Sixty Second Interview

Everything you’ve always wanted to know about our Head Hopper and HOP but were afraid to ask! Paul’s interview with Here Is The City Gorgeous picture by Charlie Richards

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HOP revealed to the world!

HOP Vietnamese Street Food

Pictorial evidence – exhibit 1 (by Charlie Richards)

Where? at 2 Finsbury Avenue Square, EC2M 2PA, on the Broadgate Estate between Liverpool Street and Finsbury Square

When? late Spring

Want to know about previews and tastings? The website is live: get signed up and #HOPonboard!

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50 Food Stars celebrate the future of UK food & drink

The revival of the UK’s food and drink sector has seen a new generation of entrepreneurs emerge, whose innovative ideas and can-do attitude are creating jobs in local communities and contributing to the record £103 billion generated by the food chain last year.

But starting and growing a business is not easy. All great victories, whether in business, love or politics, involve solving difficult challenges with creativity and courage, flipping obstacles upside down and seeing them as windows of opportunity to test yourself.

Which is why I am thrilled and really proud that 3 of my clients Asif Walli (Duke of Delhi), Carey Davis-Munro (Sweet Virtues) and Philippa Askham & Tanya Mitchell (Sweetpea Pantry) have been recognised as Food Stars amongst 50 of the country’s most promising food and drink entrepreneurs.

Here’s to you Asif, Carey, Philippa, Tanya and your fellow Food Stars: dream big, stay focused and surround yourself with good people!

Join the conversation on Twitter #50FoodStars

 

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Making peanuts pay

Guest post by Ian Sanders, CEO of ToxiMet the award-winning mycotoxin testing system.

ToxiMet came on my radar a couple of weeks ago via Syndicate Room the equity crowdfunding platform whom they are raising finance through. I was struck by how their invention could be transformative for food producers in emerging economies. Ian’s post illustrates this neatly.

When did you last give peanuts any thought? Like most people in the UK, you probably never think about them much – unless of course you’re allergic to them. But in other parts of the world peanuts play a far more important role.

Take India for example. Its economy still depends to great extent on the cultivation of its land and much of its foreign exchange revenue comes from the export of commodities – like peanuts. In fact, it ranks number two in global peanut production.

Peanuts earn peanuts

It may surprise you to learn that Indian peanut producers are paid peanuts. Well, not literally of course but they might as well be. The margins are shockingly low; a container of peanuts exported from India will generate as little as 1% profit for its producer.

And it gets worse because there’s increasing regulation (particularly around food safety) and the effect of currency fluctuations to allow for – both of which make the export game a perilous undertaking indeed for Indian producers.

The processing of peanuts – the part that adds real value – is carried out in other countries. And, it’s those countries which gobble up the lion’s share of the profits from the peanuts you buy in your local supermarket.

Peanut process innovation

However, one man is on a mission to change all that and bring innovation to India’s peanut process. That man is Kunal Kotecha, scion of the four-generation peanut-trading house VNKC. For him, the solution to India’s peanut problem involved completely rethinking the process from farmer to eventual export.  And investing in a state-of-the-art factory in Gujarat.

Kunal controls the entire workflow, from farmers instructed under direct contract through shelling, sorting and grading for destinations to oil pressing and snacks. Blanching and roasting are coming on-stream and chocolate coating is to follow, all untouched by human hand from shell to final package.

Adding value is the key to success

The key to Kunal’s success comes through adding value at every stage of the process.  “Everything we do now has to be value-added, and nothing is considered as waste.” He says. Even the peanut husks are pressed into briquettes for zero-carbon fuel, generating profit and attracting environmental tax-breaks at the same time.

The primary added-value is product safety as buyers now attach a premium to a quality management process. Kunal has invested in systems such as ToxiMet which allows him to meet strict regulatory standards for mould-borne toxins and gives his customers confidence in the safety of his company’s products. Kunal proudly claims, “I won’t produce anything I wouldn’t feed to my own children”.

As well as allowing him access to lucrative export markets, there are other benefits from quality management too. Indicating his purpose-built worker accommodation, Kunal says, “Employee welfare is important to us” and he emphasizes, “With value-added quality management, we can afford these things”.

Increasing value-added exports

At the forefront of a growing trend in value-addition, VNKC is leading a wave of change across India. The Indian government is helping to propel this new industrial revolution with tax-free imports of equipment designed to increase value-added exports.

ToxiMet’s system is now regularly qualifying for these incentives and the company is proud to be part of a growing strategy of enhancing sustainable prosperity within India.

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How can I help to make you more successful in 2015?

I’ve never really been one to make New Year’s resolutions but I have always thought those ‘lost’ few days between Christmas and New Year are a very good time to dream, plot and plan for the year ahead.

As well as thinking of ways I can improve the services I offer my clients in 2015 I have a short personal list I want to tick off over the next 12 months.

Happy new year!

Have a good week,

Monique

 

 

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And the winners are …

It has been another great year for the UK’s food & drink and hospitality sectors.

Food & drink, and the entrepreneurs behind the brands, are going from strength to strength and looking back on the past 12 months, it reminds me just what a great industry we are all part of.

I just wanted to write you a quick note to say thank you for being part of what has been an incredible year for me in 2014.

And to share with you some of my clients’ highlights … above and beyond growing their businesses and growing as people.

Dana Elemara, founder of Arganic, won the honorary awards at The Young British Foodies. She pipped  food business start-up boot camp alumni Peckham-based cheesemaker Kristen Schnepp of the wonderful Gringa Dairy to the top spot.

After two years of plotting and planning, another ex-boot camper, Nick Green, opened the doors to Chifafa – ‘kebabs made good’.

Sweet Virtues, founded by Carey Davis-Munro, won ‘best healthy food business’ at the Virgin Start-up awards. The awards for ‘most-loved kids brand’ went to Tanya Mitchell and Philippa Ashkam, the founders of Sweetpea Pantry. Duke of Delhi’s founder Asif Walli was runner-up in the ‘best-looking new brand’ category.

Paul Hopper raised just under £1m in July to launch HOP an exciting, fast-casual Vietnamese concept aimed at busy, health conscious City workers. Expected to launch in the first quarter of 2015. Watch this space …

Sous Chef, founded and run by husband and wife team Nicola Lando and Nick Carter, held its first, successful Christmas showcase where they launched a good looking range of own label pantry essentials.

Lily Simpson, founder of healthy meal delivery service & delis The Detox Kitchen who had her first child in September, was ‘Best Young Entrepreneur’ runner up in the Investec Food & Drink Entrepreneur awards. Nicola from Sous Chef was highly commended as ‘Best Online Entrepreneur’.

Last but not least, Lily has written a book which will be published in the Spring and is launching the Red Carpet Detox Diet in the Sunday Times Style magazine next weekend. Healthy definitely just got glamorous.

I wish you all a healthy, prosperous & fun-packed 2015! I’ll be seeing you.

Monique

 

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What I have learned this year

1. Travel is good for the soul. The virtual kind is very therapeutic too!

2. Do what matters to you. Be honest. be brave. Be selfish sometimes.

3. Your gut is always right. Always, always, always listen to your gut. Whenever I’ve gone against my intuition, it’s been a disaster. Listen to your gut, it’s always right.

4. When you risk, you grow.

5. You are a combination of the people you spend the most time with. If you really want to move forward in your life, you have to change the people you hang out with. Spend time with people who support you and believe in you.

6. You can’t connect the dots going forward; you can only connect them looking backward. There have been so many times when a perceived opportunity didn’t work out and then a year later, there was a much bigger opportunity around the corner.

And last but not least …

7. Imagination is everything. It is a preview of life’s coming attractions.

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The critical middle: mid-market top 100

I attended the Investec inaugural mid-market summit last week.

A hugely inspiring day brought together and celebrated the achievements of the UK mid-market businesses which generate nearly £1trillion of revenue employing six million people, yet their contribution is often neglected (in favour of exciting start-ups) or misunderstood.

An impressive line up of speakers including Edwina Dunn, the Tesco clubcard creator and now COO of Starcount and Sherry Coutu who wrote the important Scale-up report made for a brilliant start to building important momentum around and showcasing the importance of this segment of UK economy.

Click here for the top 100: the UK’s fastest-growing mid-sized firms, mapped with the help of Duedil

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Alternative finance for growth

Gem Misa, Founder of Righteous who chose crowdfunding as an alternative means of finance twice

Gem Misa, Founder of Righteous, who chose crowdfunding as an alternative means of finance twice

Whilst bank funding is still hard to come by, particularly for small businesses, the picture for availability of capital has been improving.

This is largely due to a number of new, non bank, entrants in the market including  Crowdcube, Funding Knight and Platform Black.

Here are some options we took a closer look at the Food & Drink Expo 2014:

Crowdfunding, peer-to-business lending, invoice trading, business angels and venture capital.

I have chosen to focus on the first 3 in this blog post.

1. Crowdfunding

How does it work? You source the investment you need from the public, ‘the crowd’. Three types of investment: debt, equity and reward. Individuals put up anything from £10-£10,000 to be part of something great and hopefully make some money.

Typical fees are c7% of funds raised.

Best suited for Colourful, engaging start-ups with mass appeal, a ready-made loyal following and a social media presence. The ‘crowd’ loves food!

You will need A compelling video pitch. An executive summary, pitch deck and 3 years of financial forecasts. Be EIS registered. PR contacts and stories.

Top tips Quicker than raising angel of VC investment but it’s key not to rely on investors seeing your video on the crowdfunding website, you have to work hard ‘campaigning’ to let people know about your fundraising.
Make sure you ‘prove your concept’ before starting your crowdfunding pitch. You need to show that your idea works, either by showing purchase orders of interested stores; sales data showing how well you are performing; awards won etc.

2. Peer to business lending

How does it work Businesses apply for a loan through the website.
A credit team work with the business to best understand their needs, assess their suitability for a loan and assign it a credit rating .
The loan is presented on the website for one week to thousands of investors who can invest as little as £25 each.
Investors compete to bid for parts of the loan, driving the interest rate down.
When the auction completes, the funds are drawn down by the company.
Investors get a better interest rate than a normal savings account and the business gets the funding they need at a competitive interest rate.

Who can borrow British based Limited Companies or LLPs. Companies with at least 2 years trading history and min. 1 years filed accounts.

Fees are between 6-12%, depending on investor bids which set the rate you pay.

What can you borrow Loans available from £25,000 to £150,000. Loan periods available from 6 months – 5 years. Flexible payment terms with upfront payment holidays available. No early repayment fees

3. Invoice financing

How does it work You select the invoices you want to auction to the service providers’ investors, who compete to fund your invoices thus driving down your cost of finance.
You manage payment collection.

Whom is it for Businesses turning over £250k to £50m which want to access the money tied up in some – or all – of their invoices.

Costs 6-9% of the amount advanced per 30 days, a one-off membership plus arrangement fee.

Considerations Fast, flexible finance, with no borrowing limit, directly related to sales. Up to 90% credit is available.

Your investor tool kit

Executive summary: to take a potential investor on the journey and get you that 1st meeting!

Pitch deck: sells the gig idea & gets emotional buy-in

Financials: 5 year cash flow and profit & loss forecasts to predict exit

Verbal pitch: the idea, pain & solution, business model, success to date, your amazing team

Business plan

Tax breaks: the two big ones EIS and SEIS

Social media, PR contacts and stories, a ready-made following

Get in touch with me Monique@moniqueborst.com if you like to find out more or simply to check your investor tool kit is up to scratch. I also know about snow angels …

 

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Winning at the weekend: good weekends need a plan

Many of us have trouble using our weekends well: chores, errands, inefficient email checking, unconsciously chosen TV marathons, chauffeuring children to and from their activities …

This is the paradox of the weekend:

You’ve got to commit to taking time out – a break from the routine – but you have to realise that this time off is too precious to be totally unstructured about it.

Between Friday 6pm and Monday 6am you have 60 hours! Even if you allow 3 x 8 hours = 24 hours for sleep, that leaves you 36 hours.

How to plan a weekend – 7 tips:

  1. Have a list of do-able ‘dreams’ on the go: things you really want to do. These should form the basis of your weekend’s 3-5 anchor events.
  2. Use your mornings: they’re often wasted but are a great time for exercise.
  3. Schedule down time: commit to finishing that book, have a siesta, listen to the Food Programme, catch-up a TV programme you’re recorded.
  4. Create traditions: an exercise class on Saturday followed by a catch-up over coffee with a friend, brunch with family on Sunday etc. These habits are what become memories and comforting rituals can really boost happiness.
  5. Use weekdays for chores and errands rather than the weekend: if you have to fit something in create a small chores window and don’t focus too much on the easily seen and measured goals (tidy cupboards, sparkling windows) that divert your energy away from higher value things – nurturing yourself.
  6. If you must do some work: take care of it in one short burst. And carve out time where you don’t check your phone, iPad …
  7. Make time on Sunday afternoon, 30 minutes perhaps, to plan, re-group and get organised for the week ahead. I find if I wake up on Monday morning without a plan, I can spend the morning figuring it out.

By applying some structure and treating the weekend part of your 168 hour week as different but precious, you can use those 60 hours to really re-charge your batteries.

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How to make the most of the holiday down time

Quiet time can be a challenge for the always-on-the-go entrepreneur.

Plan ahead to make the most of the down time to recharge your batteries and refocus.

1. Reflect on 2013

Use the break to reflect on where your food business is going.

Revisit your business, or growth, plan.

Review marketing, sales, people and profit strategies: reflect on what worked, what didn’t and why. What can you do differently next year to improve?

Which products and services were profitable? Which ones didn’t do as well as you had expected and why?

Start the new year prepared with a plan to tackle the problem areas of your business.

It’s not always easy to stick to a plan, but it does provide a useful framework; if you can stick to it 90% of the time you will feel more in control.

2. Set goals

Just as many of us make personal new year’s resolutions, take advantage of your business downtime to set goals for your business over the next 12 months.

Start with the end objective and then break down your 12 month goals into shorter term goals: what will you achieve in 6 and in 3 months? What will you have achieved by the end of next month? What can be done by the end of next week?

And remember, your plan is not a secret: keep it somewhere accessible so that you can review it on a regular basis and evaluate your progress. I find a year wall planner is really helpful.

Read my blog post ‘6 steps to a better business in 2013’

3. Invest in yourself

Take the time to read a business book or autobiography to get inspiration to improve the areas you’d like to develop.

You can also use the break to research grants and other possible sources of financial support, as well as courses and workshops you may want to attend in 2013.

One book I have enjoyed reading recently is ‘Result’ by Phil Olley which advocates setting aside a ‘golden hour’ every day to really get things done.

4. Take time out

It’s vital for entrepreneurs to have time away from the business to recharge their batteries.

Taking time out to do something completely different is a great stress buster and stops you burning out.

It will help you to return to your business feeling physically and mentally refreshed and ready to tackle anything 2013 throws at you.

5. Get personal chores done

Take advantage of your time off to get any chores such as (re)organizing your (home) office out of the way so that they don’t add to your stress later in the year when you’re really busy.

6. Thank your support network

We often take time to thank clients for their business and suppliers for looking after us. But it is equally important to say ‘thank you’ to the family and friends who support you and your business through thick and thin.

With best wishes for a healthy, inspiring & successful 2014!

Monique

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Holiday reading: business books for some out-of-the-box thinking

If you’re like me, the holiday season is a time to reconnect with friends and family, drink a few glasses of bubbly and somewhere in there slip away with a pot of tea and a great book.

This season, one of my gifts to you is my list of great books that don’t fall into the traditional mix.

I you are looking for some out-of-the-box thinking, here is my list of must-read business books you may not have considered:

Donna Tartt’s ‘The Goldfinch’ is on my bedside table, but these books are on my desk:

1. ‘Eyes Wide Open’ – Noreena Hertz

Data deluge has become a double-edged sword. This book explains how to become a wise decision-maker, savvy to how your emotions, moods and habits can trip you up.

2. ‘The Impact Equation’ – Chris Brogan & Julien Smith

To make people truly care about what you have to say, you need more than just a good idea, trust amongst your audience and a certain number of followers. You need a potent mix of the above – and more. Brogan & Purkiss explain IMPACT = C x (R + E + A + T + E)

3. ‘Brand You’ – John Purkiss & David Royston-Lee

A refreshing and practical guide to managing your most important product: you!

Here’s to a happy Christmas & successful 2014!

Monique

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A fresh start

Merry xmas

The winter winds are always inspiring me to reflect on next year – and perhaps try something new.

Once Christmas trading is done and dusted, the New Year is a particularly good time to sit down and plan.

So, what does 2014 hold for you?

Email your resolutions to me info@moniqueborst.com

… or share them on Twitter @Monique_Borst and inspire others.

