The founder who turned memories of his gran's apple sauce into a business

The founder who turned memories of his gran's apple sauce into a business
Tim McDonoughThe New England Apple Sauce Company Limited

Posted: Thu 2nd Dec 2021

Tim McDonough is the founder of The New England Apple Sauce Company. Originally from the US, it was reminiscing about his grandmother’s apple sauce recipe that inspired him to start his business.

To get help in launching his new venture Tim joined a Bootcamp for food and drink businesses through the Amazon Small Business Accelerator. As a result, he will soon be selling his products on Amazon’s online store.

Tim shares his story.

The free Amazon Small Business Accelerator e-learning programme is advice from more than 30 business experts in over 200 bitesize videos.

If you’re already an Enterprise Nation member, log in to your learning dashboard. If you’re not an Enterprise Nation member, you can join the Amazon Small Business Accelerator for free here.

How did you come up with your business idea?

“Growing up in north eastern United States I fondly remember walking home from school on crisp, clear autumn days. The trees brimming in vivid reds, yellows, oranges and greens. The sound of dry leaves crunching underfoot. Arriving home and being met at the door with the irresistible aroma of apples and cinnamon cooking away to make a wonderful, chunky apple sauce. Those memories remained vivid for many years.

“After settling in the UK and being unable to find apple sauce that matched what my grandmother could make, I decided to make my own.

“It was sampled by friends and family for years who loved it but their pronouncements of “you should sell this” went largely ignored. However, a couple years ago, I became acquainted with a local group that was largely comprised of small business owners. With their encouragement and example, The New England Apple Sauce Company was born.”

What start-up challenges have you faced and how did you overcome them?

“The primary challenge for me has been bridging the gap between what I need to know and how to learn it. I looked for guidance that is both worthwhile and affordable.

“One of the first avenues that I pursued was a knowledge exchange with the local college business students. The benefits of this were two-fold. I had the opportunity to pitch my ideas to a group which allowed me to hone that pitch and the students were able to benefit from a real-world example of the factors involved in starting a business. One of the ideas that most profoundly affected the students was that you could start a business while working full time.

“COVID-19 seriously altered my start-up approach. My vision was to initially sell at farmers’ markets and food fairs to obtain valuable customer feedback while also not requiring any extensive capital layout. But with the prospect of not being able to launch my business for perhaps two years, I set out to establish it online.

“In mid-2020 I became aware of Enterprise Nation and jumped at the prospect of the help that was available. I took advantage of the Bootcamp for food and drinks businesses through the Amazon Small Business Accelerator.”

How did the Bootcamp benefit your business?

“Of the many wonderful speakers, the presentation by Claire Brumby had a profound effect on how I planned to move forward with my business.

“Claire did a presentation on scaling operations. One of my biggest concerns was what happens if sales grow too quickly. She was able to demonstrate the pros and cons of outsourcing the manufacturing process.

“Another of the areas where I got a lot of traction was in the introduction of new lines. She was able to demonstrate that at this stage of my business the addition of new lines is costly so it saved me from running away with all the fantastic product ideas I have when I would not be able to fulfil them.

“One point she stressed was the importance of having a robust inventory model. As a result of this, I have been able to predict with amazing accuracy when production is needed.

“She also stressed the importance of reaching out and getting the help you need.

“By far the most important thing I took away was when she asked us what we are passionate about. She asked if we were a manufacturer or an innovator. I came down on the side of innovator despite my long experience in the manufacturing industry. It made me realise my “joy” was in developing new customer experiences that delight and profit all.

“Experts from GS1 delivered a presentation on the importance of barcodes as your business scales up. Of particular use was the principle of beginning with the end in mind and how using legitimate barcodes from GS1 is like a passport for my product that can be used in any sales channel worldwide.

“To top it off they offered an introductory offer and all my products now have a valid GS1 barcode.

“This came in very handy when I approached my first re-seller as they are transitioning to a barcode system and I was able to reassure them that our products already had their “passport”.

