Isa from Goodness Guru approached me to talk about the ins and outs of starting a food business...
I hope the below is helpful to anybody starting up in the food industry.
What came first the food waste or the hummus?
The food waste…. The only reason I started ChicP was because I was creating hummus and dips from leftovers and tired of seeing huge amounts of food wasted at all the food events I was working at, as well as seeing it in high street chains at the end of the day.
When did you first have the idea for Chic P?
I was working in Central London in a lovely office job but got tired of not being satisfied by what I was doing. I have always been passionate about sustainability and food waste and with this job, there was nothing sustainable, in fact it was quite the opposite.
I was going home in the evenings and turning leftovers into hummus. There was never a supermarket hummus that I really enjoyed buying and I realised that there were no dip brands offering a sustainable solution as well as being healthy. ChicP hummus has half raw vegetables which means that it has half the amount of fat to normal hummus, not to mention that the vegetables are all class 2 and/or from surplus!
How did you go about scaling up production from in your kitchen to a factory?
This was one of my biggest challenges. It took me months to find a manufacturer. I started developing with one but then had to find someone else due to minimum order quantities. It requires a lot of ringing around, patience and asking people in all areas of the food industry. Finally, one recommendation got me to where I am now, however they still have minimum order quantities so I am continually doing lots of events at weekends and trying to find more stockists in order to make sure I sell all the hummus I produce each week. If I can’t, I donate some to food charities.
How did you undergo the process of meeting with stockists?
It is different for every stockist but normally it is a case of finding out who the buyer is for each retailer and getting in contact. I advise you to be well prepared - know everything about your product, try and be as retail ready as possible and know your prices.
What’s been the biggest challenge in starting your own business?
Finding a manufacturer and my short shelf life. I am still struggling with the shelf life! Being a chilled product is not easy...
What’s been the most rewarding part of running your own business?
Seeing it grow from one step to the next has been satisfying and it’s very rewarding to see the hummus now in all the top London Independents, especially Wholefoods. Getting to this stage and no longer making the hummus myself is a huge weight off my shoulders… however, there are just as many challenges in different areas!
What tips do you have for maintaining a good work / life balance?
I believe that it is hugely important to keep a balance between your work life and having a social life. This was something I made sure of when I started ChicP. I work very hard but still make sure I see my friends during the week - luckily ChicP is a relatively social business so I can have quite a bit of fun at weekends if I’m doing events.
It is easy to get sucked to your work but try and say yes to social things and get up earlier the next morning or work later the following evening if you need to catch up.
This goes the same with exercise - I will always try and make time in the day to exercise and the joy of working for myself means that if I need a break in the middle of the day, I can jump outside and go on a run.
What is the health motto you live by?
Work hard, play hard.
What is your guilty pleasure?
Ooooh tricky one… I have a massive sweet tooth, so anything sweet. Normally homemade cake or nut butters and chocolate.
What advice would you give to someone looking to start a food business?
I would advise them to really really research the market first to make sure that if they are sure about their idea, it is different from anything else out there in their category. There is a huge amount of competition and the shelves are becoming more saturated so if it doesn’t have strong USP’s, it’s going to be difficult to reach those shelves. Sustainability is also a key factor in 2017…