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How To Grow Your Food Business – key notes from my talk at Speciality Fine Food Fair 2013

You want to increase turnover and profit, but you’re too busy working for your food business to even think about how to do it, much less do it?

For those of you who missed my talk on how to grow your food business here are the key notes: how not to get bogged down, create a brilliant team around you, attract more customers and grow your finances.

Want to find out more? Drop me a note to find out how I can help you grow your food business too: Monique@moniqueborst.com

‘Your life consists of what you pay attention to. We rarely think of attention as a resource, but it actually is as finite and precious as gold. And we have complete control over where to direct it’

The dilemma

You want to increase turnover & profits, but you’re too busy working for your business to even think about how to do it … much less do it.

The good news: it can be done & you are not alone!

Getting ready to grow

You need a plan: now more than ever.

Find time to plan: 1.5 hours a week for 4 weeks is all you need to get started.

How? By setting goals, ‘swotting pests’ & a single page plan. Start with the numbers: write down turnover & profit for the last 3 years and your long term goals for turnover & profit. Do a SWOT and PEST analysis for each area of your business – people, product and market.

What strengths have your got you can build on? What opportunities can you exploit? What weaknesses can you correct? What looming threats avoid?

Growing your people

The biggest barrier to your business growth? You, the entrepreneur.

Learn to let go: this is pivotal – you cannot grow your business on your own.

Delegate, and not just the mundane stuff but tasks and responsibilities to help your team develop and free you up to grow the business.

Conduct a training needs analysis: work out what needs to be done, what skills and knowledge are necessary and consider the people in the jobs.

Devise training that works, focus on outcomes, tailor to individual needs and always follow up.

‘Talk, walk, stalk’ is simple and effective.

Hire the best: a good place to start is among your existing staff, followed by the grapevine, your network, social media, free websites and don’t forget to post vacancies on your own website.

Growing your customers

The foundation of growth is retention.

Find out what your customers really think of you and act on those findings.

Marketing is one of the most important ways to grow your business: the trick is to invest your time wisely and make sure you are marketing at the right people. Revisit your SWOT analysis and your marketing message: what are you selling and why do customers want to buy from you?

Get to know your media. PR is probably the most effective way to promote your business.

Use your website, blog, videos and social media to build a community.

Growing your finances

Profit not thrift! Cost cutting is rarely the way to grow a business.

Stay on top of cash flow, get best value from suppliers and work with your accountant on how best to reduce your tax bill.

As well as a good growth plan, a talented team and brilliant ideas you will no doubt at some point need to raise finance.

Beyond talking to your bank about your plans and finance needs, there are lots of alternative forms of finance to explore: asset-based lending against equipment, machinery, inventories, property and invoices, business angels , venture capital funds , crowdfunding in which a large number if people pool their cash to finance a project (Crowdcube , Seedrs) and grants usually only available to specific types of people or businesses and sometimes match funding is required.

Over to you …

What will you do next?

Get in touch if you want to learn more about how to grow your business.

I can offer specific and continued support, either via

1. a one-off 1.5 hour consultation (where we can hone in on specific barriers or road blocks including strategy, market research, planning, sales & marketing, people, finance)

2. or business mentoring (focused on helping you achieve specific business goals quickly and cost effectively).

The former is available at short notice, depending on other commitments, but I mentor only a limited number of entrepreneurs at any one time.

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Making a product or building a brand?

Products (and services) may come and go but brands, good ones that is, can endure and leave a lasting legacy.

Product parity is rife in many markets, not least in food and drink. Even if you actually do make the best cheese in the world, from a consumer’s point of view that can be hard to spot. In many cases, it is the brand that provides the differentiation, enabling consumers to choose one product over another.

Take milk as an example, who would have thought that you could brand such a commodity – surely one pint of semi-skimmed is much like the next? But Yeo Valley (amongst others), have proved that consumers are prepared to pay more for their milk because they trust the name on the label. Also, it’s this trust that has allowed Yeo Valley to extend their offer from organic yogurt to a wide range of organic dairy products, from milk and butter to crème-fraiche and ice-cream.

So brands help to differentiate products. They also add value, allowing them, in the case of Yeo Valley to charge an additional 13p per litre of milk. Brands do this by communicating a unique identity and personality; representing the values of the business in everything it does and appealing to the consumer on an emotional, as well as a rational level. A strong brand can also give you a much needed leg-up when introducing something new to the market; by standing for something more that just the characteristics of a single product or service, you can greatly improve your chance of consumers considering you when you extend your range or even go into a new category, (although of course, this must always be done with great care).

Most business start with a great idea; a product/service and a vision of how it will make a difference. But, it’s surprising just how quickly the original purpose of any business can get diluted or lost altogether along-the-way. The basic principles of who you are and what you stand for should be pretty self-evident but in the hurly burly of everyday life, these simple truths can become obscured.

The earlier you can capture what your brand is all about the better; for consistency – it enables a brand to behave authentically and with integrity. This is important not just for your consumers but also for the people within your business – it makes decisions easier to make, based on a deep understanding of what you’re all trying to achieve and reduces the risk of losing the heart and soul of your brand, as the business grows. So, whilst your brand will of course evolve over-time, the earlier you lay the foundations the more chance you have of avoiding having to make big, costly changes later on down-the-line.

Sharon Brunt, Creative Brand Consultant and Founder of ‘Dig For Brands’

Follow Sharon on Twitter @digforbrands

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Brand or Product?

What is the difference?

Yes, popular products (and services) can become brands in themselves and brand names can refer to products … but there are some fundamental differences.

Companies make products. Consumers make brands: products with low emotional involvement are easily replaced.

Products can become obsolete. Brands can be timeless: thousands of new products are released into the wilds of the market every year. Some become great successes, while others fail hard.

Products are instantly useful, but brands become meaningful over time: a brand is meaningless until consumers have a chance to experience it, build trust with it and believe in it.

That’s why brand building takes time and effort to convince consumers to believe in your brand: consistency, persistence & restraint.

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Pitching to food halls & supermarkets: how to wow the retailers …

How to get a foot in the door …

Your product has to be great, that goes without saying, have shelf presence and be supported by a robust marketing plan.

Tip #1 Do thorough market research

Buyers will expect you to know lots about their business, its’ existing products and how your product will increase the value of the category. They will also expect you to know every facet of your own business, from where your ingredients are sourced, to production methods, your target markets and finance.

Tip #2 Let your product speak for itself

You need to be absolutely convinced that you have a winning product in your hands. If Buyers are persuaded by your rationale on why they should buy it and realise that it is a great product – this is the best chance you have for seeing your product on the shelf.

Tip #3 Persistence is key

Getting a hearing is difficult for new entrants to the food industry: be creative in how you turn ‘no’ into ‘yes’ and don’t give up until you secure that crucial first meeting!

Pitch tips

  1. Be clear and concise. Explain how the market shapes up: your story, competition, target customers, marketing plan, commercial opportunity.
  2. Know your finances from top to bottom. A sloppy grasp of the numbers is a turn-off.
  3. Enjoy the experience & remember to smile! It may be daunting, but      pitching is also fun and exciting and practice makes perfect.

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Are you investor ready?

Raising equity capital is challenging at best.

If you can answer all the questions below it’s more likely that you’re investor ready.

The size and growth of your market

And this includes the potential, as well as limitations, of your product(s). Your business plan should outline potential growth and demonstrate – realistically – where you hope your business will be one, two or five years down the road and beyond. What is the size of your addressable (your portion, not total) market?

Demonstrating your USP and why it’s sustainable

How well do you understand the competitive landscape and your USP? This ties in with having a clear understanding of your position in the market. Can the market sustain you in the long run, or is there a risk that, after an initial growth phase, you might lose out to other, newer businesses or products? An investor wants to know that their contribution is sustainable with a sound return.

Being able to sell

What does it take to sell your product? How long does it take? What are the channels and who are the key players? Who do you need to get on your side?

Clarity of accounts

You should have your books in order, showing turnover, profit margins and potential growth. An investor will also want to see what it costs to produce your product and how efficiently your company is handled because a well-run company is more lucrative. No amount of cash injections can help if that’s not the case.

How will you recruit a team?

What is your method of putting together a dedicated team?

How will you scale?

What will drive growth in the business? How will you handle growth? What potential bottlenecks might occur?

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Wild garlic: free food!

Wild garlic is commonly found in wooded areas, often growing amongst bluebells. The plants, which belong to the allium family are easy to recognise (the pics above hopefully help) but any doubt you may have is quickly erased when you snap one of the leaves and a very strong garlic odor hits your nostrils!

The flowers are edible too, and have a real peppery kick to them.

One of the first things I made with this year’s crop was a risotto to go with some griddled squid, with the chopped up garlic treated like you would garlic or an onion when making risotto.

I think I may have added too many flowers because the end result was quite “hot” despite the fact that I had not added much freshly ground black pepper at all.

If you can get your hands on wild mushrooms, like morels or St George’s (the 1st English mushroom of the year which appears around St George’s Day) wild garlic is the perfect accompaniment.

The next thing I made with the wild garlic was walnut & wild garlic pesto, loosely based on a recipe from Ursula Ferrigno’s excellent book “Italy See to Sky”.

Makes almost 2 jam jars; keep in the fridge and use up fairly quickly.

I used:

2 bunches of wild garlic including the flowers, washed and dried

110g shelled walnuts

8 tbsp of olive oil (the remainder of a bottle of olive oil from the la Vialla estate in Italy which I was given over Easter)

110g of freshly grated Parmesan

Just blitz everything together in a food processor: be careful not to over-do it, pulse and check the consistency which I think should be coarse so you can identify the different ingredients, rather than a smooth paste.

This works brilliantly added sparingly to simply boiled or steamed vegetables such as courgettes, beans and asparagus.

It also makes a delicious topping for toasted sourdough combined with some torn buffalo mozzarella; having met Petal the water buffalo at the Real Food Festival, Laverstoke Park is my current favourite.

Over the Bank Holiday weekend I am planning to make  minestrone with spring veg and I know a blob of garlic pesto in every soup bowl will work a treat!

Monique

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To share or not?

Is it better to seek as much input as possible or keep your cards close to your chest?

On the one hand, the more you share your business idea with others, the more feedback you’ll receive to help you refine your product or service. On the other, the more you broadcast your ‘light bulb’ moment, the greater the chances of someone else capitalising on it and beating you to the post.

Essentially, you need to strike a balance between learning as much as you can about what potential customers, investors and suppliers think of your idea, and not giving away too much too soon.

Work smart

Realistically, unless someone shares a passion for your idea and has the time, energy and resources to make it happen, it’s unlikely they will pursue it themselves.

In most cases, the benefit of the feedback you can gain on your idea far outweighs any potential risk of somebody else stealing it. But … people talk, and you have to be careful to prevent confidential information from falling into the wrong hands – especially if your idea is completely new and potentially game-changing.

It may sound obvious, but think carefully about how and when you share your idea, and who you share it with. Before you approach a potential adviser, customer, supplier or business partner, think about the information or resources you want from them and then decide how much you need to share to achieve this. Don’t let yourself be talked into giving away more than is necessary.

Protect your intellectual property

Wherever possible, only share your idea with trusted confidantes until you have some basic protections in place. For instance, it is sensible and doesn’t cost much to secure your website domain name, and if you plan to set up a limited company to register your business name at Companies House, before you discuss your product or business idea with people you don’t know.

Likewise, you can’t copyright an idea itself but you can protect your name and brand through trade marks and your designs and inventions through patents. It may well be worth protecting your intellectual property, or at least filing the relevant applications, before sharing your idea with others.

Non-disclosure agreements

Often the success of an idea depends upon getting key partnerships, supplier or customer relationships in place.

If this is the case, you may have no choice but to supply confidential information to a third party in order to see whether or not your idea is feasible, or whether you can make a deal with them.

For instance, if you have a created a new food product you may want to get samples made, or to get quotes from a few manufacturers for much it would cost to produce.

Likewise, if you are pitching for seed funding from investors, you will have to show a detailed business plan.

In these situations, a non-disclosure agreement (NDA) can help to safeguard your ideas, which could be a vital safety net if your prospective partner already has a relationship with a competitor. An NDA is a legal contract which enables you to disclose confidential information to another party, who agrees not to pass it on to anyone else.

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Orange & almond cake

Just about everyone I know loves this Claudia Roden inspired recipe.

It is an exemplary cake and pudding: fragrant with a slightly bitter note, moist and so easy to make. What’s not to like?

It works really well with clementines or Seville oranges too. I have successfully substituted equal weight of lemons and grapefruits for oranges.

Serve it with Greek yoghurt and orange blossom honey or how about a strikingly pink, early rhubarb compote?

This cake does keep really well and can be made in advance.

This is what you need:

2 large oranges

6 medium eggs

250g ground almonds

250g golden caster sugar

1 tsp baking powder

This is what you do:

1. wash and boil the whole, unpeeled oranges in a moderate amount of water for 2 hours, or until completely tender; I often do this the day before I want to bake the cake.

2. drain and cool the oranges

3. cut in half, remove any pips and blitz to a pulp in a food processor

4. pre-heat the oven to 190C; line (with baking paper) and grease a 20cm springform

5. beat the eggs in a large mixing bowl

6. fold in all the other ingredients, including the oranges

7. pour the mixture into the cake tin and bake for 55-60 minutes

8. if the cake is still very wobbly after 1 hour, give it a little longer and check again after 5 minutes

9. allow to cool completely before removing from the tin

Sometimes, the cake will go a little brown round the edges and/or crack in the middle.

It is is nothing to worry about: this is not the kind of cake that needs to be perfect or is going to win any beauty prizes, but it tastes amazing despite it!

Happy baking! It’ll fill your kitchen with the most gorgeous smell….

Monique

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How to make the most of your Christmas and New Year down time

Quiet time can be a challenge for the always-on-the-go entrepreneur.

Plan ahead to make the most of the down time to recharge your batteries and refocus.

 

1. Reflect on 2012

Use the break to reflect on where your food business is going.

Revisit your business, or growth, plan.

Review marketing, sales, people and profit strategies: reflect on what worked, what didn’t and why. What can you do differently next year to improve?

Which products and services were profitable? Which ones didn’t do as well as you had expected and why?

Start the new year prepared with a plan to tackle the problem areas of your business.

It’s not always easy to stick to a plan, but it does provide a useful framework; if you can stick to it 90% of the time you will feel more in control.

2. Set goals

Just as many of us make personal new year’s resolutions, take advantage of your business downtime to set goals for your business over the next 12 months.

Start with the end objective and then break down your 12 month goals into shorter term goals: what will you achieve in 6 and in 3 months? What will you have achieved by the end of next month? What can be done by the end of next week?

And remember, your plan is not a secret: keep it somewhere accessible so that you can review it on a regular basis and evaluate your progress. I find a year wall planner is really helpful.

Read my blog post ‘6 steps to a better business in 2013’

3. Invest in yourself

Take the time to read a business book or autobiography to get inspiration to improve the areas you’d like to develop.

You can also use the break to research grants and other possible sources of financial support, as well as courses and workshops you may want to attend in 2013.

One book I have enjoyed reading recently is ‘Result’ by Phil Olley which advocates setting aside a ‘golden hour’ every day to really get things done.

4. Take time out

It’s vital for entrepreneurs to have time away from the business to recharge their batteries.

Taking time out to do something completely different is a great stress buster and stops you burning out.

It will help you to return to your business feeling physically and mentally refreshed and ready to tackle anything 2013 throws at you.

5. Get personal chores done

Take advantage of your time off to get any chores such as (re)organizing your (home) office out of the way so that they don’t add to your stress later in the year when you’re really busy.

6. Thank your support network

We often take time to thank clients for their business and suppliers for looking after us. But it is equally important to say ‘thank you’ to the family and friends who support you and your business through thick and thin.

With best wishes for a healthy & successful 2013!

Monique

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6 steps to a better business in 2013

As an ambitious foodpreneur, you want a better 2013 for your business and for you.

Better than you are now, better than the competition and better than you’ve been before!

Here are some of the characteristics I come across in my work, helping food business owners to start and grow their businesses, which seem to distinguish the foodpreneurs who build better businesses from those who don’t do quite so well.

No single one of these characteristics alone is enough to ensure that you and your business will thrive. But businesses that grow sales and profits more quickly than average, tend to show most of these characteristics.

#1 Start with the end in mind

Through the inevitable ups and downs of running your business, it’s easy to lose sight of why you’re doing it in the first place. Know what you want to achieve: it creates clarity, focus and energy.

#2 Know where you’re going

A goal without a plan is just a wish …

#3 Learn to delegate

Many foodpreneurs spend their days on operational matters, managing crises and fighting fires. Whilst working all hours can be great for the ego, it seriously limits the ability of the business to grow.

#4 Master the numbers

Cash is king. Growth is not just increased revenue. What matters is increased profit.  To grow your business you need the right numbers at your fingertips and the right level of financial support.

