It’s the dream of many niche producers to have their product stocked by large retailers – and with the current emphasis on local produce it’s entirely possible. Emma Jones found out how Clippy McKenna, founder of Clippy’s got her home-made preserves into supermarkets.
Starting in 2008 with produce from two apple trees in her back garden and a fascination for hairclips (hence the name!), Clippy McKenna has gone on to grow a highly successful conserve, relish, chutney and savoury herb jellies business with a little help from her fiancé Paul.
“When I told my fiancé that I wanted to create a food brand focused on injecting innovation and personality into traditional food categories – starting with British apple-based jams and chutneys – he advised me to put together a business plan and secure a high profile account,” Clippy recalls. “Once I had completed these tasks I persuaded him to give up his well-paid job to help me build the business!”
Clippy made her first sale at Ashton-under-Lyne farmers’ market. From there she secured deals with several farm shops and independent retailers, before winning a contract to supply all Harvey Nichols stores in the UK.
“In 2010 we approached Ocado with our products based on British apples and they became a customer. Then in 2011 we won deals nationally with Tesco, some Asda stores in the northwest, and E.H. Booths,” she says. “Finally, in 2012 we achieved a national account with Morrisons for a brand new product called marmachilli. We also export to China and the USA.”
A passion for apples
This has all been achieved by Clippy and Paul self-funding the business together, keeping overheads low as they grow the company. “We’re a small company with big ambitions and you have to play to your strengths to succeed in the retail environment,” she explains. “I’m an everyday mum, who happened to love apples enough to make a business from them; I firmly believe that this original passion has helped us to promote the Clippy’s brand.”
The company has recently taken part in a government-funded growth accelerator programme which has helped the business yet further. “Our coach on the programme was amazing – and a task master. He helped us think about how we could grow our business to supply the supermarkets. This had a profound effect on our business. Without the help of the programme, we wouldn’t be where we are today.”
Clippy and Paul are now working on a complementary range of products, launching in 2013. The new range will help raise consumer awareness of Clippy’s in other categories within the supermarkets. There are also plans to strengthen international expansion by working with export distributors.
“We’re always thinking and planning ahead… it’s what makes for a great business and a great partnership!”
Read more start-up stories in the StartUp Kit 2013
Richard’s story is taken from our newly updated StartUp Kit – the essential guide to starting and running a small business in 2013. It’s available from the Enterprise Nation shop as both an ebook and a print publication.
Photo credits: Paul James Gorman