We did a tasting a couple of weeks ago at a lovely Yorkshire farm shop, and when we explained Quoats to an elderly gentleman, he said “Whatever next?”. This is a pretty accurate way of summing up what it’s like to run a startup, so I thought I’d share a little more of what Rob and I get up to behind the scenes!
When we started Quoats a friend said having your own business is a roller coaster – some days you’re on top of the world and some days, well, you’re not. I saw a great little video by Fodder on small business Saturday which said that whenever you buy something from a small business someone does a little dance. This is 100% true. Whenever I get a notification on my phone that someone has ordered Quoats it genuinely makes my day. These brilliant people are normally our friends and family – I was ecstatic when we got our first order from someone I didn’t know!
The low points are the days when everything is frustrating and you don’t seem to be able to move forwards. The first time we really experienced this was deciding on a shelf life for our first batch. We were advised that Quoats needed to be in the final packaging to do testing before we could decide on a shelf life. That made sense until I realised that for it to be made in the final packaging it needed to have a shelf life put on it!
Starting our own business is by far and away the steepest learning curve I’ve ever been on. All those functions in your company where you never know what they actually do? Well we know, because we’re doing them. Some of them are great (research and development), some of them not so much (EU regulations on labelling). I’ve learnt about everything from microbiology to how to put an offer code on our online shop to how to write a blog (thanks for reading Mum!). I’ve also learnt to have a thicker skin – some people simply don’t like porridge. I now know that’s ok, some people don’t like chocolate but it still seems to be a thing.
By far and away the best part of running our own business is the people – people are so generous with their time and knowledge, it really is incredible. We also have a super supportive family and group of friends who are always helping us in myriad ways. These vary from Rob’s mum helping us move 900 boxes of Quoats by hand, to the talented Maddy, who by some miracle made Rob and I look vaguely normal in our photos, to my friend at whose baby shower we played the porridge tasting game (thanks Tessa!).
Starting a business is hugely rewarding but incredibly hard work. Last Sunday afternoon I sat in front of a spreadsheet trying to estimate how many people bought a pot of porridge on a train on their morning commute – I’m reckoning 150 per train line (let me know if you have a better guess). To anyone thinking of starting a business I’d say just do it – get loads of advice, then jump right in. You’ll learn lots, have great fun and meet some amazing people. My current favourite is the wonderful lady at our tasting who said, “to be honest, I’ve just come for the cake”.