#5 Build a great team

It doesn’t matter what your goals are or what your plan says … most businesses stand or fall on the quality of their people. So that means recruiting, training, developing and inspiring the best possible team.

#6 It’s up to you!

Your passion creates the energy and inspiration, your mood impacts on your team and your decisions and actions define the future.

With my best wishes for a very happy Christmas and healthy, successful 2013!

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Frangipane quince pies

Really delicious, much fruitier and with a more interesting texture I think. They beat traditional mince pies – which can be a bit of ‘sandy’ mouthful – hands down!

These ‘mince pies with a twist’ were originally inspired by a quince Bakewell tart I spotted in Lawson’s delicatessen www.lawsonsdelicatessen.co.uk  in Aldeburgh, Suffolk.

The recipe below makes about 20-24 tartlets. You will 2 x 12-hole, non-stick jam-tart tins.

Make your own short crust pastry or why not take a short-cut: you can buy very decent ready-made pastry. Look out for “all-butter”: Dorset Pastry’s organic short crust pastry is good as is Waitrose’s own label short crust pastry sheets (no rolling out necessary).

This is what you need:

275g short crust pastry

100g unsalted butter

100g caster sugar

100g ground almonds

25g plain flour

1 large egg

1 tbsp brandy

1 jar of good quality mince meat + chopped, poached, cooled flesh of about 2 medium quinces (or cooking apples)

4 tbsp flaked, toasted almonds

icing sugar to dust

This is what you do:

  1. pre-heat the oven to 180C
  2. roll out the pasty on a very lightly floured surface until quite thin
  3. using a pastry cutter (or glass/cup) cut out thin rounds marginally larger than the holes in the baking tin
  4. press a round very  gently into each hole then put the tins in the fridge for 30 minutes; this helps to “relax” the pastry and stops it from shrinking in the oven
  5. for the frangipane, beat together the butter and sugar until pale, then gradually add the ground almonds, mix in the flour, followed by the egg and finally the brandy
  6. 3/4 fill the pasty cases with poached quince; I find this easiest with two teaspoons where I use one spoon to scoop up the quince and the other to scrape the fruit into the pasty case
  7. spoon a heaped teaspoon of frangipane over the top of each one
  8. sprinkle with the toasted, flaked almonds
  9. bake for 25 minutes until slightly puffed and golden brown
  10. cool in the tin for 15 minutes, then remove and finish cooling on a wire rack
  11. dust with icing sugar before serving if you like

Enjoy – a real treat in the afternoon with a strong cup of Oolong tea or glass of chilled sweet wine!

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Plum & almond cake

This time of year it is impossible to be unmoved by the sight of abundant produce at local farmers’ market: plums, greengages, the last blackberries, courgettes, aubergines, the first English apples such as Discovery and Worcester Pearmain and ofcourse mushrooms.

I remember being given a Discovery apple as part of my packed lunch at the start of the new school year in September; because of their appeal to wasps, we called Discoveries “wasp apples”.

Victoria plums, like the ones in the picture above, are best for the kitchen rather than eating raw: a cake, a tart with almonds or marzipan, plum sauce, a compote to be eaten with ice cream or cream or thick Greek yoghurt and ofcourse jam.

Here’s a recipe, loosely based on Nigel Slater’s, for a fresh plum & almond cake which works equally well as a coffee/tea cake or dessert.

I use a 20cm round spring form, lined with a sheet of aluminium foil (you can also use baking parchment) and lightly buttered.

This is what you need:

Serves 12

150g butter at room temperature

150g  unrefined golden caster sugar

15 plums, cut in quarters

3 large eggs

75g plain flour

1 1/2 tsp baking powder

1 tsp almond essence

100g ground almonds

50g finely chopped almonds (blanched or with skin on – it doesn’t matter)

This is what you do:

  1. pre-heat the oven to 180C/gas mark 4
  2. using a food mixer, beat the butter + sugar until so pale and fluffy it looks like vanilla ice cream
  3. break the eggs in a mug + beat lightly with a fork
  4. add the eggs to the butter + sugar, mixing in the egg mixture before adding more
  5. add the almond essence
  6. sift the flour + baking powder over the bowl and fold gently into the mixture with a large metal spoon
  7. fold in the grounds almonds, followed by the chopped almonds
  8. scrape the mixture into the prepared baking tin
  9. place the quartered plums onto the cake mixture; avoid overloading the centre or this part of the cake will remain runny. The plums will sink into the mixture as the cake bakes.
  10. bake for 50 minutes, then test for “doneness” with a skewer: if it comes out clean, without wet cake mixture sticking to it, the cake is ready
  11. remove from the oven and leave to cool on a wire rack for 20 minutes or so before turning out

Monique

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Peach & blackberry cobbler

This is a real crowd pleasure, dead easy to make and works beautifully with (even not so great) peaches.

And a great summer to autumn pudding.

This is what you need:

4 ripe peaches

punnet of blackberries (or blueberries or raspberries)

juice of 1 lemon

1 tbsp caster sugar

1 tbsp plain flour

for the cobbler crust:

150g plain flour

pinch of sea salt

2 tsp baking powder

1 tbsp caster sugar + extra for sprinkling

80g butter

pot of sour cream (142ml usually)

This is what you do:


1.pre-heat oven to 200C/gas 6
2.put flour, salt, baking powder, sugar + butter in the bowl of a food processor + blitz for a few seconds; the mixture should resemble sand
3.tip into a bowl
4.slice the peaches in half, twist out the stone, slice into 8 and drop the fruit into an ovenproof dish
5.toss with the berries, lemon juice + tbsp of flour and sugar; this won’t look appealing but it’ll be fine once baked
6.mix the sour cream into the flour mixture; you’ll have a soft dough
7.using a tablespoon, scoop out bits of dough and blob them on top of the fruit, flattening the blobs slightly as you go
8.dust the dough rounds with sugar
9.bake for about 30 minutes, till the crust is golden and you can see the fruit bubbling at the edges of the dish

Enjoy!

Monique

PS: if you like this recipe, try it also with plums or apples & blackberries or quinces (poach these first). Sometimes, I sprinkle the dough rounds with flaked almonds or crushed hazelnuts which adds a pleasing crunch.

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How to Grow your Business

Most entrepreneurs I meet are conquerors, not empire builders. You need to be both!

If you want your food business to succeed in the long term, you need to build solid business foundations:

1. recruiting the right people, inspiring commitment and developing their talents

2. learning to delegate so that you can work on your business

3. improving customer retention

4. being thrifty and staying on top of cashflow

You probably wrote a business plan with targets for your 1st year of trading. But that was then and this is now.

The absence of a plan for growth is one of the main factors holding back many businesses.

Business planning is a fairly simple process. It’s about working out where you are now and where you want to be in the future.

And the good news is ….. it won’t take a huge amount of time – probably around half a day to start with. Open your diary and look at your schedule for the next month, then find one hour a week for 4 weeks that you can dedicate to planning the future of your business.

Once you’ve allocated time in your diary to planning, make sure that you stick to it. Don’t be tempted to get sucked back into your day-to-day work: in the long term, those everyday tasks are not nearly half as important as the planning work you’re about to do!

‘A goal without a plan is just a wish’!

There are all sorts of exciting ways to grow your business and make improvements.

Get in touch to find out how I can help you: monique@moniqueborst.com


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Dairy SOS

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I know the margins vary  slightly depending on producer prices,  but the overall picture is very clear:

bottled water is more expensive than milk … 

in fact at £9.09 per gallon bottled water is more expensive than petrol!

Currently the number of dairy farmers  is circa 10,700 in England and Wales. Of these less than 1,000 receive the “premium” payment for supplying retailers such as Sainsbury’s and Waitrose.

Consequently  the other 10,000 are subsidising this premium price  receiving only 25 to 27pp/litre.

All dairy farmers must be paid more for their milk.

Help to get this debated in the House of Commons by signing the petition – I have!

http://epetitions.direct.gov.uk/petitions/6424

… whilst singing along to this catchy #DairySOS song …

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HG9Fr02efuo&feature=youtube_gdata_player

 

 

 

 


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Winning with your Business Plan!

Been busy writing your food business plan?

Let’s make sure that you’ve covered all the ground …

You as a person Do you fully understand your   own personal objectives?
Are you clear about your   business objectives?
Are you physically up to it?
Is your partner/family with you   on this? They have to live with you through this process!
You as a business person Do you fully understand the   business you are planning? The market, the competition, the production and   development processes?
Do you have enough experience?
Do you need to draft in extra   skills from the outset?
Market Do you know how large it is?   Where it is? How much it will cost you to get to it?
Does the competition look good?   How will you be different/better? Bad? You might be kidding yourself!
Product/service Do you know how much it will   cost to produce or develop it?
Do you know where you are going  to do it?
Have you tested it? Does it   work? Will customers want it?
Price Do you know the best price you   can get?
How does that relate to your   production costs? Can you achieve a reasonable gross margin?
Can you cope if you have to   drop your prices?
Suppliers Do you know who they are?
Can they supply you at a price   that gives you a good margin?
What credit terms will they give you?
Infrastructure What premises will you need?   Will they be enough?
How much will it cost?
Vehicles? Machinery? Equipment? IT?
People Are you going to be an employer   from the outset?
How many staff? How much will   you have to pay them?
Are you aware of your legal   responsibilities as an employer?
Will they need training?

 

Financial controls Have you prepared credible   budgets and P & L and cash flow projections?
If so, what assumptions have   you made? Are they valid?
Have you prepared scenarios?   What happens for instance if sales are half of what you forecast? And what   happens if they are double? Can you invest enough to keep pace?
Finance How much do you need?
What source would you prefer?
Do you know how you are going   to pay it back? When?

 

  • The business plan is written for you by you. It’s your blueprint for your future. It provides a framework for managing your business, a yardstick which sets limits and goals so you can measure your business performance.

 

  • A business plan sells your idea, persuading a funder or investor to buy or invest in what is on offer. You may need to write more than one version of your plan.

 

  • Writing down a plan can highlight opportunities and risks and uncover inconsistencies that hadn’t come to light when the plan was just in your head.

 

  • It’s a document that you have to believe in. If you don’t, how can you expect anyone else to? There’s just no point in trying to fudge it.

 

  • Once written, don’t let your plan get dusty! Keep referring to, using and updating your business plan.


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Q & A: Market research for start-ups

Before you start a business, you MUST carry out market research; it can be the difference between success and failure.

Here’s how you find out more about your competitors, potential customers and – crucially – their reaction to your prices.

What’s the main danger with business ideas?

If you believe you have an excellent idea for a business, you mustn’t allow yourself to get fooled into a false sense of optimism. You must test it thoroughly by doing some basic market research. Only then can you move forward on any sound basis.

We’re talking customers?

Obviously. Customers are what it’s all about. You must find out how much demand there is for your product or service. Which types of people or businesses will buy from you? Do they fall into different categories? It’s wiser to focus on specific types of customers, rather than simply hoping you appeal to everyone, unless your products and services have genuine mass-market appeal. You need to find out who needs what you are offering.

What about my prices?

Together with how much they would buy, reaction to price is the most important information of all. Then you’ll be able to determine whether or not you have a viable idea for a business. Perhaps there might be some customers who would be prepared to pay more – you never know.

What about competitors?

Level of competition is another critical factor to consider, of course. Identify the other players in your market and find out what they offer. Are they successful, and if so – why? What are their strengths and weaknesses? How do these compare with your strengths and weaknesses? How much do they charge and can you afford to compete? If you can’t, do you have a plan B (and C)? You’ll probably have to cut your costs or change your proposition. You must be sure there’s enough room in the market for you.

What about external influences such as the economy?

They can be vital. If people are simply not spending on the things you’re planning to sell, you’ll struggle. Ploughing a lot of money into setting up a business on that basis is ill-advised – the risk is too great. Also find out whether you’re faced with any legislative restrictions. If you are, you must consider their likely impact on your plans. You might not be able to influence them, which might make your business idea too risky.

It’s easy to get carried away…

Starting a new business is a dream that many people have, but try to assess your idea through another person’s eyes. If you were them, would you embark on such a venture? Be honest. Responses from friends and family are likely to be positive, because they’ll want to show their support, but, ultimately, your idea must appeal to other people. One of the best pieces of advice I can give is to be like an inquisitive child. Ask ‘Why?’ in relation to every crucial factor. You must be able to justify your thinking.

I’m hard-working and have bags of enthusiasm…

There’s nothing wrong with either, of course. In fact, you’ll need loads of both if you are to be successful at most things in life. But enthusiasm alone is not a sound basis on which to set up a business and nor is a commitment to hard work. You must be realistic and consider many other factors.

How do I get started?

Because of the internet, a huge amount of valuable information can be learned from your desktop in the comfort of your own home. It’s a good place to start. Simple online searches can reveal much about potential customers and suppliers – and your competitors.

The IP + Business Centre at the British Library is a fabulous source of information

You can also see what you can glean from company records held at Companies House

However, there really is no substitute for field research: getting out and talking to prospective customers. And it’s not just asking them whether they like your idea for a business, it’s whether they will buy from you and pay your prices – that’s the crux!


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10 Reasons Why Start-ups Fail

1. No real demand
2. No business plan
3. Lack of funds
4. Wrong attitude
5. Lack of advice
6. Growing too fast
7. No plan B or C or D
8. Inability to forecast or budget
9. Under pricing/over pricing
10. Excessive start-up costs


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Q & A: How to write a Business Plan

Would you ever consider setting off on a long, unfamiliar journey without your SatNav or road map and only a dribble of fuel in your tank?

I’ve heard business planning being compared with going on a journey and I think it’s a very good analogy. You know your destination, but knowing where you want to end up isn’t enough because you need to plan your route too. And you must be vigilant, watch out for obstacles and steer clear of roadworks – not to mention bad weather and traffic jams.

A business plan is a document that enables businesses to look ahead, focus on key issues, allocate resources where they’re needed and prepare for problems and opportunities well in advance. Too many people think of business plans as something they only need when they’re starting up or when they need to borrow money or attract funding. But business plans are just as important to running a business.

The key to successful implementation is to make sure that your plan is simple, specific, realistic and comprehensive. But even then, someone needs to take ownership for implementation and monitoring of progress. In a small business, of course, this is usually the owner-manager. They need the energy and drive to make the plan a success – otherwise it’s unlikely to happen!

What should you include?

Covering page: state the name of your business, address and contact details, the business plan timeframe and date it was drafted.

Executive summary: summarises the key points of the document. Write this section last! Copy and paste the key points from those sections into the summary. This section should be no longer than one or maximum one and a half sides of A4.

Preamble: write a few paragraphs explaining why you have produced the business plan and set the context for the external audience. Think of your business plan as being like a CV. You need to alter it to suit the needs of the person who will read it.

Introduction & background: describe your business, its history, values and activities. Again, as context for the reader. Be brief!

Overview of the market: also called ‘operating context’, this section describes the need you are trying to address. Use quantitative information/data to support your case.  It should also describe and evidence potential demand.

Mission, aims & objectives: state your mission (why your business exists), aims (what you are trying to achieve) and objectives (how you are going to realise your aims and fulfil your mission). Objectives should be SMART: Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Resourced and Timed.

PEST analysis: PEST stands for Political, Economic, Social, Technological. It is a method for brainstorming the key factors and trends in the external environment. For example, new legislation or changes in the demographic profile.

SWOT analysis: Analyses the Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats for your business. Strengths and weaknesses are internal, while opportunities and threats are external.

Competitor analysis: explores other businesses who deliver similar or competing products or services. List competitors, their products/services, business strategy, strengths and weaknesses and outline the implications for your business.

Risk analysis: explore the key risks facing your business, building on the Weaknesses and Threats of the SWOT analysis. With each risk you spot, you need to outline a strategy to cope with it, either trying to prevent or minimise the risk of it occurring in the 1st place or trying to counteract/reduce the impact of the risk when it does occur.

Resources:  brilliant strategies and beautifully formatted planning documents are just theory unless you assign responsibilities to people, with clear objectives, dates and budgets that enable you to measure results.

Finance: sound figures underpin all good business plans. Your financial information must stack up when scrutinised. Specifically, I’m talking about cash flow predictions, sales forecasts and profit and loss projections. Cash is usually misunderstood to mean profits, but making profits doesn’t mean you’ll have enough cash to pay your bills. Many profitable ventures have gone under because of cash flow problems. Your plan must also show your business has effective cash flow management measures.

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Free food: wild garlic!

I was really excited last year to come across a sizeable area of wild garlic chive plants in our local, urban, wood.

The season for wild garlic was coming to an end soon and I had all but given up hope of being able to cook with this deliciously pungent plant.

Wild garlic is commonly found in wooded areas, often growing amongst bluebells. The plants, which belong to the allium family are easy to recognise but any doubt you may have is quickly erased when you snap one of the leaves and a very strong garlic odor hits your nostrils!

