7 Tips for budding entrepreneurs
Question: How do a pair of London city slickers launch themselves into the buzzing world of food and drink start-ups with a tremendously tasty cookie that's good for you?
Answer: A Whole(y) lot of Trial and error, and a strong dose of degged determination.
Our journey from London desk jobs to foodie start-up success began when we waved goodbye to the office grind to answer a question that had driven us bonkers: why can’t sweet snacks be good for us too?
We spent two years baking up a storm in our little London flat. And because this is a judgement-free zone, we’ll be totally honest: we met an awful lot of failures along the way. We won’t even mention some of the rejects that were cooked up, but spare a thought for our oven.
Then, one day we cracked it. Eureka! A vegan cookie recipe with the perfect balance of crunchy goodness, utterly delish flavours and a nutrition label that we could boast about.
Not to humblebrag, but we’re pretty proud of what we’ve achieved. And we’re all about sharing our start-up knowledge with other whizz-kid dreamers. These are some of the hard-earned nuggets of truth that we’ve picked up along the way…
1. Starting a business while starting a family –
it can be done!
From the outset, there was one major spanner in the works of our grand business plan. Not only were we ripping up the baking manual and starting from scratch, but we had also just learned some pretty life-changing news. Just six months after we brainstormed the idea of Wholey Moly, we found out we were having a baby.
We’ll be real: it was a scary time (props to all the other working parents out there). But as any entrepreneur knows, there’s never a good time to kick-start your business idea. You just have to dive in. How did we juggle being new parents with perfecting a revolutionary cookie? Dogged determination to the idea that we should all be able to feed our 3pm cravings with a tasty treat that’s full of hearty goodness.
We couldn’t let this dream fizzle out no matter what. And if nothing else, we decided that it would be a great story to tell our own little cookie monster when he grows up.
2. Find your work-life balance
Read our (virtual) lips: don’t sacrifice your social life for your business plan. If 2020 has taught us anything, it’s that taking all the fun bits out of life is… well, not fun.
So get organised and make your business work around your life, not the other way around. We set aside sleepy Sunday mornings with a cuppa and a piping hot bowl of porridge for planning out the rest of the week: meal plans, to-do lists, family activities, our social calendar – the lot!
Finding a work-life balance is tricky, so pssst... here’s a secret. We let ourselves have a few evenings a week for catching up on business, and plan a couple evenings that are totally work-free. That’s right, we schedule our fun. No shame here. Find your balance and you do you!
3. Set goals (even wild moonshot ones)
When we first came up with Wholey Moly, we scribbled out our wildest dreams for the business. Sure, they were probably unachievable, at least for the first few years, but it was something to aim for.
After two years, one of our wildest dreams of all came true. In July 2018, Selfridges became the first stockist of Wholey Moly cookies. And the success wasn’t short-lived; it was followed up by spots on the shelves of As Nature Intended and Sourced Market. Whoop, whoop!
To see something that we had created in our own humble kitchen, something we had spent long evenings and early mornings working towards, come to life was mind boggling. We’re still kinda gobsmacked.
We keep setting goals for our craziest fantasies. Up next? We want our cookies to be available across the nation. It’ll be a challenge for sure, but we have no doubts that we’ll make it happen.
4. Get inspired
We’ve all got heroes. Here at Wholey Moly, before we were even dreaming of our first cookie recipes, we were head over heels for the drinks brand Innocent. These brainboxes were truly ahead of their time, and they paved the way for all the rest of us fun, honest food companies – basically, we think they’re pretty cool.
Just like setting those out-of-this-world goals, finding your dream brands will keep the hunger in your belly. Lucky for you, there’s no shortage of awe-inspiring businesses out there today. If we’re in need of a little dose of inspo, we hit up social media. Instagram is overflowing with brilliant brands that are sure to get the creative cogs turning.
Find the one that hits you like a gut punch, and then figure out what it is that makes it tick.
5. Ask questions. Especially the dumb ones
Okay, don’t believe everything they say. There are definitely dumb questions. But don’t be afraid to ask them. You’ve got to know your business inside-out, and that means getting stuck in to all the deets. Don’t be shy if something comes up that you can’t get your noggin around.
You don’t have to be an expert from day one, but don’t be fooled by the sneaky imposter syndrome. Everyone’s a newbie at some point, so just grab as many experts as you can for brain fuel along the way.
Luckily, start-ups are a super friendly gang. To get some ground-level intel when we started our business, Meenesh became a "Brand Ambassador" for a food brand. It was a good gig, involving lots of product sampling (yum!), but as a 30-something accountant among students and interns, he felt a bit out of place.
Forget those uncomfortable feelings – it was a great lesson in how the food start-up world worked, and ultimately helped us reframe our expectations and plans for Wholey Moly. So get to know some businesses that are in the same boat as you, or a few steps ahead. They’ll be loaded with tips that could be lifesavers down the line.
6. Find your tribe
Starting a business is a tough gig. Whether it’s a shoulder to cry on or an ear to talk off, you need to find your people.
It might be other like-minded working mums and dads or specialist networks. Whoever ticks your boxes and can give you the support when you need it most is pretty cool in our book.
7. Stick to your guns
Don’t give in to your doubts. Even the most brilliant businesses have stacks of rejections (trust us!). Accept it, and keep on movin’. You’ve got this.
Wholey Moly team