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.
Some people are planners and some people go with the flow. I guess I am more the latter although I do try and plan. But when something happens, you just have to go for it, right?
I am participating in another Underground market, this time a Christmas theme. I wasn’t going to do it figuring that I don’t do anything remotely Christmasy but one thing led to another and here I am, gearing up to do it again. Some of you may have read my post after the last one so you know that I learned many things. Might as well put them to good use and see if I can do a little better this time.
I will be selling my roasted nuts. I have been doing them ever since I started teaching as something for my students to nibble on while I cook. Since the classes are at night, I didn’t want people to perish waiting for dinner. So I put together a soy sauce, kombu (sea weed) and sake combo and toasted mixed nuts. Very simple and very good according to the feedback I have gotten. Actually, the feedback has been so good that friends have started asking me to make them for them. Very flattering and also got me thinking, is there business potential here? So for this market, I have added a sweet version, made with miso, agave, mirin and sake. Pretty good if I say so myself.
The wonderful Ms Marmite Lover, the hostess of the market has come up with a new twist for this one. A Dragons Den type event for food producers. Hopefully not as scary as the real dragons but a chance to find out if there is any potential for my nuts. I started off hoping for just a chat since I didn’t think I was ready to participate in something like that, but again, the opportunity was presented, so I thought, why not?
What all this does for me is it gives me structure to get things done. Because of the market, I now have my classes set until the end of March next year. I have to give some serious thought to the costing of my nuts so that I don’t sound like a blithering idiot in front of the nice dragons. What a tremendous opportunity, to pick the brains of people who are actually successful in the business.
So I guess my pattern will continue to be, fall into things, roller coaster ride then see how it turns out. It’s never boring.
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.