The flowers are edible too, and have a real peppery kick to them.

One of the first things I made this year was a risotto to go with some griddled squid, with the chopped up garlic treated like you would garlic or an onion when making risotto.

I think I may have added too many flowers because the end result was quite “hot” despite the fact that I had not added much freshly ground black pepper at all.

If, earlier in the season, you can get your hands on wild mushrooms, like morels or St George’s (the 1st English mushroom of the year which appears around St George’s Day) wild garlic is the perfect accompaniment.

The next thing I made with the wild garlic was walnut & wild garlic pesto, loosely based on a recipe from Ursula Ferrigno’s excellent book “Italy See to Sky”.

Makes almost 2 jam jars; keep in the fridge and use up fairly quickly. Within 2 weeks I’d say.

I used:

2 bunches of wild garlic including the flowers, washed and dried

110g shelled walnuts

8 tbsp of olive oil (the remainder of a bottle of olive oil from the la Vialla estate in Italy which I was given over Easter)

110g of freshly grated Parmesan

Just blitz everything together in a food processor: be careful not to over-do it, pulse and check the consistency which I think should be coarse so you can identify the different ingredients, rather than a smooth paste.

Love the colour … and if only you could blog smell: wow!

This works brilliantly added sparingly to simply boiled or steamed vegetables such as courgettes, beans and asparagus.

It also makes a delicious topping for toasted sourdough combined with some torn buffalo mozzarella.

This weekend I am planning to make  minestrone with spring veg and I know a blob of garlic pesto in every soup bowl will be delicious!

Next, I have my eye on elderflower blossoms, another hedgerow treat that can be picked, made into cordial and stored for the winter months. They are starting to come into their prime about now …

Happy days!

 

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Cash is king: 7 steps to keep on top of cash flow

Whilst you’re busy growing your food business, it can be all too easy to take your eye off your cash flow.

A business owner relying on the online bank balance to determine available cash to pay bills is something I come across quite a lot in my work.

It’s an easy problem to spot and indicates to me either the lack of a properly functioning accounting system or a basic financial misunderstanding of how to manage cash flow.

Here is the reason why.

Your online balance tells you how much cash you have at that moment of time only. It does not account for previously written cheques that have not yet cleared your account or for cash or credit card deposits “in transit”. You need to confidently be able to rely on your ‘Balance Sheet’ to tell you how much cash you have in your bank account, and this means that you need to accurately record all your sales and corresponding deposits as well as all your bills and corresponding payments on a timely basis.

Remember … poor cash flow is one of the main reasons for business failure!

Following these 7 straightforward steps  will help to ensure that your business plans for growth end in success:

1.    Start by preparing a cash flow forecast

This is simply a projection of all income and expenditure that is expected for the year. if this shows you’ll run out of cash at any point, you’ll need to take action.

2.    Negotiate good credit terms with your customers and suppliers

Remember that the secret to good negotiation is to give the other person something that has little value to you but that they value. And bear in mind that it may be better for you to be paid less and stay in business.

3.    Run credit checks

Customers have a poor credit history for one reason: they don’t pay their bills on time. Don’t be afraid to stop supplying persistent bad payers. Who wants customers that don’t pay, anyway? You’re better off spending your time on customers who will pay on time.

4.     Send invoices out on time

Consider investing in software to stay on top of this.

5.     Chase debts

Feeling embarrassed? Remember embarrassment is better than insolvency.

6.     Minimise excess stock

Check your stock levels. Too much stock inevitably ties up cash.

7.     Never relax your focus on cash flow

It may not be the most exciting part of managing your business, but it’s vital.

 

 

 


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Give peas a chance: smashed peas, dill & Feta

If you like ‘fresh’, ‘zesty’ and ‘texture’ this is for you!

Really quick and easy to make and works a treat with frozen peas until fresh peas are in season in June.

You could try substituting the dill with mint – but use less because mint easily overpowers everything else – or do half -and-half.

Blobbed onto toasted sourdough or Ryvita pumpkin seed crackers or scooped up with individual little gem lettuce leaves…

No picture I am afraid, but I can tell you it looks beautiful. Pea-green (obviously) with flecks of dark green + bright white.

Waitrose sell bags of ready washed pea shoots which would make a lovely garnish, but why not grow your own? A lot cheaper and fun.

Serves 4 as a starter

You will need:

150g peas (podded weight if using fresh)

1 garlic clove, green shoot removed and chopped very finely or use a garlic press or pestle & mortar

4 tbsp finely snipped fresh dill

100g Feta, crumbled

25g freshly grated Parmesan

2 tbsp lemon juice

2.5 tbsp olive oil (I have just opened a bottle of 2009 oil from the Fattoria La Vialla estate in Italy – very grassy + peppery, delish!)

This is what you do:

1. blitz the peas in a food processor: pulse for short burst, you want the peas to retain some shape. If using frozen, don’t bother defrosting the peas first.

2. tip into a bowl

3. add all the other ingredients and mix lightly until paste-like

4. check the seasoning: you’ll probably want to add some freshly ground black pepper but won’t need to add salt because the Feta and Parmesan add enough

5. now you are ready to tuck in but have a good sniff first: Spring on a plate!

Bon appetit,

Monique

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Orange & almond cake

Just about everyone I know loves this Claudia Roden inspired recipe.

It is an exemplary cake and pudding: fragrant with a slightly bitter note, moist and so easy to make. What’s not to like?

It works really well with clementines or Seville oranges too. I have not tried it, but I guess you could even substitute equal weight of lemons for the oranges.

Serve it with Greek yoghurt and orange blossom honey or how about a strikingly pink, early rhubarb compote?

I brought this cake along to a dinner party last week and it went unexpectedly well with the citrus fruit salad the hostess had prepared for dessert.

And, yes this cake does keep really well and can be made in advance.  Not that you’ll have any leftovers.

This is what you need:

2 large oranges

6 medium eggs

250g ground almonds

250g golden caster sugar

1 tsp baking powder

This is what you do:

1. wash and boil the whole, unpeeled oranges in a moderate amount of water for 2 hours, or until completely tender; I often do this the day before I want to bake the cake.

2. drain and cool the oranges

3. cut in half, remove any pips and blitz to a pulp in a food processor

4. pre-heat the oven to 190C; line (with baking paper) and grease a 20cm springform

5. beat the eggs in a large mixing bowl

6. fold in all the other ingredients, including the oranges

7. pour the mixture into the cake tin and bake for 55-60 minutes

8. if the cake is still very wobbly after 1 hour, give it a little longer and check again after 5 minutes

9. allow to cool completely before removing from the tin

Sometimes, the cake will go a little brown round the edges and/or crack in the middle.

It is is nothing to worry about: this is not the kind of cake that needs to be perfect or is going to win any beauty prizes, but it tastes amazing despite it!

Happy baking! It’ll fill your kitchen with the most gorgeous smell….

Monique

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What’s in a name?

For most entrepreneurs, the business name is one of the first things they think about when starting their venture.

And rightly so, because it’s one of the most important decisions you will make. All great companies have a clear, memorable and appealing name, free of negative connotations, ‘double entendre’ (a figure of speech in which a spoken phrase is devised to be understood in either of two ways. Often the first (more obvious) meaning is straightforward, while the second meaning is less so: often risqué or ironic) and legal problems.

To help you choose the right name for your business, I’ve listed 5 important things to consider.

1. Check it’s unique

Obvious you may say (and I won’t mention any names …) but you’ll be surprised how many entrepreneurs invest time AND money in  choosing and developing a new business name and identity … only to find out that others have legal rights to that name.

Before you decide on your business name, you need to make sure that no-one else is using it.

Go to Companies House and use their name checker service

And use Nominet’s domain availability checker to find out if the name is available as a domain.

If you’re thinking of trademarking the business name, your first port of call should be Intellectual Property Office or the Office for Harmonization in the Internal Market if you want protection for the whole of the European Union.

2. Niche

Do you want to be associated with ‘cool’, ‘healthy’, ‘traditional’ or ‘exotic’? Is your brand local or international? Is it affordable or reassuringly expensive?

You need to think very carefully about what you want your brand image to be and build your name around this.

3. Acronyms

If you’re not careful, you could end up with an acronym which is extremely unfortunate (BOGOFF anyone?).

And watch out for words which may have quite a different meaning in different languages, or words that may offend.

4. Search engines

How easy is it to remember and spell the name? If you enter generic search terms, will the name come up?

If your name is clear, simple and easy to spell, without hyphens, you’ll get more traffic more easily from the search engines.

Also, the more keywords you can think of around your name, the better you’ll do in this respect.

5. Brand potential

Can you create a memorable slogan or strapline around your name? How does it work in a logo? Will it work equally well on paper, a website, car livery and an advertising banner?

If you can’t answer all these questions positively … then you will need to do some more brainstorming and go back to the drawing board!


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Testing the BIG idea

You may think you have an award winning idea for a new product or service … but before you commit everything to it you had better find out!

And it’s no good just trying it out informally on family and friends.

chances are they won’t have the right background or experience to make a professional judgment, and they may just tell you what you want to hear.

Knowing what your customers want and what they will want in the future is crucial. Define your customers carefully. What sort of people are they? Where do they live? How do they live their lives? How will they buy whatever it is that you want to supply them with?

First, do some ‘desk research’.

This is largely an information gathering process – getting ideas about the size of your market, trends in it, whether or not it’s growing and about your competitors. You can find this information in business and trend reports, government departments and trade organisations. The British Library  Business & IP Centre is an excellent place to start and one of the team there should be able to point you in the direction of a multitude of sources of very useful statistical information.

Armed with this vital information you are ready to devise a way of communicating with potential customers to find out more, ‘field research’.

It could be a questionnaire that you mail or a series of meetings where you conduct interviews with selected potential customers, a telephone survey or a focus group.  Most likely you’ll want to use a combination of formats.

Remember, your venture will get off to a shaky start if you don’t have answers to the fundamental questions about your products, your market and your customers.

For instance, what will your product or service replace? It may be a competitor’s offer, but it might not be. Even in situations where there is ‘no competition’ (very rarely the case!) remember that if your customer chooses to spend their hard earned money with you they are choosing not to spend it with someone else.

Think like your customer. They are the key to all this. Don’t get preoccupied by the product or service you are planning. Do be obsessed by the experience your customers will have if it. What difference will your product make to their lives?

You must find out – there is no marketing department to blame if you get it wrong!


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You need more than just a good idea to go solo

Growing your business depends on you and no-one else!

There is no hiding place for the entrepreneur, and nowhere to shift the blame to. So, you need more than just a good idea to go solo.

Take a cool look at yourself and what you have achieved. You must be honest – accept that you have some weaknesses but, on the other hand, don’t underestimate your strengths!

Ask yourself some searching questions:

1. Are you really motivated? Are you self-confident, determined, persistent and realistic? Do you have a positive approach?

2. Can you learn? Can you accept advice from professional advisers like accountants, solicitors, bankers, environmental health consultants and so on?

3. And do you have enough detailed technical knowledge of your business? Are you a good problem solver? Do you know when to ask for help?

4. What about your personal circumstances? Have you got the full support from your partner and/or your family? Are you healthy – physically, emotionally and mentally? Be honest – have you got the energy to work harder than ever before, and for longer?

5. And last but not least … can you sell? Not just your product or your service but yourself too?

The list above isn’t an exhaustive list of the qualities needed to start and grow a business, but it gives you a good idea of the sort of profile successful entrepreneurs have.

If the answer isn’t ‘yes’ to at least 75% of these questions you can save yourself a lot of time, heartache and money by reconsidering whether going it alone is really the right thing for you.

Still here? Great!

Check back soon to read my tips for ‘testing the big idea’.

 


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Slow-roasted lamb with olives

One for the Easter weekend … or any other weekend whilst we wait for the weather to warm up sufficiently to get the BBQ out.

A boneless shoulder of lamb is ideal for roasting very slowly at low temperature: it becomes really tender and is very easy to carve.

Don’t expect neat slices: this roast looks quite “rustic” with the filling spilling/falling out.

But I think that adds to its appeal!

I served the lamb with plain, boiled rice and a delicious green bean, spinach & shallot salad inspired by Yotam Ottolenghi’s new vegetarian cook book “Plenty”.

Serves 6, depending on appetite and side dishes…

This is what you need:

1 boned shoulder of lamb, c1.5kg

2 tbsp anchovy paste

1 jar of pimento stuffed green olives, drained weight 170g (but slightly less if fine), roughly chopped

4 cloves of garlic, thinly sliced

1 tsp cumin seeds

1 tsp ground coriander

handful of raisins

small bunch of coriander, roughly chopped

2 tbsp of clear honey

juice + zest of 1 lemon

pepper + salt

This is what you do:

1. pre-heat the oven to 220C

2. place the lamb joint on a board, fat side down, and pat fry with a paper towel

3. season with plenty of freshly ground black pepper + ground coriander + cumin

4. spread with the anchovy paste

5. scatter with the olives, garlic, raisins and coriander

6. roll up the meat and secure with string at 3cm intervals (or re-use the elastic if you buy a ready-rolled joint)

7. place in a roasting tin, joint side down, and season

8. roast for 30 mins

9. reduce temperatur to 150C and roast for 2 1/2 hours

10. mix the honey with lemon juice

11. drain fat from the tin if there is any

12. brush the meat with the honey glaze and sprinkle with finely grated lemon zest

13. roast for a further 30 mins

14. remove from the oven, cover and leave to rest for 20 minutes before carving

 

Bon appetit!

Monique

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Have you got what it takes?

Do you ever

  • sit through endless hours at work thinking ‘this could all be so much better’
  • fantasise on your way home about going it alone?
  • feel envious as friends and former colleagues talk of the excitement and rewards of running their own shows?
  • wish that you were able to hand-pick your colleages?

If so, you are one of the millions of people worldwide who dream each year of starting their own business.

However, you might not be suited to it …

Planning your business will help you evaluate your prospects if you are, and may prevent you making an expensive mistake if you are not.

Why write a business plan?

Here are 4 good reasons:

  1. Nobody – especially your financial backers and professional advisers – will take your business proposal seriously if you don’t.
  2. It’s the only way to discover how much money you are going to need and when you’re going to need it.
  3. You can make your mistakes in your hear (and on paper) – much less painful than making them in the market.
  4. It will force you to look at the future – and the real world your business will be operating in, not the past which is largely irrelevant in today’s fast-moving business climate.

Don’t make the mistake of thinking that planning a business is quick or easy! In my experience it can easily take 200 – 400 man hours to write an initial business plan properly.

But it is time well spent and will provide the platform for your future.


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Good Taste Food and Drink: 10 months on … by Manish Utton-Mishra

Well, it’s been nearly 10 months to the day since we opened our doors to the paying public for the first time back on 11th March 2011 …

Much has changed since, including the lines of produce we offer on our shelves, the layout of the shop and our own confidence in helping our customers to leave with goodies that they will be truly happy scoffing!

I had decided to start my own business about 3 years ago when I was still working in medical publishing and, although enjoying it, started feeling increasingly tied to my desk and ‘stifled’.

I’m sure many of you have at some point felt the same or may be are feeling it right now?

The idea to open a deli was quite an easy one to arrive at as I have been a lover of properly grown and reared food ever since my first job at London Bridge just around the time that Borough Market started evolving into what it is now about 15 years ago.

However, I felt that I had to have a focus on the produce so I decided upon some of my favourite foods: cheese and charcuterie.

Upon opening what I had not foreseen was the level of support the local community was prepared to provide us, quite touching really.

I of course had numbers in my spread sheet indicating how many people we would need to turn a profit, but the actual support way surpassed that! This has worked in our favour, as I had not accounted for all of the costs that just continue to add up.

So, 10 months in we’re not losing any money, not making any either yet, but not losing any.

Would I do anything different if I were to do it again?

Quite simply, no! Yes, many mistakes were made along the way, but I am a firm believer in mistakes teaching you things more effectively than the perfect set up.

We raised the money to start the business by re-mortgaging the house, which just wasn’t enough as we lost quite a bit along the way on properties we lost out on. But I still wouldn’t go back and get a loan either.

I think we were forced to get creative with lay out, design etc owing to the
lack of money.

If pushed I suppose the most valuable lesson I’ve learnt in the last 10 months has been ‘remain flexible’. This is important for three key reasons.

Firstly, I had no idea what our customers would actually want on our shelves, I opened with plenty of traditional English cheeses such as Appleby’s Cheshire and Mrs Kirkham’s Lancashire but, of course, there not being anything like our shop people were keen to try things they had never come across so we very quickly started getting more ‘unusual’ cheeses and charcuterie in. Of course, now it’s a different story again as people have discovered what a properly made traditional English cheese tastes like, they keep coming back for more as well as those not widely available.

