at home and I have a porter. So many phone calls later, the last manager tried to use the weather as an excuse and said they were 3 days behind, to which I had to reply, “well if you’d actually deliver the packages you wouldn’t be behind”.
But I digress, back to the market. I had a very ambitious programme for the day, sell my roasted nuts, advertise my cooking classes, participate in a Dragons’ Den type panel and do a cooking demo. The last time, my entire family came to help and while it was lovely to have their support, I think they spent most of the day without anything to do. This time, I was in the summer house with 3 other stall holders so I knew there would be no room for extra people. The weather in London has been brutally cold and thankfully I was in a shelter with a wood burning stove. Here’s a picture of me at my stall.
As you can see, my orange ski jacket stayed on the whole time. I’m so glad I hung onto it even though it’s been years since I’ve been skiing. Here’s a photo of my merchandise.
I was given some very sage advice by Jo from the Deli Station about the size bags I should have and she was right! The mini bags for £1 sold very well.
There were so many people, and everyone was so lovely and interested. It was great to have people think what you made tastes amazing and actually want to pay money for it. What an ego boost. They were also very enthusiastic about my classes and I gave out lots of information cards, ran out and gave out business cards. Remember, I do gift vouchers too.
Then, there was the Dragons Den. I wanted to know if my nuts had any market potential. It was an opportunity to present to a panel comprised of experts in the field and it was a very positive experience. They were very enthusiastic and complimentary, another ego boost.
And finally, towards the end of the day, I did a cooking demo. A simple avocado rice bowl, that is so quick to make and delicious. Again, well received, really the day couldn’t have gone any better.
A special thank you to Charles and Carrie, who stepped in last minute and provided beautiful music all day. They sang their hearts out for hours and really added to the festive atmosphere. Here they are.
And to Ms Marmite Lover, you are one brave woman to do this to your house and we love you for it.