Setting up a kitchen table business

on Friday, 04 February 2011. Posted in N21 Business Blog

If you like cooking have you ever thought about turning it into a small business? There are a number of interesting ‘kitchen table’ businesses in the local area, who are providing great products for people who are interested in quality food, which is locally prepared.

What Diliana, James, Frank, Lisa, brothers Darsh and Kushal all share is a passion for food, a belief in what they are doing, a strong work ethic and creative flair. All but Dilaina still have a day job, in the realisation that it takes time to develop any new business, let alone one which is as rigorously controlled as the food industry. All food businesses must register their premises with the Council’s Environmental Health Department, at least 28 days before starting to make any food for sale and have to comply with a strict code covering all aspects of food preparation, storage and distribution.

When relating their stories all of these kitchen table business owners stressed just how much work went into their business start up, trial and error in getting the product right, testing out what people actually want to buy, pricing and finding the best way to reach potential customers; as well as other important issues such as insurance and developing the brand.

Diliana, set up her company The Fairies of London, specialising in high quality cup cakes, after the birth of her twins. She wanted to spend more time with her three young children than her full time job in finance would allow. She set up her business in 2010, launching into a crowded, albeit growing market.  She came up with the name while driving, - that was the easy bit. “I tried loads of recipes, some didn’t work out and I had to learn how to bake to a consistent standard. It’s very important to do your research and not rush, look at alternative suppliers, so you create something that has a value at the right price”.

As she was launching just before Christmas, Diliana hit on the idea of sending a gift box of her stunning cakes to several celebrity presenters at Capital FM. This novel approach paid dividends, as Diliana was asked to contribute to a Classic FM charity auction, with her 120 cake tower selling for a staggering £4,000, with lots of free publicity. Diliana understands marketing and the need to create something distinctive. Her presentation is first rate and she is developing her own novel product range including gluten free cup cakes and a cup cake bouquet – awaiting the picture!

Another enterprising cake maker is Lisa Watkins, whose is combining running her cake business with her full time work in the West End. Lisa also had a marketing triumph last year, when her offered  to make a dummy cake for internationally renowned West End trimmings retailer VV Rouleaux. This resulted in a lucrative paid for contact, which you can read about in ‘If you don’t ask you don’t get’.

James is also working 24/7 to set up Bim’s Kitchen, specialising in a range of African inspired sauces. James who works full time at the Department of Health is a passionate cook and had been mulling over ways of introducing Nigerian foods into the UK for several years. He began by creating a distinctive range of sauces, which include classic Nigerian ingredients such as Alligator pepper and giving then to his friends and family to try. Colleagues he worked with became interested in what he was doing, so he now takes jars of Bim’s Kitchen sauces into work with him, from his home in Palmers Green most days.

James is the cook, often running up batches of products which are in short supply in the evening; which his wife Nicola is taking responsibility for marketing and sales. The couple can be found at the Palmers Green Community Market on Sundays and they have just launched a website, so you can buy their complete range online. James would recommend the Palmers Green Market to anyone locally starting a food business, “you can get feedback from customers and they spread the word for you”.

Freelance cook Frank Hannon has set up another distinctive concept, a Friday only takeaway for home cooked fresh foods, which you can read about in more detail in ‘Friday Night is Gourmet Takeaway Night’. Again Frank started by testing his concept on friends and family, but is now developing his client base using Facebook and Twitter, as well as his beautiful website, where you can register to receive an email detailing the week’s dish.

Brothers Darsh and Kushal Shah are developing their Devilicious chutneys based on their mother’s original recipes, even though accountant Darshitt is working full time in London and investment banker Kushal, who has recently taken up a job in Singapore!  The chutneys are made in our kitchen at home in small batches, Thursday night is red chilli sauce night and Friday night is green night. Like the other kitchen table entrepreneurs they were keen to stress the care that goes into creating the products. “Every chilli is individually processed, every jar is hand packed and labelled, every flavour is captured and delivered. We use fresh ingredients and we do not add any water or oil in our products, nor artificial preservatives and colourings”.

For a year, Darsh and Kushal experimented with different types of chillis and recipes, “burning many taste buds and blender motors on the way. We finally nailed the recipe! (our mum had to give it to us to stop the destruction we were causing)! We started off selling at food festivals and on our very first outing, we sold 500 jars at the Vegan Fair in Bristol”. Their two flagship Devils are sitting gleefully in the chillers of an upmarket independent supermarket in East London and The Hampstead Butcher & Providore in Hampstead and they are hoping to find an outlet in this area shortly and set up a website to market Devilicious online.

If this article has got the creative juices going, The Food Standard’s Agency has provided a useful guide which you can access here

If you like cooking have you ever thought about turning it into a small business? There are a number of interesting 'kitchen table' businesses in the local area, who are providing great products for people who are interested in quality food, which is locally prepared

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