Secondly, my vision for the shop was clear to begin with, this hasn’t changed, but I’ve constantly had to re-evaluate our priorities and working procedures as well as stock. For example, I was adamant that a fancy-pants touch screen till wasn’t necessary but I’ve just put a deposit down for one, as it will give me some valuable data.

Thirdly, perhaps the most difficult is that sometimes I’ve learnt that listening to your customers can cause problems (as well as giving you great ideas)! I kept getting told that olives were wanted. We got some great ones in, some people bought some; but we threw away a lot! I can’t stand wasting food. Similarly we were told fresh organic fruit and veg would go down a treat, again we ended up throwing away a lot. However, a number of customers wanted to do tasting evenings, we did some, and they were a HUGE success, so we shall continue with these.

In summary, I definitely wouldn’t have anything different, I still would have gotten in the olives and fresh produce, as without trying it you cannot have any idea as to whether it will work or not.

Good Taste Food and Drink, 28 Westow Hill, Crystal Palace, London SE19 1RX

Picture by local photographer Guy Milnes

 

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A fat lot of good

Fat is good for you!

In fact, unless you go out of your way to eat the right kind of fat-rich foods, such as seeds, nuts, avocados and  fish, the chances are that you are not getting enough good fat!

Essential fats can alleviate a whole range of problems including eczema, arthritis, depression and PMS to name but a few.

Essential fats cannot be made in the body, so you need to ensure that they are supplied by your diet. Most people are deficient in both Omega 6 and Omega 3 fats, though the modern diet is more likely to be deficient in Omega 3.

The best sources of Omega 3 are fish (especially the more oily fish such as mackerel, salmon and herring) and flax seeds (also known as linseeds) and their oil.

I eat a heaped tablespoon of my own seed mixture every day: this really helps to achieve an optimal intake of essential fats – the easy way.

Combine:

500g of flax seeds (I like a mixture of golden and brown)

with a 500g mixture of sunflower, pumpkin and hemp seeds.

You could also add sesame seeds to the mixture: they are rich in Omega 6 as well as zinc, a very important immune boosting mineral.

Because some of these seeds are quite tough, I grind them in a coffee grinder which I only use for this purpose. This way, it is easier to get the nutrients from the seeds.

In the morning, I add a tablespoon to my porridge or I may sprinkle some over a salad or a bowl of soup if it suits the meal.

I am not keen on sprinkling seeds over everything indiscriminately, just because seeds are nutritious.

Essential fats oxidise easily and therefore lose their nutritional value if stored too long, especially if exposed to light.

So, work out a managable quantity of mixture to make + use (sticking to the half flax seeds + half other seeds combination) and store in the fridge in a tightly sealed glass jar.

A Killner jar is ideal for this purpose.

Try adding 1 tablespoon of seeds to your diet for a month and notice the difference – in your skin particularly.

Here’s to your good health in 2012!

 

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Cauliflower & lemon risotto with scallops

A brilliant combination: sweet, quickly pan-fried scallops with the cabbagey cauliflower (an underrated vegetable in my opinion), lifted by lemon & chilli.

And nothing is wasted as the stalks and leaves of the cauliflower are the basis of a nutrient-rich stock.

No picture, as this dish does not photograph particularly well – all shades of ‘beige’.

serves 4

this is what you need:

1 large cauliflower

1 onion

3 sprigs of thyme

1 litre of chicken stock

2 shallots

piece of butter

pinch of chilli flakes

1 tsp thyme leaves

1 garlic clove

zest + juice of 1 lemon

350 gram risotto rice (I like to use arborio)

2 tbsp flat-leaf parsley, finely chopped

4-6 scallops per person, corals intact, seasoned briefly before frying

olive oil

This is what you do:

1. cut the outer leaves and large stalks off the cauli, chop coarsely and place in a pan with the onion, salt, thyme sprigs + stock

2. simmer for 20 minutes

3. cut the cauli into bite-size florets

4. chop the challots finely, melt the butter in a frying pan over medium heat and stir in the shallots with the chilli and thyme leaves; gently fry until the onion is translucent but not brown. This can easily 10 minutes or more.

5. finely chop the garlic and add to the shallots with the rice and lemon juice

6. then add the cauli florets and the warm stock ladle by ladle, continuing to stir until the rice is creamy. This will take c 20 minutes.

7. remove from the heat, taste for salt and/or pepper, stir in the lemon zest + parsley whilst you fry the scallops

8. brush the scallops with a little oil, heat a frying pan or griddle until hot and fry the scallops for 1 minute on each side until burnished.

9. serve with the risotto

Another favourite this time of year is a radicchio & sausage risotto.

I recently came across and used ‘Debbie & Andrew’s’ and their ‘Harrogate 97%’ were very good: meaty, properly ‘porky’ and very lean. But any good quality sausage will do.

For 4 people:

I use 2 small radicchio, finely sliced with half added to the soffritto (onion + garlic mixture) before the rice, the remainder towards the end of the cooking time along with the sausage chunks (sausages pushed out of their skins, fried until brown + cooked through, and broken up with the side of a wooden spoon, then drained on paper kitchen towel).

Both thyme and sage work well, as does a fresh bayleaf and a glug of red wine. And real chicken stock not from a cube!

It a simple, delicious and comforting dish with a good grating of Parmesan added to the risotto on the plate.

Again, like the recipe above, this dish is not a ‘looker’ … but here’s a picture anyway!

 

 

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Way to grow

You might not think of January as the time to get green-fingered, but with Garden Beet’s hanging garden you can grown salads and herbs up a wall indoors – safe from snow and frost.

The plants grow in the pockets of a hanging panel, complete with draining system.

A steady supply of delicious, fresh salad leaves and herbs ready to be cut, no wastage … And, if you normally buy your salad leaves and herbs in plastic bags, think of the packaging saved!

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My favourite foodie finds of 2011

In no particular order …

1. Venison chilli chorizo from GreatGlenGame

2. Veal chorizo with lemon from Cannon & Cannon

3. Chickens (and next year capons?) from Brookland and White (at Brockley market)

4. Vegetables from Fern Verrow organic and bio-dynamic farm and La Grotta Ices (at Maltby Street market)

5. Herb & flower jellies from Ouse Valley Foods

6. Japanese confectionary, especially mochi, from Minamoto Kitchoan

and last but not least …

7. Marmite, mashed avocado & chilli flakes on toasted multiseed or sourdough

 

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7 steps to happiness

 

Here, as part of my commitment to help clients thrive in life as well as in business, are my top tips for optimism:

1. be kind to yourself. Know that it’s natural to have negative feelings from time to time. Only by accepting those can you learn to be really optimistic.

2. take practical steps to take care of your basic needs: rest, good food, work, friendship, freedom and flexibility.

3. Practise energy mangement to keep your emotions and hormones on an even keel: exercise, sport, yoga, dancing … or just walking the dog.

4. Take responsibility for your feelings. This is the first principle of optimism. Your feelings, however they started, happen inside you and only you can decide how to react to them.

5. Think about how you can help others, if you don’t already. The delightful side-effect is that you start forgetting about yourself. Anyone with children or pets will be familiar with this already.

6. Develop appreciation. Before you fall asleep every night, think of 3 things that went well in your day. This simple exercise raises the level of subjective happiness.

7. Finally, have fun. It’s a long road … and you’ve only just begun!

(picture by Natalie Sternberg)

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Top tips for going it alone

2012 is rapidly approaching and it will, without doubt, be a(nother) turbulent year!

If you’re thinking about self employment and changing your lifestyle, why not plan some quiet me-time over the holidays to reflect on what it is that you want to change?

What are your food dreams?

To start an artisan bakery, open a deli, make your own cheese or charcuterie or to develop and launch the next big retail brand … ?

The prospect of self employment can be very alluring, but success depends on numerous factors. At the start of your journey the most significant factor is YOU and how well  you know yourself.

Here are my top tips, some learned the hard way, for going it alone:

  • be ruthlessly customer-focused: truly understand your customers and listen to what they want
  • start with the end in mind: do you want to produce delicious things, have a better work-life balance, work or your own, lead a large team, give something back, be your own boss, make lots of money … ? There are no right or wrong answers, but be crystal clear about what you want to achieve
  • get 200% support from your partner/family: it will be 24/7 (honestly!) for the first couple of years and you may not earn much, or any, money to begin with.
  • fail to prepare, prepare to fail: write a business plan and don’t be afraid of over over-preparing
  • you can’t do everything – even when you’re a control freak: know when to delegate and ask for help
  • learn to be patient: you can’t do everything at once! Be prepared for set-backs and have reasonable timescales
  • don’t be afraid to take the plunge: being in charge of your own destiny is the most satisfying thing!

All I have covered here very briefly is the hugely important bits about YOU, not your product or service or how to go about selling or marketing.

The more you know about yourself and what makes you tick the bigger your chance of success at going it alone.

Good luck!

 

 

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Food business start-up boot camps

With 2011 coming to an end, and just under one month until the new year … now is the perfect time to start thinking about setting your new year resolutions.

What are your food dreams?

To start a catering or food retail business, launch a new restaurant concept … or a retail brand?

You love food, you can cook and bake (maybe you’ve been professionally trained), make jam or charcuterie and friends are always telling you how delicious your food is.

So setting up a food business  can’t be that hard, can it?

… but this is not just about creating, cooking or baking, owning a food business is about running a business.

How prepared are you for the challenges this will bring?

It’s what I understand really well and I would love to help YOU!

I’m passionate about good food, made and sold with integrity and imagination. I bring a practical business focused perspective on the niche food sector and start-up knowledge. As well as a helping hand because I know that starting a business can be a scary and lonely journey and you can spend a consirable time floundering.

This workshop is for people who love food and are wondering if they can turn their passion into a viable business.

Delivered with fun and depth of knowledge over two days, this weekend workshop is a combination of inspired talks, exercises and informal discussion, giving you the chance to ask questions that really matter to you.

You will take away tools and insights which form an invaluable resource in you first year of trading.

I’m still finalising the programme but here are some of the topics that will definitely be addressed:

  • What skills, knowledge and personal qualities do you need?
  • Generating a business idea
  • An overview of the current issues, trends, opportunities and threats facing the food sector
  • Drafting a business plan, including the all-important basics of revenue forecasting and budgeting
  • Developing a marketing strategy: identifying and understanding your customers, how to use social media and PR
  •  Playing by the rules: environmental health, insurance and other “official”
    bodies

Dates, venues and prices t.b.c. – register your interest here 

I look forward to meeting you!

 

 

 

 

 

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Black diamonds

What do truffles mean to you?

Chocolate coated treats or expensive edible fungi, to be shaved onto a pumpkin risotto or scrambled eggs or truffley eggs Benedict?

The “black truffle” or “black Périgord truffle” (tuber melanosporum) is named after the Périgord region in France and grows underground with oak and hazelnut trees. Specimens can be found in late autumn and winter, reaching 7 cm in diameter and weighing up to 100 g.

Production is almost exclusively European, with France accounting for 45%, Spain 35%, Italy 20%, and small amounts from Slovenia, Croatia … and the UK.

Making the most of your precious truffle

Purists will probably say “no way” but too make a truffle go a long way I have used it to flavour eggs (which absorb the truffle’s scent through their porous shells after a few days together in a sealed container), risotto rice (idem ditto + the rice will aborb the moisture from the truffle) and then gently re-hydrated into some Madeira to flavour a sauce …

Only choose firm truffles that smell really powerful. Keep them wrapped in damp paper in a sealed box in the fridge. If you’re going to use the truffle fresh (without doubt the most delicious thing you could do), use as soon as possible because the perfume fades fast and the truffle becomes less dense.

Clean the truffle gently using a wet toothbrush to rub away dirt if necessary, just before serving. Slice very finely with a sharp knife of with a truffle slicer (one for the Christmas wish list perhaps?).

Where to buy?

Mr Truffle aka the husband and wife team of Hugo and Emma Pickford-Wardle @mrtruffle @missustruffle

Truffles by Cortesi delivered by London’s first truffle Queen, Meera Cortesi @LDNTruffleQueen

Dan Mortimer at Mortimer & Bennett in Chiswick @MortimerBennett

From Tracey & Tim at The Franklin’s Farm Shop  in East Dulwich @FranklinsSE22

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Frangipane quince tartlets

I LOVE quinces!

Partly because they are such an ancient fruit, partly because they are pretty hard to get hold of (they are really only around in November) which makes them a much-anticipated treat.

And then their scent is divine: a mixture of honey, musk and roses. When I am able to buy quinces, the first thing I do is fill a large bowl with them and just enjoy their colour and fragrance for a week or so.

Quinces do need quite a bit of work: their acidic, hard flesh needs to be cooked long and slowly until the pale flesh takes on a pinky hue.

Luckily, because they are so perfumed you don’t need to do anything complicated with them. Poach them like pears, only longer.  Just add a splash of water and dollop of honey to peeled, cored and quartered quinces, with a pinch of cinnamon if you like.

The flavour of cooked quince is powerful enough to take on rosemary, cinnamon, cloves even star anise, bay and even saffron.

For the recipe below you want a dry-ish compote with some of the quinces poached to a pulp and some still retaining their shape so you can chop the flesh up roughly.

The frangipane quince tartlets I made are inspired by a quince Bakewell tart I spotted in Lawson’s delicatessen www.lawsonsdelicatessen.co.uk in Aldeburgh, Suffolk.

I have since also come across a recipe by Sam & Sam Clarke, chef-owners of Moro www.moro.co.uk , for Tarta de Santiago which reads like a Spanish version of the Bakewell tart made with membrillo (quince paste).

These frangipane quince tartlets are a delicious, almondy mouthfuls. Their butteriness balanced by the slightly astringent quince compote.

I find the texture very pleasing too: crunchy almonds, soft frangipane and the soft, slightly grainy texture of the quinces.

And not too much pastry which can feel like a “sandy mouthful”: the balance between filling, topping and pastry shell is just right.

The recipe below makes about 20-24 tartlets. You will 2 x 12-hole, non-stick jam-tart tins.

Make your own short crust pastry or take a short-cut. You can buy very decent ready-made pastry. Look out for “all-butter”: Dorset Pastry’s organic short crust pastry is good as is Waitrose’s own label short crust pastry sheets (no rolling out necessary).

To make frangipane quince pies for Christmas: simply replace the filling with 1/2 mince meat and 1/2 poached, very finely chopped quinces. Really delicious, much fruitier and with a more interesting texture I think, they beat traditional mince pies hands down!

This is what you need:

275g short crust pastry

100g unsalted butter

100g caster sugar

100g ground almonds

25g plain flour

1 large egg

1 tbsp brandy

chopped, poached, cooled flesh of about 3-4 medium quinces (see above)

4 tbsp flaked, toasted almonds

icing sugar to dust

This is what you do:

  1. pre-heat the oven to 180C
  2. roll out the pasty on a very lightly floured surface until quite thin
  3. using a pastry cutter (or glass/cup) cut out thin rounds marginally larger than the holes in the baking tin
  4. press a round very  gently into each hole then put the tins in the fridge for 30 minutes; this helps to “relax” the pastry and stops it from shrinking in the oven
  5. for the frangipane, beat together the butter and sugar until pale, then gradually add the ground almonds, mix in the flour, followed by the egg and finally the brandy
  6. 3/4 fill the pasty cases with poached quince; I find this easiest with two teaspoons where I use one spoon to scoop up the quince and the other to scrape the fruit into the pasty case
  7. spoon a heaped teaspoon of frangipane over the top of each one
  8. sprinkle with the toasted, flaked almonds
  9. bake for 25 minutes until slightly puffed and golden brown
  10. cool in the tin for 15 minutes, then remove and finish cooling on a wire rack
  11. dust with icing sugar before serving if you like

Enjoy – really good in the afternoon with a strong cup of Oolong tea or glass of chilled sweet wine!

Monique x

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Supplying independents AND supermarkets: can you do it? by Camilla Barnard from Rude Health

Nick & Camilla Barnard in the warehouse

Yes you can. We do.

Look at it from their point of view.

Independents – that’s Farm Shops, delicatessens, health food shops, veg boxes and even cafes, are looking for high quality food that their customers will want to buy, again and again. So it has to look good, taste good, suit the needs of their customers and be priced to reflect the spending power of the same customers.

Supermarkets are looking for food that their customers will want to buy again and again. So it has to stand out on shelf, taste good, suit the needs of their customers and be within a clear price range that reflects the spending power of the same customers.

Spot the differences? Independents are more interested in quality and the supermarkets have tighter price limits – usually. That’s all and that’s because the customers are the same people.

