Posted: Fri 5th Oct 2018
Paul Bellchambers, Enterprise Nation member and founder of The Late Chef, tells his business story. Paul joined Enterprise Nation through a partnership with the Oxfordshire Local Enterprise Partnership.
Describe your business in one sentence.
Unique artisan catering and event management for up to 250 people
How did you come up with your idea and turn it into an actual business?
I initially trained in 2003/2005 in order to achieve a City and Guilds diploma in professional catering.
I had been cooking since I was a teenager but chose a career in the IT industry. I enjoyed my career traveling Europe and the US as part of my roles with some of the major IT names.
I decided in 2008/9 that I had had enough and wanted to change my direction. I had been formulating a model of producing ready-made meals, fresh and frozen as the concept.
I tried this model for a year. It worked but the challenge was making enough product and managing the unsold product, plus clients were asking if I catered for events etc.
At this point, I reevaluated the business model and changed the emphasis to catering whilst still selling at markets. The marketing I did with local radio, food festivals and other events helped promote the brand and I began to get traction in both the business and private client world. This along with other activities has continued to generate growing revenues and business each year.
What start-up challenges have you faced and how have you overcome them?
Initially finding people to help with events was tricky but I was able to build a network of contacts and also utilise agencies when needed.
Deciding on how to design and implement the website and building it was done in-house, me. I have changed it several times and the platform it runs on.
This consumes a lot of time and I have intended to get a third party in to take it on but the cost of doing this seems extremely expensive and for my time vs the cost, I am not prepared to relinquish the role of webmaster.
What has been your biggest achievement with your business so far?
There are a few that I am proud of.
Creating my professional kitchen and getting a top score of five from Environmental Health the last three inspections.
Being selected for Small Business Saturday to visit 10 Downing Street.
My initial PR and marketing that generated press coverage across Oxfordshire and lead to me broadcasting on BBC local radio for three years in a monthly food spot.
Securing several business clients who I have delivered events for over five to six years.
Founding and running the Wallingford Food Festival for five years and winning three Tourism Awards!
What is your next big business goal?
To generate an online revenue stream through my website. It will be about food but not selling food from the website.
What do you think will be your biggest challenge getting there?
Building the awareness (marketing) the products and ensuring a good stream of interest across the social media platforms, local media and other channels.
Building the right pricing structure.
Funding. Can I crowdsource the project?
How has Enterprise Nation helped your business?
In three important ways:
By introducing me to other local businesses
Adding to my knowledge through the courses I have attended
Helping with awareness and promotion through the OxLEP conference and other routes
Which other entrepreneur inspires you and why?
I love Richard Branson. He has a great attitude toward success and failure.
The others that amaze me are those who have built solid businesses on the internet and continue to challenge what can be done online.
Some of the chefs that are great in the kitchen but also in business also inspire me. One is Yottam Ottolenghi.
What are your three tips for business success based on your experiences so far?
Determination. Don't take no as an answer.
Plan and implement.
Seek out people who can help you succeed.
Anything else you would like to share?
Be prepared to get knocked. I have learned to accept that people may not want what I have to offer and in the early days took it to heart. Don't let this happen.
You will not please everyone and you sometimes need to be firm and say thanks but no thanks to some business. It's hard but it comes with the role of a business owner. Be tough, but be fair and you will gain more respect from your customers and non-customers.
One thing that we have developed from the beginning is to leave a kitchen cleaner than we found it. I still get clients commenting on how tidy their kitchen is when we leave. This is great to hear!
We're proud to have people like Paul as members of Enterprise Nation. Join Enterprise Nation today and become part of an amazing community of small business owners.