“Finally, social media expert Katherine George from Oh So Savvy did an amazing presentation on the reasoning behind social media. She covered areas such as strategy and working out who your customer is. This led me to investigate who buys organic food and help me create a more focused marketing strategy.

“She also helped in highlighting what social media platforms to focus on. In my case it’s Instagram, Facebook and Twitter.”

The New England Apple Sauce Company

Which videos in the Amazon Small Business Accelerator e-learning programme have inspired you the most?

“The video on how to research your market helped me define my customers.

“I set out to discover the demographic for those who purchase organic food. I was able to find data from the government and several studies conducted by universities and focus groups. These allowed me to narrow my focus to a more detailed demographic for marketing purposes.

“I have developed a questionnaire to be used once a level of interest is achieved via social media and email engagement to further enhance this data.

“By watching the introduction to pricing with sales expert Paul Durrant, I learned the pitfalls of how pricing affects product performance and the vital need for profitability.

“I realised that I was undercharging for my product almost immediately due to lack of confidence. The video encourages you to look at three businesses that operate in a similar way to you and compare their prices. I did that and as a result, I set my price point slightly higher.

“The introduction to Instagram video with social media expert Lucy Hall is a step by guide to how to set up an effective business account on Instagram. This was invaluable to me as I had never used Instagram before. I went from 0 to 28 followers in a couple of weeks.”

Why did you decide to sell your products on Amazon’s online store and how to plan to sell them?

“The simple answer to why is access to millions of potential customers.

“My sales strategy is to list a limited number of my products initially to gauge results. As we marry our processes together, I will then include the complete product line.

“I will make use of Sponsored Products to boost product visibility. This seems to be the most cost-effective solution to increase business as it is pay-per-click.

“Initially, we will fulfil orders ourselves and as the channel grows, we will move to Fulfillment by Amazon.”

What are your plans for the future?

“My plan is to be financially independent by November 2022 and to be in a position to give up my full-time career as a production manager and become an apple sauce guru. I plan to do that by providing guilt free pleasure to those that care about their health and the planet we all share.”

Which other entrepreneurs inspire you and why?

“Ben Molyneux is the founder of The Oxfordshire Project which empowers, informs and inspires people in Oxfordshire to get involved in looking after their environment, building community and supporting the local High Street, independent businesses and charities.

“My relationship with Ben started under one of the project’s sister companies, Mahwe. Being around the people associated with both organisations led me to take the plunge to strike out on my own. Ben was an inspiration to me by offering advice and encouragement. He was a wealth of knowledge and was particularly helpful in influencing the direction that my products would take to provide that “unique” taste experience. For that, I owe Ben a debt of gratitude.

Ashley Cavers is one of the founders of The Wonky Food Company. I came across them in my research and really admired what they were doing. They take food that supermarkets deem unfit for sale and turn it into a delicious product.

“I have since had the opportunity to have a one-on-one mentoring session with Ashley where she imparted some very useful information on how to develop and grow my business. I continue to follow the company’s progress and I’m not ashamed to say “borrow” some of their ideas!”

What are your top tips for business success?

“My top tip is to start. The time never seems right but once you start you will find the help you need.

“They say experience is the best teacher, but I think the rest of that statement should be “as long as it’s someone else’s experience.” Help is available all around you, but you have to ask for it.

“Organisations like Enterprise Nation play an invaluable part in helping companies like mine get off the ground by taking someone else’s experience and avoiding the pitfalls they encountered.

"It is never too late to follow your dreams. I am a 56-year-old man with three children and one adorable granddaughter. If anyone had an excuse to not even try it is me. I have a very secure, well-paying career but if I am going to work hard, why not work hard for myself and my family?”

The free Amazon Small Business Accelerator e-learning programme is advice from more than 30 business experts in over 200 bitesize videos.

If you’re already an Enterprise Nation member, log in to your learning dashboard. If you’re not an Enterprise Nation member, you can join the Amazon Small Business Accelerator for free here.

Tim McDonoughThe New England Apple Sauce Company Limited

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