How Covid Impacted Us
When Covid-19 reared its head in early 2020, like many businesses, we had no idea what lay ahead for us. It definitely threw up some challenges but gave us some really great opportunities too and ended up kickstarting the next phase for the business.
What happened when Covid first hit!?!
Laura: When things initially started getting bad we were only really talking about whether we needed to close the business or stay open; there weren't really any conversations apart from that. We weren't sure what to do for the best, but decided it was right to stay open as food deliveries would be needed and we were confident we could carry on safely. Once lockdown was announced we started talking about what we needed to change in our offering, but then one evening, about 3-4 days into lockdown, my phone just started pinging with orders coming in. In the space of a few hours we had as many orders as we would normally expect in a few days. At first we thought it was a one-off, but it just continued at that rate and got busier and busier for the next 3 months!
How did you manage to cope with such a sudden increase in demand?
Laura: Looking back I'm actually not sure! We were working very long days and weekends to try and stay ahead of orders. We employed a couple of friends to work for us from the home kitchen and were frantically tweaking the website and changing processes every day to try and cope with the new volumes. Despite the relentless hours and extra hands we still couldn't keep up and our lead time kept getting longer, up to a point where customers had to order 10 days in advance.
What were some of the biggest challenges you faced?
Laura: There were plenty! To begin with we were still using Royal Mail so Adam was taking 50+ boxes to the Post Office each day and queuing half way down the road to get them in, shuffling 5-6 mail sacks 2 metres along the street every time the queue moved forward a place! Then around 100 parcels got lost in the space of a couple of weeks, which was obviously a Customer Service nightmare for us. Keeping people socially distanced in our home kitchen and wearing face masks in a hot kitchen when the weather was boiling outside too wasn't fun, but we realised it was a huge opportunity for us and there were many businesses not so fortunate so we had to keep going.
Was there a point when you felt like you were getting on top of things?
Laura: It was a constant struggle to stay on top of things for the first 3 months, basically until restrictions started easing in June 2020. Once restrictions began easing things actually started slowing down quite quickly and we were expecting to go back to just me and one other person towards the end of the year. When the next series of lockdowns came around November though everything sped up again even quicker than the first time and the cycle started again!
Were you better prepared second time around?
Laura: We were definitely better prepared and some of the changes we'd made during the first lockdown meant we could handle so many more orders than we did back in the summer. So even though we were better prepared we probably worked even harder as the volume we were dealing with was just so much bigger. We just thought that it was a real opportunity for us to grow the business that might not come along again, so felt we had to work as hard as we could to make the most of it.
Was it around this time that you moved into your unit?
Laura: Around Valentine's Day 2021 we decided that enough was enough and we needed to move out of the home kitchen. By that point the house had been completely taken over with stock, DPD crates and mess on a daily basis and there was just no separation between work and home. It was exciting to start looking for a unit, but very scary too as we were committing to some big costs and still didn't know what business we would be left with when things finally returned to normal. However, we felt we'd come far enough that we needed to give the business a chance to grow without the restraints of operating from home.
How have things changed since the move?
Laura: The timing of the move didn't turned out too well; almost at the same time we moved into the unit the lockdowns ended and online business fell off a cliff! We knew things would slow down as normality returned, but were a bit surprised at how far it fell so quickly! We definitely had a few sleepless nights over the next 3-4 months as we began to wonder if we'd made a mistake, but we started to focus a bit differently and quite quickly began re-shaping the business.
How did you re-shape things then?
Laura: We quickly realised that we couldn't rely on online business alone so starting putting our efforts into finding other business elsewhere. We have a few different angles now but have put a lot of effort into selling at events in particular. This has led to plenty more hard work with very early starts, long days and working weekends and we've had to invest a lot to be in a position to do them, but it helps compliment the rest of our business and we need to be doing them to make ends meet in the short-term.
What's coming in 2022?
Laura: The big thing for 2022 is going to be building on what we started last year in respect of events. There's a lot more hard work and investment needed for us to achieve what we want there, but we've already got some really exciting ones booked in and are hoping to add many more. In order to make that work we need to re-focus our efforts in some areas as we're in danger of trying to do too much all at once. The last 2 years have been exciting and challenging at the same time and 2022 probably won't be any different, but we're looking forward to it!
Hopefully (with everything crossed!) we're now getting back towards normality and learning to live with Covid. Reflecting back on the last 2 years, do you think the pandemic has helped the business overall?
Laura: Definitely. We like to think we were doing things right before Covid and the opportunities would have come at some point anyway, but without question it moved us forward far, far quicker than we could ever have hoped or expected. We realise we were very fortunate to be in one of the industries that fared well in the situation and we wouldn't be where we are now without it, but you can only try and make the most of opportunities that come your way, whatever shape they come in.