Management consultants Ed Caporn and Paddy Klein quit well-paid jobs to start a small business making premium ready meals. Here they chart their ups and downs in the six-month run-up to the launch of their range, which hit the shelves of Harvey Nichols, Partridges, Source Richmond, Le Pont de la Tour and Mortimer & Bennett last month.
We hand in our notice at work (Caporn worked for Accenture and Klein as a freelance, mostly in the IT and utilities sector). There are mixed reactions from our colleagues, but mainly well wishes. We meet brand consultants for insight into what a brand is all about.
We design a business model and decide to base our range on slow-cooked ready meals, with a logo of ‘slow food fast’. We set a target to launch in early 2005 with two ragù bolognese sauces.
We create web and e-mail addresses and decide to start with a virtual office. Next, we run a product test batch with a potential manufacturer. This drains our finances, but results are promising. We distribute small containers among friends and family. They like it.
We plump to name our company Klein Caporn and meet Adam Balon from Innocent Drinks, who is incredibly supportive and helpful.
We investigate packaging options and decide that PP (polypropylene) tubs seem ideal. We cook another test batch with two recipes and go door-knocking to independent London retailers with samples and marketing packs. We meet potential suppliers and customers in a quiet local pub.
Trying to secure a distributor proves harder than anticipated. We meet the RSPCA, which is keen for us to join the Freedom Food scheme and promises help with sourcing meat and PR. We decide to take it up on its offer.
We build up our PR database with listings. Next, we visit pig and cattle farms and come away impressed: the animals appear to be well cared for. We are feeling more comfortable with the RSPCA every day. We create a detailed plan to start production and decide on a go-live date of March 16. We also create a web site design. The Sudan 1 food crisis confirms that 'no artificial ingredients' is the right way to go.
We have two weeks to go before our launch date - and the label designs are not finished, the packaging has not been ordered, and distribution and sales have not been secured. Finally, good news: Partridges signs our first order! We are in business!