When people ask me where they can buy Quoats I’m so happy they want to buy our lovely porridge pots I want to jump for joy. I don’t, just in case they’re under the illusion people who start their own business have any sanity left, but also because this is a tricky one to answer. I would love to be able to say just pop into your local deli / farm shop (for the more organised amongst you) or grab one in the coffee shop / on the train / in the gym (for those more like me). However, like most things with starting a business, there’s more to it than meets the eye…..
When we started Quoats the first thing we needed was shops who wanted to sell it so back in June we headed to the Fine Food Fair in Harrogate, which is a trade show with buyers from lots of different outlets. At this stage we hadn’t actually got any Quoats (!) so we mocked up some pots and filled them with stones (so they couldn’t blow away), and made up some samples by hand. When we arrived the first thing we realised was that some people are very, very good at this sort of thing. The Willy Chase stand looked like something out of Country Living magazine whereas we, needless to say, did not! After some quick thinking we headed home, borrowed Rob’s Mum’s flowerpots and dug up some oats to put in them. Once we’d convinced the lady on the door we hadn’t stolen the oats but were genuine farmers, we managed to bring the stand to life and create a talking point without spilling too many all over the floor.
One great thing about Harrogate Fine Food Fair is the “Feed The Dragon” feature – this is a little like dragons den, but you pitch your food product to top food buyers. We were excited to be chosen to do this, though the apprehension built just before we went on – we had never pitched Quoats to anyone before, never mind to buyers from Booths, Selfridges and Fodder in front of an audience! My main fear was that they would ask us a question we simply wouldn’t know the answer to (not unlikely given our lack of experience in food retail) but some combination of preparation and luck (I’d like to tell you it was the former, in reality it was probably the latter) got us through fairly smoothly. This ending up being proof of the adage “do something that scares you every day” because as well as raising our profile we got our first buyer – thanks so much to the wonderful Fodder!
Finding shops to sell Quoats requires a lot of patience and persistence but even then there is a missing piece of the chain – distributors. Though some people are happy to deal with us directly, many of the shops you buy things from don’t deal directly with the producer, because they want to streamline things by making one order and getting one delivery for all their goods. Step in distributors – companies who are the link between small producers such as us and shops and delis around the country. We’ve launched in our first nationwide distributor, which is a huge step forwards – thanks Hider!
The next step for us is to target specific areas we think Quoats would fit well in – for example train stations and on trains. This needs balancing with my temptation to sell Quoats wherever I see an opportunity, which tends to lead to mixed results. We’re thrilled to be talking to a lady about to open up a café in a London train station, however when I went into a café in a local Northern train station this weekend, the owner said “people just want bacon and eggs in the morning here love”. Some you win, some you lose!
PS – until we do nail the whole train / coffee shop / gym thing, you can make my day/week/month by buying online here: www.quoats.co.uk/shop