I recently quit my corporate job after years of working with The Nielsen Company, to follow my passion. I started my business, The Hungry Chef, through which I give everything needed to cook delicious, healthy meals – that means the awesome recipes and all the ingredients needed to cook the meals, pre-proportioned. Anyway, this is not a place where I will advertise my business, I’m kidding I will, its awesome and you should check it out. I want to use this space and time to put down my experiences as a start-up, what I am learning as I am learning it, what works and especially what doesn’t. This will be a great repository for future use to me and if you find something useful here, well good for you!
So here are the things I wish someone told me before I started, to be honest some of these were told to me so maybe I should say things I should have believed in, before I started:
1. Don’t follow your passion I started this business to follow my passion for cooking and creating new recipes. I get to do that and I am very happy about it, I am however also the photographer, marketer, procurement person, and anything else that I need to be depending on the need. You will need to do a lot of things that are clearly not your passion, those things are unglamorous and often times take most of your time. Painting your shop, for instance. So be prepared for passion to take a back-seat while you do the legwork.
2. Money no enough! No new news here, your calculations for your start-up capital should be at least doubled. It’s like a marriage though, everyone hears about it from others but feels ‘mine is different’ only to realise it isn’t. So, get into the arena only when you have the buffer.
3. This plant we got, is it even growing? Unless you have the next iPhone, which in all likelihood you don’t, though you may feel like you do, don’t expect the market to explode. It will be slower than you imagine, much slower. Ad effectiveness is lower than your assumptions, ALWAYS! A start-up is like a plant, its growth is slow, but with persistence and good care it will grow. The Hungry Chef caught steam when The Straights Times decided to do a story about us. We were fortunate this happened pretty quick for us, but it might not always happen.
4. Networking Networking Networking Once you decide to step into the start-up world, get ready to meet lot of new people and create strong professional relationships. It’s just been over a month that I started and I have already met so many wonderful people who have given another dimension to my thinking. Just talk about your business to anyone and everyone, hear their perspective sometimes a small thing they say might create a revolution in your mind.
5. Ask the consumer Now I have to admit I am biased, I have a soft spot for consumer research, a decade of my life was dedicated to it. I did a very small pilot test when I was still working on my business plan where I sent boxes of food to 15 families and did in-depth interviews with them. Those views and discussions lead to some significant changes in our way of approaching the business and also told us simple things like you can’t pack sauces in zip-lock bags.
6. Get them where they ‘like’ you When we launched our shop, our e-commerce platform gave us some Google and Facebook credits. We started advertising on both, we realized that clicks through Google were bouncing off while clicks through Facebook were spending much more time on the website. Being a researcher i just could not let it go, I realised that since my offering is new to market, no one goes to Google and searches for it they are probably looking for cooked food delivery and they land on my page and bounce off like a ball. On Facebook, they discovered my service, they visited my page read more about it, only if they were interested they clicked hence they spent more time there too. So be sure to use the right platform.
7. Have fun Cliché, but true, don’t do it if you’re not going to have fun. I work much more than i used to with my job, which also I loved by the way, but I enjoy myself tremendously. I look forward to creating beautiful meals every day and taking pictures, I love putting them up on instagram (which also I am learning now). The tasting sessions, mid-night cooking and all the designing of the recipe cards, everything is so exhausting and fun at the same time.
If I would have known all this, rather believed all this to be true, would I have done it? Of course, in a heartbeat! I have learnt so much, and continue to learn every day.
In my next post, I’ll write about what helped me to get the business published my multiple media houses like – The Straits Times, Tabla, Vulcan Post, Sassy Mama, Yahoo! Stay tuned.