I worked 7 days a week, delivering Sunday to Friday and doing a market stall on Saturdays outside Books for Cooks, just off Portobello Road. I grew up in a family surrounded by people who've created businesses and that helped enormously, as a child they inspired me and along the way have given great advice. My mum most recently set up Nurole, the first board-level hiring platform for both commercial and not-for-profit organisations. My uncle started Charles Tyrwhitt in 1986 and about eight years later my aunt founded The White Company.
My two brothers and parents have received a weekly sales report since I started. I also present an annual review and strategy to my brothers, friend Anthony, uncle and aunt each year. There are such highs and lows to starting a business and it's been critical for me to have the right support network, people who want potage to do well and aren't afraid to be completely honest.
Our branding and all our processes have slowly evolved as the business has grown. I built the first website, essentially a few static, badly laid out pages - our shop front for the first year and a half. Customers had to email or call to order, I recorded what we sold in excel and then typed out each order confirmation. If a customer didn't receive an email within 10 minutes they'd usually call thinking there was a fault with the system but it was because I was either in the kitchen or out delivering.
2012 original website & order confirmation email
In the spring I met Victoria, who at the time was studying fine art at City and Guilds and she came to intern over the summer holidays. She helped with deliveries, testing recipes and one afternoon offered to do a few illustrations. These are the drawings that you will see all over our website and packaging.
In the first year I closed potage for the whole of August. I was reluctant to take so much time off but I was exhausted and everyone around me encouraged it. Sales doubled when I got back on my bicycle in the autumn and after 15 months I could just about afford to hire someone. I went straight to Books for Cooks to ask Eric if he knew any chefs and it turned out his Head Chef, Clara was leaving and looking for something new in January. Clara started in 2014 and worked with me for two great years.
I was introduced to Al, our web developer in January 2014. I remember our first meeting and showing him these really fancy plans I had for a totally bespoke website. His honest advice was to start simple. The website he went on to build totally transformed our operations. Everything was suddenly automated; orders, order confirmation emails, sales reports, product pages, the list is endless. We are lucky enough to still work with Al, he’s a magician and the genius behind our website and app.
By the end of 2014 we had two chefs in the kitchen and two guys delivering on bikes and I decided to start looking for a kitchen we could move into. It took about 12 months to find one but an offer was finally accepted on a unit in Battersea and things started to move faster.
POTAGE | eat well together