Some independents do only stock food that isn’t listed in any supermarket. I have huge respect for these shops because it is a real challenge and not everyone who tries this approach succeeds, but those that do are destination shops, such as La Fromagerie and my local, Trinity Stores. Most shops don’t have the iron will to take this approach, even if they like the idea. Instead, they stock the best foods of each type, many of which are likely to be in supermarkets. Then make sure they have a unique offer by picking up some brands that are unique to independents. Some are new and haven’t been ‘discovered’ yet, some like Montgomery’s Cheddar are in the enviable position of selling everything they can make to independents. Other shops may choose to offer a counter service or do something that appeals to their customers. In my area this could mean having a huge range of child-friendly snacks and equally huge choice of ‘free-from’ foods as well as home-made cakes. Personally I’ll go anywhere there is really good bread. And I do.

For any doubters I give you Belvoir Cordials, Green & Black’s chocolate, Tyrell’s crisps, Ella’s Kitchen, Innocent drinks and Rude Health. All are brands that are stocked widely in both supermarkets and independents.

We are by far the smallest of the brands I’ve listed, but like the others, we do have a presence in the supermarkets, mainly Waitrose in our case, and are seeing our business with the independents grow. To make sure this continues, we try to help our stockists by offering independents free tasting packs so their customers can try our food, and regular promotions. In addition we make some food that is unique to the independents, including my mother’s and nephew’s favourite, Spelt Flakes.

Pricing is a bit of a game because it is illegal for suppliers and supermarkets to discuss margins. Don’t ask. What this means is that you have to guesstimate what margin the supermarket wants to make to determine the price your food will be sold to the consumer. So try to find out the average margin for your category, and remember that you will need to go through the supermarkets supply chain, so there will be delivery costs and regulations. At least one of us could go on Mastermind with a special subject of palletising food.

Final point. As a supplier, dealing with the supermarkets is very different from dealing with independents. Individual shops are your friend. Supermarkets are your all-powerful & fickle boss.

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Perfect now: chestnut brownies

Original Beans' Cru Virunga photographed by Jean Cazals

A classic chocolate brownie with a twist …

This is a brilliant recipe by Dan Lepard which appeared in the Guardian last year.

The plain cooked chestnuts are marinated in a mixture of rum, brown sugar and vanilla beforehand adding a marron glace like candied bite to the crumb.

I made these for a birthday party, piled high onto a plate with candles placed randomly in the brownies, instead of a birthday cake and everyone oohed and aahed over them!

Very easy to bake – so have a go.

This is what you need:

240g tin of cooked chestnuts
200g brown sugar
25ml dark rum
2 tsp vanilla extract
2 medium eggs, separated
200g unsalted butter
200g dark chocolate, broken into small chunks (I like Original Beans Cru Virunga couverture)
100g plain flour

This is what you do:

1. line a brownie (or other deep) tin, c20cm square or equivalent, with non-stick baking paper
2. chop the chestnuts
3. and stir them in a bowl with half the sugar, vanilla and rum
4. in a spanking clean bowl, beat the egg whites until they form soft white peaks
5. slowly beat in the rest of the sugar until you have a soft meringgue, followed by the egg yolk
6. melt the butter and chocolate in a bowl over a pan of simmering water
7. remove from the heat, let it cool a little and then beat into the chestnuts and flour
8. stir this mixture into the meringue and spoon into the preprared tin
9. bake at 170C/gas mark 3 for 20-25 minutes until barely set in the middle
10. leave to cool completely in the tin before cutting

Picture by Jean Cazals

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Why do your customers need you?

Every business needs a reason for their customers to buy from them and not their competitors.

This is called a unique sales proposition (USP).

You can work out your business’ USP by finishing the sentence ‘customers will buy from me because my business is the only…’

Your USP can change as your business or your market changes, and you can have different USPs for different types of customer or products.

To define your business’ core competence (or competencies), you may find the following trigger questions helpful. Get your colleagues involved in brainstorming the answers!

1. Why are loyal customers loyal to us? Why do we attract and win new customers?
2. When we are at our very best, what are we doing for our customers and others?
3. What can we do that other companies cannot do? What have our competitors tried to copy that has proven unsuccessful?
4. Which of our people or which teams would be most difficult to replace and why?

 

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How to combat stress with good nutrition by Thomas Coles

For most of us, stress and food go hand-in-hand.

Food can give us the feelings of power, control and satisfaction that we need in stressful situations, so it’s no surprise that when our stress levels go up our resistance to ‘comfort’ foods goes down.

Making poor food choices can add a great deal of extra stress to an already stressed-out body:

– not eating a great deal during the day, but relying on stimulants (e.g caffeine) to keep us going, or sugary snacks to give us a quick burst of energy

– skipping breakfast because we are too busy

– needing to rely on alcohol at the end of a stressful day to help calm us down

– (if you are a smoker) smoking more than you otherwise would

All of these habits can make the situation worse in the long run, and we end up trapped in a vicious cycle of stress.

A few tips to help avoid falling into this trap are:

– eat regular, balanced meals, with balanced snacks to prevent your blood sugar from dropping to low. Include a source of protein with every meal/snack, avoid refined foods, and go for whole grains where possible, avoiding sweet foods and drinking plenty of water

– our adrenal glands use up a lot of your bodies’ vitamin and mineral reserves so its important at times of stress (when your adrenal glands are busy working on overdrive) to include plenty of nutrients in your diet. This can be achieved by ensuring you eat, at least, 5 portions of fruit and vegetables every day. When choosing fruit and veg. go for a range of different colours to ensure adequate intake of antioxidants

– while caffeine gives you a temporary boost, in the long run it contributes to your stress, so it is best to minimise your caffeine intake. Go for decaff. or better still drink green tea, which contains theanine (an amino acid that can actually help calm you down)

– finally, get plenty of sleep, ideally 8 hours a night

Your body, not to mention your stress levels, will feel the difference!

Pictures by Charlie Richards

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How to be Twitter savvy

Twitter as a marketing tool is much the same as the perfect cake recipe which relies on the right mix and quantity of ingredients: too much product pushing and self-inflation and your followers will switch off and un-follow you in droves … too little interaction and communication, and your followers will forget you exist altogether.

A successful Twitter marketing strategy must include a balance of different but complementary elements.

Assuming your reason for being on Twitter is to raise your professional profile and to develop business connections, here are some tips and tactics to filter out what’s up and coming and of interest to you in your Twittersphere.

The basics

• Be authentic and transparent: don’t compliment or criticise gratuitously in public
• Customise your account page background
• “Listen”, look and learn
• Be polite and kind: when people respond (check your account at @mentions) or re-tweet (check your account for re-tweets) your Tweet acknowledge it
• Don’t reply to a Tweet on the public timeline if it’s meant to be a direct message (DM)
• Being strategically useful and helpful builds trust, attracts influential followers and results in a new channel for social networking
• Individual tweets may or may not be useful, but when you add them up over time, a bigger picture of you emerges
• Add your Twitter name to your e-mail signature
Link your Twitter account with a blog, website and/or profile on professional networking sites such as LinkedIn

The perfect recipe for building your network

Building your network on Twitter can be facilitated by finding, posting and re-tweeting remarkable (or at least interesting!) news. This will stimulate re-tweets from existing followers, providing second level follower exposure and attract new followers of your own.

Ensure the right mix with these 5 ingredients for the perfect Twitter recipe …

1. Relevant and informative content

You don’t have to go out of your way to search for new, interesting content to promote on Twitter. Your working, and personal, life most likely already produce a host of existing content that can be leveraged.
Twitter is the ideal medium for sharing and promoting

• Tips leveraged from your own or someone else’s blog post
• Information on upcoming jobs, (life)events
• Research from a recent white paper
• Webinars with industry leaders
• Interesting statistics from a news paper article or press releases

2. Relevant, informative content … that’s not yours

In addition to sharing your own content from blogs, whitepapers, press releases and the like, leverage content from outside sources as well.
Staying up-to-date on the latest news from across your own industry doesn’t necessarily have to consume a lot of extra time:

• Subscribe to industry publications’ e-newsletters to receive the latest content in your inbox
• Sign up for the RSS feeds of several prominent industry blogs to get notified of fresh content
• Set up daily Google Alerts for a few relevant terms to receive the latest news articles and blog posts

It’s as simple as highlighting the most interesting part of the article or blog post – i.e., a surprising statistic, a quick tip – and offering a link to the original source.
I use http://bit.ly/ the URL shortener to share and track content.

3. Product offers and promotions

Twitter can be an effective marketing channel for sending promotional messages, but in my view only when combined with other types of content.
Offer timely sales information and incentives, because the nature of Twitter allows your followers to respond to promotions quickly. Provide exclusive offers to build a sense of ownership among followers, and give Twitter users an incentive to follow your brand (product or service) and to give customer feedback.

5. Re-tweets

Don’t underestimate the usefulness of the RT, posting the same tweet of others that you think will be useful to your own followers.
Re-tweeting can help you:

• Increase your following: re-tweet someone else’s story and they may return the favour. Better still, you may have a topic in common and develop a business connection
• Get your own content re-tweeted: discover which content gets passed along and use that insight for your own Twitter use
• Stimulate RTs from your followers, providing second level follower exposure and attract more followers of your own.

Then again, don’t overestimate re-tweets either!
If the only Tweet content that you are providing can be found elsewhere, what’s the point of following you?

The most useful filtering tool

Twitter search: probably the most useful way to filter Twitter noise is to use the search tool. Trending (#) topics are displayed and an array of search options allows you to be quite specific about what you’re looking for.
You can subscribe to the RSS feed of the search results as well.

Other filtering services

Looking to find out how popular your blog post was on Twitter?
Want to know what tweets people really enjoy?
These Twitter-based applications can help you see the most popular trends on Twitter by aggregating tweets.

www.tweetmeme.com
www.twitturly.com
www.twittl.com

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Pumpkin & ricotta cake

Crown Prince, Turks Turban, Harlequin, Onion, Gem, Wee be little, Gold Dust, Howden Big Boy, Sumo, Rouge de Temp, Munchkin ….

To ring the changes from savoury ways with pumpkins, here’s a recipe for a wonderful cake that makes the most of pumpkin’s inherent sweetness and dense texture.

Based on a recipe by Leela, author of the beautiful and inspirational food blog She Simmers this is without doubt my favourite cake at the moment!

Light as a feather, soft and with a texture best described as a cross between a cheesecake and a sponge cake.

Autumnal, easy to make, delicious with (whipped) cream this cake can easily double as a dessert.

Perfect if you are not that keen on regular cheesecake (me included: too rich, too claggy) or traditional pumpkin pie.

To lighten the cake somewhat, I have replaced the mascarpone (40% fat) with ricotta (8% fat). I used large eggs, slightly less milk, a smaller spring form and also reduced the baking time.

Use good quality, free-range (and organic), eggs. It really makes a difference. I love Burford Browns but they are too small for this recipe.

The whiskey and vanilla come through (more as a scent than a flavour especially when the cake is still warm), but they don’t overpower the subtle flavour of the ricotta and pumpkin providing just a hum in the background – as it should do.

Instead of butternut squash you can ofcourse use any other squash or pumpkin. They’ll all give the cake a subtly different colour.

Leela says its OK to use canned pumpkin but I don’t see the point of that when squashes are so plentiful at the moment. If you are going to make this cake, having to boil + puree a chunk of pumpkin should not hold you back.

I urge you to give this cake a try!

This is what you need:

A buttered, bottom lined with baking paper, 8 inch/20 cm spring form or round cake tin

■6 large eggs, separated
■240g pumpkin (I used butternut squash), boiled until soft + pureed until lump-free and left to cool completely
■140g granulated sugar
■125g ricotta
■3 tbsp milk
■2 tbsp whisky
■1 tsp vanilla extract (not flavouring!)
■50g butter, melted
■65g plain flour
■1/4 tsp salt
■1/2 tsp cream of tartar

This is what you do:

■pre-heat the oven to 170C
■in a large bowl, mix the ricotta with the milk
■using a handheld electric mixer, whisk in the vanilla extract, whiskey and melted butter until the mixture is smooth
■add the egg yolks, one by one, whisking (on low setting) to make sure each egg yolk is fully absorbed before you add the next one
■using a spatula, mix in the pumpkin puree
■gently whisk in the flour and salt
■in a freestanding mixer/food processor, whisk the egg whites with the cream of tartar
■add the sugar in 3 lots, continuing to whisk until the mixture is glossy and starting to form peaks
■using a large metal spoon, lightly fold 1/4 of the eggs whites into the squash puree until absorbed
■mix in the remainder of the egg whites until well combined and the mixture is streak-free
■pour the cake mixture into the prepared baking tin
■bake for 50 minutes and then check to see if the cake is done: the cake should be golden brown and the middle should feel firm but springy when pressed lightly with a finger
■if not add continue baking and check at 5 minute intervals
■remove from the oven and leave the cake to cool completely in the baking tin before turning the cake out

Perfect with a cup of tea – in the garden whilst catching last few rays …

I love the soft sheen on the top of this cake and its pale orange colour and therefore prefer to leave it unadorned, but you could dust the cake lightly with icing sugar.

Serve as it is or with whipped cream.

Hello autumn – happy baking!

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Le Charcutier Anglais: tales & recipes from a gamekeeper turned charcutier (very Lady Chatterley …)

Bacon, pancetta, coppa …. followed by rillettes, gayettes and crepinettes and not forgetting the chorizo and merguez sausages and n’duja.

Charcuterie is here to stay!

Wholesale price £20 plus p+p
RRP £30
Box of 14 books
Online stockists who sell via their website can e-mail their order through to Marc-Frederic for despatch (that way you won’t need to hold any stock and will be billed each month)
Orders via Marc-Frederic Berry charcutieranglais@gmail.com

www.charcuterieanglais.blogspot.com

And here are some I made earlier …

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Arggghhh! Managing stress …

You’re a busy person, constantly under pressure to deliver to customers, keep production ticking over, manage staff … and do all the tasks that keep your business going.

Running a business, or getting a business off the ground for that matter, means you could be prone to stress and burn-out.

With Hallowe’en and Christmas slowly but steadily creeping up on us, the last 3 months of the year can be especially taxing. Many food businesses make 30% or more of their sales in December alone, so the demands of that combined with a hectic social schedule can make the most organised and resourceful person feel the pressure.

The common definition of stress is “a condition where an individual feels that the demands outstrip their personal and social resources that he/she has available and can mobilise”.

Burn-out is where you run out steam, energy and enthusiasm.

Here are some tools to help you prevent and deal with potential burn-out.

Pressure point register

Make a list of all the things that you find frustrating about the situation you are in. These might include:

* spending too much time fire fighting
* feeling that there is more work to do than you can practically cope with
* not having enough time to plan
* getting irritated by minor problems with team members

Once you have made your “frustrations list”, think about how you are going to handle these issues before they build up into pressure points.

This might involve delegating certain tasks to others, using your time more efficiently, making sure you eat well and getting enough time away from work to re-charge your batteries.

This stress management checklist may help.

Tips on avoiding stress and burn-out:

* make time for planning: don’t put it off because you’re too busy
* set clear, manageable goals and stick to them
* know yourself: set objectives that maximise your strenghts and minimise your weaknesses
* delegate, not just tasks but responsibilities, wherever appropriate and possible: this is going to challenge your team + help them develop, over time freeing you up over to focus on growing your business
* develop your assertiveness skills and learn to say “no”
* develop and use a support network as a source of practical and moral support
and last but not least
* make sure you have a life outside work: put aside enough time aside for relaxation

I have recently re-started my early morning, outdoor workouts; perverse perhaps with mornings getting darker and colder, but getting out of my head and into my body, combined with being outside is the best energiser I know.

Over to you …

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QR code cookies create unique personalized messages

German company Qkies combines QR codes and cookie mix to create edible personalized messages.

We’ve seen QR codes put to various uses over recent months, from helping conferences run more efficiently to linking t-shirts labels to MP3 files. Now German company Qkies have given the QR code the edible treatment, combining them with cookie mix to create munch-able personalized messages.

Qkies — a cooperative project of Juchem Gruppe, a German food trade company, and DFKI, the German Research Center for Artificial Intelligence — can be used as a playful alternative for a variety of things, from party invitations to business cards. Qkie cookie mix is available online at EUR 6.90 per box, and will make 20 Qkies. Consumers make and bake the cookies before decorating them with the enclosed QR codes, printed on edible paper. The recipient of the cookies scans the QR code with their phone to be directed to either a video on YouTube, a photo on Flickr or a personalized web page containing a specific message, as dictated by the sender.

We’ve seen QR codes used to contain practical, musical and now personalized messages.

Under what guise will we next see this multi-functional code?

Website: www.qkies.de

From Springwise www.springwise.com 10th October 2011 in Food & Beverage.

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What makes a good food shop? By “Food Lovers’ London” Jenny Linford

Neal’s Yard Dairy by Chris Windsor Photography

For me shopping for food has always been a key part of the cooking process – a trip to Chinatown to buy South-East Asian herbs and vegetables, visiting a good butcher for a particular cut of meat . . .

