Posted: Mon 16th Nov 2020
Small food businesses are flourishing as the UK's interest in food develops and more people with a passion for food take the plunge and start their own enterprise. But what kind of food business do you want to be?
Food journalist and publisher Bruce McMichael covers every aspect of starting a home-based food business in his book, Cook Wrap Sell. But the starting point for any enterprise, he says, is to ask yourself: What's my niche?
Finding your niche
Do you want to be a cupcake-baker, bread-maker, food stylist or photographer? Do you want to write recipes, cater for weddings, create artisan produce or dream up international brands?
There are endless ways you can turn your passion for food into a business. Once you've identified your niche, ask yourself what skills, experience and interests in food you have, and what marketplace(s) does this lead to?
The right speciality, effectively occupied, will be profitable. And don't feel you have to run away from competitive markets or reinvent the wheel. It's OK to do things just slightly differently, maybe just more effectively, than others out there. What twists of your own can you add?
Here's a tip: Consider Fraser Doherty of Scotland's SuperJam business. As a fresh-faced 14-year old, Fraser used his grandmother's recipe and his mother's kitchen to enter the overcrowded jam market – standing out by making it healthy and fun. SuperJam is now selling all over the UK and building a strong export market.
The three Cs of the food business
There are three Cs that are key to every successful food business:
Offer food that you're familiar with and can produce at consistently high quality. You want clients who clean their plates and come back for more, and you want to be able to successfully serve them when they do.
Although you might be a great cook, you mustn't rest on your laurels. A successful food business will require you to challenge yourself and improve all the time.
You may also need to hire staff at some stage. This is one of the most difficult and important tasks of a small business owner. Great chefs produce great food. Be prepared to nurture them so you can handle other aspects of the business.
A focused concept is important. Specialising in a particular service helps potential clients quickly grasp what you offer. It also helps you direct your marketing efforts and build your reputation.
Think in terms of food sources, locations, events, meal types – all filtered through your own talents and interests – and potential combinations of these.
Here's an example of a gourmet catering/private chef business. They started with an interest in hog roasts. This led to the following notes as they worked up their business idea:
Experience: hog roasts
Locations: outdoor, BBQs
Ethnic variations: Southeast Asia, Italian, South American/Peruvian
Events: weddings, anniversaries, birthdays, funerals
Other possibilities: sandwiches for offices, cafes.
Once you've established your niche, the next step is to conduct market research to find out how viable your idea is.
We've got some market research tips on the Enterprise Nation blog, or you could buy Bruce's book for a comprehensive guide on planning and setting up your small food enterprise.