I am an inveterate food shopper, forever bringing home more ingredients for my already-full store cupboard.

As the author of Food Lovers’ London, a cosmopolitan shopping guide to London’s food scene which I research and write myself, I spend a huge amount of time visiting food shops.

What do I look for in a good food shop?

Depth of knowledge from the staff

My favourite shops are those where the staff really like what they sell and know about it. Neal’s Yard Dairy leaps to mind as a prime example of a shop offering excellent well-informed service – friendly and helpful without being either fawning or pushy. As the artisan cheeses that Neal’s Yard Dairy sell change from batch to batch, customers are freely offered tastings so they can see for themselves what the Kirkham’s Lancashire or Stichelton cheese tastes like this time.

An unobtrusive level of knowledgeable expertise makes shopping a pleasure – from the Greek Cypriot greengrocer who can choose me an avocado which will be perfectly ripe for my dinner party in two days’ time to being able to say “pappardelle for two for a main course” to the staff at an Italian deli knowing I’ll be given just the right amount – no more, no less.

Good service

Just as in a restaurant, bad service can cloud enjoyment of a meal, however good the food was, the same applies to shops. In grumpy mode now, my pet peeves include:

Staff who stand chatting to each other or on the phone and don’t acknowledge waiting customers.

Waiting patiently to be served in a shop, then having an inattentive member of staff serve someone who arrived after you and ‘queue jumped’.

Good service for me involves acknowledging customers as they arrive – with a greeting, a smile, a nod, a ‘let me know if I can help you’ – keeping track of who arrived when so you can serve them in turn – focussing on the customer you’re serving from start to finish.

Good stock

By ‘good stock’ I mean a number of things.

First, I want stock that is kept in good condition. Spanking fresh fish on ice, prime meat that makes you want to buy it when you look at it, an array of cheeses that have been well looked after or an inviting display of fruit and vegetables are all sights that gladden my heart.

Conversely, however, food that’s not been looked after is frankly off-putting – whether it’s a sad piece of dried out cheese, lacklustre vegetables, a suspicious smelly whiff which suggests the fish is not that fresh or meat that looks as if it’s been hanging around for too long.

When it comes to fine food shops, I always look for evidence of intelligent, interesting food buying. If, for example, this is a shop that prides itself on its olive oils or its charcuterie, which ones does it have in stock?

Good stock does not always have to be comprehensive. I’d rather go to a shop which had a handful of discerningly chosen foods at their best, than somewhere that has a large but indiscriminatingly chosen range of dull stock.

The art of display

An attractive display is a wonderful way for a food shop to tempt its customers to make a purchase.

Establishments like La Fromagerie – with its rustic chic – Ottolenghi or Rococo offer wonderful examples of how to create alluring displays with food, whether it’s with baskets of fresh fruit, piles of blowsy meringues or a jewel-like display of chocolate truffles. Encouragingly, I feel many independent food shops are doing a far better job of displaying their wares nowadays than they used to years ago.

On a more pragmatic note, I also always want to see prices clearly displayed, either on the product itself or on a nearby board. It’s only fair to the customer to allow them to make an informed judgment as to what they’re spending.

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Revenue forecasting

What are your food dreams?

To start an artisan bakery, open a deli, make your own cheese or charcuterie or to develop and launch the next big retail brand … ?

You love food, you can cook, bake, pickle and make …. friends are always telling you how great your food is.
So it can’t be that hard, can it?

Actually, if you’re serious about turning your love of food into a business it’s not just about cooking or producing great tasting food, it’s about running a financially viable business.

How to make a revenue forecast

If you’re starting a business from scratch, making revenue forecasts will be particularly challenging: where established businesses use historical data to predict what will happen in the future, you may feel as though you’re resorting to a certain amount of crystal ball-gazing to come up with figures for your business.

Don’t worry if your forecasts aren’t completely accurate – you can always alter them after your first few months.
Concentrate instead on trying to make your figures as realistic as possible.

Why bother writing a revenue forecast?

Investors will be more enthusiastic about putting money into a business which has taken a realistic look at the costs and risks involved. Use revenue forecasts to prove to investors and other stakeholders, and particularly to yourself, that you are serious about the business you are planning to start.

 Making a revenue forecast will allow you to plan how fast your business can grow and enable you to decide when you will take steps such as taking on members of staff, moving to new premises and developing new marketing strategies.
 By looking at market data and taking into account your costs and the risks you plan to take, revenue forecasting will allow you to come up with a monthly, quarterly and annual budget for fixed overheads and variable costs.
 Revenue forecasting means you can use historical data to step back and take an objective look at the market, taking into account its seasonal peaks, troughs and micro-trends to give you an idea of when you need to save money and when you can afford to take risks.

Here’s what you do

Start by looking at your expenses.
If you’re starting a new business, these will be much easier to predict than where you will get your revenue. When you’re looking at your expenses, you should take into account.

Fixed costs including
 Rent
 Bills (utilities, phone, internet, hosting etc)
 Operational costs (accounting, legal fees, insurance, IP etc)
 Computer hardware and software
 Marketing costs
 Staff salaries

Variable costs including
 Manufacturing costs (materials, packaging, delivery etc.)
 Labour costs (production, customer service, bookkeeping etc.)

 Calculate an estimated run rate to give you an idea of what sort of revenues you will be looking at during the first few months. Most businesses calculate these by looking at their own historical data, but if you’re starting a new business, you may have to cobble together figures based on knowledge gleaned from your competitors and statistics from your industry and local area. Once you have been trading for a few months, you can recalculate this using your own data.

 Look at industry trends to determine what sort of response people will have to your product or service. This might involve a certain amount of guesswork but again, use figures from competitors and your industry and local area as a guide.

 Take into account:
Footfall and sales: How many people will be passing through the area you plan to start your business? What percentage of people who enter your competitors’ premises actually go on to buy something? What sort of response rate do your competitors get from marketing activity?
Pricing: How much do you plan to charge for your product or service, and what sort of returns will you get from that? Is there any potential for creating loss leaders? If so, what and for how long? What about special offers to entice customers in?
Repeat sales: How long does your product last? What percentage of customers is likely to buy from you again? How do you plan to convince customers to return?

 Look at market trends for peaks and troughs which might affect your sales. For example, if you are planning to run a boutique, it’s likely there will be a peak when your spring/summer and autumn/winter collections come in. You will also be affected on the first day of winter, when people will be rushing to buy warm coats, and perhaps during Fashion Week, when the fashion-conscious will be rushing to keep up with new trends.
Points to take into account
Be realistic about your estimates: advertising, marketing and operational costs are usually more expensive than you expect them to be. It might be worth setting an upper and a lower margin for these – sometimes they can cost up to three times what you initially budgeted for.

 Some businesses create three scenarios: best case, worst case and in-between. These mean you have a plan if your business doesn’t secure the investment you were hoping for or make the number of sales you had been expecting. Stay realistic when you’re making these, just tweak the numbers slightly.

By making a revenue forecast you’re putting yourself in a good position to evaluate if your business idea has legs and whether or not you can afford to quit your day job!

Jargon buster

Run rate: takes your current level of sales over a certain period (be it a month, a quarter or a year) and see what your financial performance would be like if you continued at the same level. To work out your run rate, divide your total revenue to date by your sales periods to date. So if you’ve made £1,000 and you’ve been going two months, your run rate would be £500 per month.

Footfall: the number of pedestrians who pass through a given area (a street, for example) within a certain space of time.

Loss leader: a product sold at a low price (often below cost) to entice consumers and encourage sales.

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The art of networking by Sudi Pigott

It’s not exactly a black art, yet there’s something instinctive and somewhat artful about being an effective networker. And I’m told it is something that I embrace with relish.

I believe it has to begin with a genuine interest in putting like-minded people together: making connections. Though, of course, it if it results in a potentially good foodcentric story I can pitch to one of the publications I most enjoy writing for such as TIME Magazine and British Airways High Life or a promising new customer for the ultra-sustainable new chocolate company Original Beans I consult too, so much the better.

But how to do it?
Often, it happens by default. Just last month, I was at a wonderfully decadent gastro festival at Schloss Bernberg which involved strolling through the castle’s extensive salons tasting intriguing and delicious offerings from, mostly German, Michelin star chefs. Rather than taking the easy route and going around as a posse with the other British press contingents, I struck out on my own and simply by striking up conversation with likely looking individuals – always easier when there’s food to bond over – got talking to a leading German journalist who introduced me to the organiser of ChefSache, a chef’s conference aiming to move the culinary world onto Modern German Culinary School. I’ve just returned from Cologne, and Chefsache, am writing my – I hope headline grabbing – report for TIME Magazine AND it was great networking, notably with French culinary consultant/blogger, Stéphanie Biteau of Cookcooning brilliant for insider track on hot restaurants in Paris and inveterate traveller, Danish Trine Lai of Verygoodfood and, in turn, I offered similar them cut-to-the-quick insight into the London culinary scene.

Networking, should, I believe be a two-way exchange. Simply “milking” those you meet for advice and recommendations does’t work and won’t become a meaningful, long-term exchange that prospers mutually. I was shocked by the “operator” tactics of a freelance journalist on a trip to Copenhagen earlier this year, as she shamelessly worked her way through the other international writers, notebook in hand, asking them outright to recommend favourite restaurants, barely bothering to establish conversation first. I would always seek to establish commonground by asking plenty of questions – most people like to talk about themselves and their interests – places we’ve visited and can pool views on, people we both may know or could make useful introductions besides showing genuine enthusiasm and interest.

Effective follow-up is critical too. Merely acquiring a stash of business cards does not add up to effective networking. I try to follow-up people I’ve met and would like to stay in touch with speedily, ideally next day, definitely within the week. More rapidly, and it would appear rather too pushy, even desperate, slower and it would seem that making contact is an afterthought, not a meaningful priority.

Not all networking has to be face-to-face. LinkedIn has huge potential, especially for thorough following through the contacts of influential people I’ve linked in to, but could be far more diligent, time permitting, And, in reverse, I’ve got work through LinkedIn: both for running corporate food quiz events and contributing to the launch of a New York based website 24thletter .

However, its Twitter, that I find invaluable for networking. Besides news and, mostly good-natured, gossip, it has proved highly and speedily effective, primarily, in bringing new openings and events to my attention, as well as a vehicle for getting in touch with delis and chefs who start to follow me or who are tweeting to mutual contacts. I often, gently respond to new followers, afterall they’ve shown a desire to know what I’m up to first, to see if they might be interested to know more, and preferably, try samples of Original Beans chocolate whose taste and ethos speak volumes.

Truly a tastier a way to do business!

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Valuable lessons learned … by Rupert Parsons from Womersley Foods

Womersley five key values

1. Design. From my first day, I realised that design was a really important part of what we do. Selling in a competitive market (even with a fairly unique product) we had to stand out from the crowd with our packaging. Also, integrity of design is important since I wanted to be sure that our new designs reflected what we make and who we are.

2. Communications. I have always been a great believer in good communications, being a good listener as well as having the opportunity to share your own ideas. Nobody has a monopoly on good ideas. It is important to praise good work and show appreciation for the help of others. I have tried to put my beliefs in the benefit of strong communications to good use in our social networking which allows the sharing of ideas as well as personality, particularly if you can engage readers with a variety of interests and a level of humour.

3. Learn from mistakes. I make mistakes, we all do. But, if you are going to succeed, you need to admit that you are not perfect, have the trust to delegate to those with better skills in some departments and learn from these mistakes so you can evolve to take on board what you learn.

4. Challenge Everything. There are always decisions to make when running a business; from how the business is structured to where to buy your raw materials. All these decisions need to be made after some consideration and I never like to assume that “because this is how we have always done it, it is right.” We frequently check the taste and quality of what we produce; this is really important as a food producer and we are always striving to improve what we do whilst keeping an eye on trends.

5. Keep focussed. Particularly when in the survival phase of your business, it is vital to prioritise your time, ensuring that you concentrate most on the areas which ensure the survival of your business. A well structured Strategic Marketing Plan will help with this, but at the very least, have a regular look at where you are trying to get to and how you will achieve that.

Rupert Parsons
Managing Director, Womersley Foods
www.womersleyfoods.co.uk

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Gross profit % versus mark-up: what’s the difference?

Gross profit % and mark-up are about the same thing: the profit margin a food business owner stands to make on a product on the shop shelf or on the customer’s plate.

Mark-up is a % of the cost price added to create the selling price.
Gross profit is the selling price minus the cost price, expressed as a % of the selling price.

Most food shops will aim for a gross profit % of 35-45% across the board, ie. across all the different product categories that they sell; where a shop sits in that range will depend on their location and core customer base. Urban locations tend to have higher overheads (rent + rates) and labour costs, rural set-ups might be able to accept lower margins because their cost base is lower.they may make less profit than that on bread because of wastage but more on food-to-go.

Food service operators (cafes, restaurants, mobiles) will aim for a gross profit % of around 65% depending on the style of operation and location.

Gross profit example:

So for example, if you’re selling a product for £2 a deli owner who is aiming for 45% gross profit will want to sell it for £3.64.

£2 (cost) = 55% so 45% (profit) = £1.64
£2 (cost) + £1.64 (profit) = £3.64 (selling price) = 100%

Mark-up example:

If the deli owner works on 45% mark-up then you simply add 45% to the cost price.
So £2 + £0.90 (45% of £2) = £2.90.

You see, it gives a very different selling price!

If you’re bringing a product to market it is sensible to show the retailer/food service operator what gross profit % they can achieve on your product by suggesting a retail price.

To make it easy for your client, I’d do the same for mark-up.

Here’s a table showing the gross profit % and its mark-up equivalent.

Feel free to print off a copy & share, but please link it back to its source – thank you!

GP          MU
35%        54%
40%        67%
45%        82%
50%        100%
55%        122%
60%       150%
65%       186%
70%       233%

 

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Fabulous produce at New Covent Garden Market

Snaps taken this morning on the “Buyers’ Walk”.
Definitely worth the early rise!
Pallet sales only, theoretically.
Makes me wonder if there’s mileage in a group of food businesses clubbing together to do a twice weekly shop?

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Are you selling what your customers WANT?

Note that I have used the word “want” here not “need“.

The fact is, you cannot sell people something they don’t want to buy.
They might need it, but if you can’t convince them that they want it then even with the best will in the world you won’t get anywhere.

Some of you will find this question easy to answer.

If you run a food shop, deli, cafe or a restaurant where you work at the sharp end, then you (should!) know what makes your customers “tick”. You’ll more likely than not will be on first name terms with many of your customers, able to elicit instant feedback on new (and not so new) products and services. You are able to quickly try new ideas which, as a small business owner, is one way of making sure that you’re always one step ahead of the competition.

Some of you reading this will find it much harder to know whether you’re selling something that your customers actually really want.

Perhaps you’re one or two steps removed from the sales process and you don’t know what motivates people to buy what you are selling?
Or perhaps you’re so passionate (read blinded …) about your product that you simply don’t hear what your customers (and often front line staff too) are telling you!

Here are some tough questions to ask yourself:

Do my customers love what I’m selling?
Do my products make customers’ lives healthier, easier, more delicious, more fun?
Why should they want my product?
Do these arguments actually truly resonate with my customers?
Does the market in general recognise that there is a need for the product I’m offering?
Or am I pioneering and do I need to find new and perhaps extraordinary powers of persuasion?
What feedback am I getting about my product or service?

Initially you may draw blanks to more questions than you can actually answer.
Don’t worry!

Take your time mulling over the answers, discuss them with your team, observe your customers, listen and learn.
Simply keep coming back to these questions over a period of weeks until you feel you’ve got under your customers’ skin and really understand what drives them.

Understanding your customers’ wants is absolutely key to a successful business. Realising what you don’t know is a huge step in the right direction.

Need inspiration?
Here’s are some tips on awesome in-aisle research from Tessa Stuart

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Shops I love: Dille & Kamille

I love this Dutch shop’s extensive collection of beautifully made everyday items – all under the banner of “natuurlijke eenvoud” or “natural simplicity“.

Think glassware, tableware, cooking, stationery … that’s a joy to use and pleasing to the eye.

I really appreciate how they encourage shoppers to “take time for themselves and their environment. And to enjoy everyday things”. And that sentiment is reflected on the website, in the shops, in the pricing and the company’s eco-friendly attitude.

Founded in 1974, the business now consists of 20 shops in The Netherlands and Belgium plus an on-line shop.

Can we have one in the UK too please?

www.dille-kamille.nl

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The 2011 CMO’s Guide To The Social Landscape

While social media’s acceptance by, and importance to, the consumer has ramped up rather quickly, those who believed it had relevance to digital marketing were thought to be making a mountain out of a molehill.

Well, that molehill has turned out to be more like Everest!

A social-media strategy has clearly become a marketing must-have. These days, marketing channels, platforms, and tools that lack a social component (some way for consumers to actively engage with your brand) are probably doomed to failure.

But what worked this time last year might not work today, for this is a rapidly shifting landscape that must be mapped out regularly.

To help you determine which social media tools and channels are your best bet in terms of customer communication, brand exposure, traffic, and SEO CMO have developed this handy chart.

For your convenience, a downloadable PDF version of the chart is available at the bottom of this page. And in the spirit of social, please share it with your colleagues and broader professional networks.

CMOcom-SocialMediaLandscape2011

Read more: www.cmo.com

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Making the most of seasonal gluts

One way of keeping your menu fresh and being able to serve good quality food at competitive prices, is by being savvy about what you buy and when to make the most of seasonally abundant vegetables.

For me, it is partly the excitement of getting a really good deal as well as the knowledge that an hour or so of pleasant work in the kitchen is going to produce something delicious for customers to enjoy over the coming days, weeks or months.

Every month of the year the markets are flooded with certain varieties of fruit and vegetables, but perhaps never as abundant as this month.

Here are a few recipes and ideas for my personal favourites.

And remember, when an ingredient is in season there is nothing wrong with having it on the menu a couple of times a week or even every day: purple sprouting broccoli, blood oranges, new potatoes, wild garlic, asparagus, samphire, elderflowers, strawberries, cherries, quinces …

Tomato sauce

This is what you need:

4kg ripe tomatoes (it doesn’t matter if they are overripe)

10 onions, chopped

6 garlic cloves, chopped

25oml olive oil

sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

This is what you do:

1.heat the oil in a pan large enough to take all the tomatoes (or divide the tomatoes + other ingredients equally over a couple of pans)
2.add the onions and garlic and soften (but not brown) over low heat
3.add the tomatoes and simmer, partially covered with a lid, for at least one hour until the tomatoes are very soft
4.stir the mixture now and then to prevent it from sticking to the bottom of the pan
5.some of the liquid will evaporate but that is a good thing and will concentrate the flavour
6.taste the sauce: it should be sweet once it has cooked down
7.season with salt and pepper and decide if you need to add sugar
8.at this point you can let the mixture cool before storing in the fridge as it is
9.or put the tomatoes through a passevite (mouli-legumes) if you prefer a smoother sauce without tomato skins + pips
10.you could also split the mixture and to make half a batch of smooth and half with more texture

You’ll notice that I don’t add any herbs; that is because this way you can use the tomato sauce in a wide range of dishes from soups, to stews to pasta and red Thai curry.

The tomato sauce will keep in the fridge for up to a week. Alternatively, freeze in small quantities in strong, properly sealed, freezer bags.

Oven dried tomatoes

This is what you need:

25 ripe tomatoes

olive oil

dried oregano (or thyme or both)

sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

This is what you do:

1.pre-heat the oven to 100C
2.cut the tomatoes in half lengthways; I don’t bother scooping out the seeds but you can if you wish
3.pat the cut surface of the tomatoes dry with paper kitchen towel
4.sprinkle with dried herbs, salt + pepper
5.drizzle with olive oil
6.bake for 4 – 6 hours
7.the tomatoes should be shrivelled like a raisin, not too brown
8.you may need to adjust the oven temperature as ovens vary
9.if you want to keep the tomatoes for a while, put into a sterilised jar and cover with olive oil or store in a container in the fridge “au naturel”

Great piled onto toast, in a frittata, mixed through pasta or eaten straight from the jar!

Courgette fritters with spicy tomato sauce (serves 6)

This is what you need:

fritters

750g courgettes, coarsely grated

200g gram (chickpea) flour

1/2 tsp ground cumin

1/4 tsp ground paprika

2 tbsp finely shredded fresh mint

sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

1 tbsp olive oil, plus extra for frying

salsa

500g tomatoes, finely chopped

1/4 onion, finely chopped

1 tbsp red wine vinegar

3 tbsp olive oil

1/2 tsp dried chilli flakes

2 tbsp finely chopped flatleaf parsley

This is what you do:

1.for the salsa, mix all the ingredients, check for seasoning, cover and set aside in the fridge to chill
2.for the fritters, put the courgettes in a colander, sprinkle with salt and leave to drain for 20 minutes
3.sieve the flour in a large bowl, add the spices, salt and pepper and 200ml of cold water
4.mix until you have a smooth batter, then add the olive oil and mint
5.squeeze the moisture from the courgettes, then stir into the batter
6.heat 1/2 tbsp olive oil to a non-stick frying pan
7.add a large tbsp of batter to the frying pan taking care not to overcrowd the pan; you are aiming to make about 18 fritters
8.press the batter down lightly and fry over medium heat for 2/3 minutes then flip over with a non-scratch spatula
9.fry for another 2/3 minutes then move to a plate and keep warm
10.serve warm with the cold salsa

Here’s to savvy buying & cooking and happy customers!

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Customer analysis & market segmentation

Put yourself in their shoes: the more you understand your customers, the more likely you are to give them what they want.

Different customers have different needs and this is where market segmentation comes in.

Market segmentation means dividing up the mass of customers into distinct groups so you can treat them differently. You might target distinct groups with different products, or use different marketing methods to sell the same product to distinct groups.

You can segment your market using different criteria. For example:

* geographical location
* personal characteristics, i.e. age, gender
* social and economic circumstances
* aspirations and needs

I’ve developed a handy chart to help you document the market segmentation for your product or service – just ask!

If you’re not sure what marketing methods to select (final column of the chart) check back here soon to read about promotional activities.

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Testing the big idea

You may think you have a fantastic idea for a new product or service, but …

before you commit everything to it you had better find out if your idea has legs!

From experience, I know that it’s no good just trying it out informally on family and friends. Chances are that they don’t have the necessary experience and/or the right background to make a professional judgement. And … they may just tell you what you want to hear!

Harsh but true.

Instead start wearing your customer’s shoes.
The more you understand your customers, the more likely you are to give them what they want.

Knowing what your customers want, and what they will want in the future, is crucial.

Define your customers carefully: what sort of people are they? Where do they live? How will do want to buy your product or service?

Do your desk research: this is mostly an information gathering process, getting ideas about your customers, the size of the market, trends, growth prospects and who the competitors are.

You can get this information from business sector reports, the census, land registery, government departments and places like Business Link.

Armed with these vital data, you are ready to devise ways of talking to potential customers. It could be interviewing a number of people, sending out a questionnaire, conducting a telephone survey, hosting a small focus group or taking a stall at a local fair or event to get direct feedback.

Before the founders of Innocent decided to leave their jobs and focus on making and selling smoothies, they ran a stall at an event and asked every customer to put their vote in the “yes” or “no” (should they leave their jobs) bin.

Your business will get off to a shaky start if you don’t have solid answers to the fundamental questions about your customers, your product or service and your market!

The key to all this is your customer. At this stage, don’t get too preoccupied by the product or service you are planning.

Do be obsessed by the experience your customers will have of it.
Become your customer for a while, so you can really understand what difference your product or service will make to their lives.

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Salad from the sky

At Bell Book & Candle, a small restaurant in Greenwich Village, New York, a food revolution is happening.

While most restaurants brag about their locally grown produce, the chef John Mooney is taking it one step further. Sixty per cent of his restaurant’s produce is farmed six flights of stairs up on the roof: not field to fork but rooftop to table!

Is this aeroponic system the future of affordable healthy food in the city, not only for restaurants but for home owners, too?

Full article by Lucie Young with pictures by Ditte Isager in Telegraph Magazine of 14 July 2011.

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Get your selling prices right!

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The menu

Writing the menu is one of the most important jobs to be undertaken by a food business owner, whether it is for a cafe, deli or restaurant.

Not only is the menu

the prime method of communicating to customers what it is you have to sell,
it is an integral part of the total experience you create for your customers
as well as the key document for directing and controlling the business

The menu establishes what ingredients need to be purchased, the maximum cost of those ingredients and the staff and equipment required to produce the dishes.

Costs

If your business is to be profitable, the cost of operating the menu is a crucial consideration.

You should know what the actual gross profit margins (GP%) are on each food item sold – this in turn will allow the business to charge the correct selling price and hit specific food cost targets.

You can conduct ‘what if’ analysis on your menu items (i.e. what if we decreased the portion size or increased the selling price of dish A – what impact would that have on our bottom line?), to help increase your profit margins.

Be aware of your food costs at all times and keep within budget!

Below is a handy GP% ready reckoner with VAT at 20% included in the selling price; it shows you at a glance the selling price you should charge to make your budgeted gross profit.

Feel free to download, then save, print or share it!

reckoner

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Subscription services: Pressed Juicery

I’ve long believed in the power of subscription; it’s what gave me the idea for SavvyCook’s original meal delivery service which evolved in a twice weekly savvy fridge & kitchen cupboard fill, the kitchen-keeping service.

There appears to be no end in sight to consumers’ desire to reduce their shopping burden by signing up for monthly subscriptions instead. Now joining the growing list of products we’ve seen offered this way is fresh pressed juice, which can be ordered for home delivery at the frequency of consumers’ choice from Los Angeles-based Pressed Juicery.

The juices are produced on a hydraulic press, minimizing oxidation and releasing vitamins, minerals and enzymes that are impossible to obtain with a standard juicer, the company says. Because they are raw and unpasteurized, the juices have a shelf life of just three days.

So that’s organic soups, baked goods and healthy snacks that we’ve now seen offered up by subscription for home delivery, not to mention the humble milkman and my very own SavvyCook’s kitchen-keeping service www.savvycook.co.uk.

What frequently used items could you deliver to someone’s door on a recurring basis?

Website: www.pressedjuicery.com

via Springwise www.springwise.com @springwise

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Networking

What makes a good networker?

For some people, networking is a dirty word. They see it as a way of using people to get what they want.

But networking can be a two-way situation and can be win-win for the people involved.

So what turns one person into a good networker – the sort of person that other people want to help get ahead – while another just doesn’t have the knack?

I’ll be asking the experts …

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Maltby Street market

Every Saturday from 9am-2pm, a stretch of railway arches in Bermondsey is home to a handful of London’s food producers, wholesalers and retailers.

The likes of Neal’s Yard Dairy, Monmouth Coffee Company and Aubert & Mascoli open their doors to the public so you can see what we do, where they do it and … do your shopping at the same time.

I have visited twice now and I really like the fact that established players on the food retail scene work cheek-by-jowl, and sometimes even share their space, with small growers and start-ups.

The vibe is very much like Borough Market many many moons ago: relaxed, friendly and collaborative.

After a coffee at Monmouth Coffee Company I have bought delicious cheese at Mons (who specialise in cheeses from France and the Alps, bread from St John, hard to come by herbs such as lovage and chervil from Booth’s and marvellous free-range organic Ladymeads Farm duck eggs at Jacob’s Ladder Farms and verjus at Aubert & Mascoli.

One trader who I keep missing is Kitty Travers (aka La Grotta Ices) who is quickly making a name for herself with her clean tasting, elegant and simple ice creams, sorbets and granita: lemon balm, elderflower, apple & mint, peach & cinnamon.

The address is Maltby Street, SE1, off Tower Bridge Road, and an easy 5 minute walk from London Bridge station heading along Tooley Street.

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Glut cooking

One way of being able to eat good quality food every day
is by being savvy about what you buy and when to make the most of seasonally abundant vegetables!

For me, it is partly the excitement of getting a really good deal as well as the knowledge that an hour or so of pleasant work in the kitchen is going to produce something useful and delicious to enjoy over the coming weeks or months.

Every month of the year the shops and markets are flooded with certain varieties of fruit and vegetables, but perhaps never as abundant as this month.

Where to buy “gluts”?

■(farmers’) markets – growers will be selling what’s in season and some, keen not to have to take produce back with them, will reduce prices towards the end of the market www.lfm.org.uk and www.cityandcountryfarmersmarkets.com
■pick-your-own farms – a fun way to spend time with your kids or a friend and a way to buy food at prices which have not been inflated by a middleman www.pickyourownfarms.org.uk
■box schemes – can be a good source of seasonal fruit & veg, although some are (no longer) very local. Check out http://growingcommunities.org/ if you live in North London.
■wild food – help yourself from the public larder! Many parks are a great source of blackberries in August/September and I picked masses of wild garlic earlier this year.
■ethnic greengrocers – can be an excellent source of boxes of tomatoes, mangoes and fresh herbs. They are also worth checking out for good deals on large bags of grains, rice and pulses as well as spices.

Here are a few recipes/ideas for my personal favourites. Some of which lend themselves to the concept of taking time out in the kitchen now to enjoy the fruits of your labour later.

And remember, when an ingredient is in season there is nothing wrong with eating it a couple of times a week or even every day: purple sprouting broccoli, blood oranges, new potatoes, wild garlic, asparagus, samphire, elderflowers, strawberries, cherries, quinces …

Tomato sauce

This is what you need:

4kg ripe tomatoes (it doesn’t matter if they are overripe)

10 onions, chopped

6 garlic cloves, chopped

25oml olive oil

sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

This is what you do:

1.heat the oil in a pan large enough to take all the tomatoes (or divide the tomatoes + other ingredients equally over a couple of pans)
2.add the onions and garlic and soften (but not brown) over low heat
3.add the tomatoes and simmer, partially covered with a lid, for at least one hour until the tomatoes are very soft
4.stir the mixture now and then to prevent it from sticking to the bottom of the pan
5.some of the liquid will evaporate but that is a good thing and will concentrate the flavour
6.taste the sauce: it should be sweet once it has cooked down
7.season with salt and pepper and decide if you need to add sugar
8.at this point you can let the mixture cool before storing in the fridge as it is
9.or put the tomatoes through a passevite (mouli-legumes) if you prefer a smoother sauce without tomato skins + pips
10.you could also split the mixture and to make half a batch of smooth and half with more texture

You’ll notice that I don’t add any herbs; that is because this way you can use the tomato sauce in a wide range of dishes from soups, to stews to pasta and red Thai curry.

The tomato sauce will keep in the fridge for up to a week. Alternatively, freeze in small quantities in strong, properly sealed, freezer bags.

Oven dried tomatoes

This is what you need:

25 ripe tomatoes

olive oil

dried oregano (or thyme or both)

sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

This is what you do:

1.pre-heat the oven to 100C
2.cut the tomatoes in half lengthways; I don’t bother scooping out the seeds but you can if you wish
3.pat the cut surface of the tomatoes dry with paper kitchen towel
4.sprinkle with dried herbs, salt + pepper
5.drizzle with olive oil
6.bake for 4 – 6 hours
7.the tomatoes should be shrivelled like a raisin, not too brown
8.you may need to adjust the oven temperature as ovens vary
9.if you want to keep the tomatoes for a while, put into a sterilised jar and cover with olive oil or store in a container in the fridge “au naturel”

Great piled onto toast, in a frittata, mixed through pasta or eaten straight from the jar!

Courgette fritters with spicy tomato sauce (serves 6)

This is what you need:

fritters

750g courgettes, coarsely grated

200g gram (chickpea) flour

1/2 tsp ground cumin

1/4 tsp ground paprika

2 tbsp finely shredded fresh mint

sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

1 tbsp olive oil, plus extra for frying

salsa

500g tomatoes, finely chopped

1/4 onion, finely chopped

1 tbsp red wine vinegar

3 tbsp olive oil

1/2 tsp dried chilli flakes

2 tbsp finely chopped flatleaf parsley

This is what you do:

1.for the salsa, mix all the ingredients, check for seasoning, cover and set aside in the fridge to chill
2.for the fritters, put the courgettes in a colander, sprinkle with salt and leave to drain for 20 minutes
3.sieve the flour in a large bowl, add the spices, salt and pepper and 200ml of cold water
4.mix until you have a smooth batter, then add the olive oil and mint
5.squeeze the moisture from the courgettes, then stir into the batter
6.heat 1/2 tbsp olive oil to a non-stick frying pan
7.add a large tbsp of batter to the frying pan taking care not to overcrowd the pan; you are aiming to make about 18 fritters
8.press the batter down lightly and fry over medium heat for 2/3 minutes then flip over with a non-scratch spatula
9.fry for another 2/3 minutes then move to a plate and keep warm
10.serve warm with the cold salsa

Later in the year, around October, perhaps have a go at making quince meat … remind me to post the recipe.

Happy savvy shopping & cooking!

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What’s the 5-a-day for your business?

If we can take care of our bodies by eating 5 portions of fruit and vegetables (at least!) a day …
then what’s the equivalent for our businesses?

It can be anything that works for your business, from reading customer comments, to a drink after work with your team to celebrate a successful day’s trading to taking time out to see what the competition are up to.

I want to make looking after your business as natural as brushing our teeth, simply by asking you:

What are your 5 must-do’s for a healthy business?

Share them today!

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