Where It Began
We've spent a fair bit of time over the Christmas and New Year break looking forward to 2022 and starting to lay out our plans for the year ahead. This year is starting very differently to previous years (it being our first year with a dedicated unit and permanent team), so we've also had a little reflection on how things have changed over the last couple of years. We thought now was a good time to go back to where it all started and see what the journey has been like over the past 5 years!
How did The Homemade Brownie Company first come about?
Laura: I was looking to get back to more full-time work after the youngest of our two children had settled into school. As baking had been what I'd done on a part-time/hobby basis in recent years that was the natural place to start looking. Being gluten intolerant I was keen to create something that sat within the gluten-free space and as brownies were the thing I'd always got the most compliments on it seemed like a good fit to bring the 2 together.
Did you ever wonder if just doing brownies was too niche?
Laura: It was definitely something that Adam and I discussed. However, the intention was only to start out small so there was always the chance to move into other areas at a later date if we needed to. I'd always wanted to focus on doing one thing well rather than trying to take on too much, so concentrating on brownies allowed me the time and space to create the best products I could.
How did the name come about?
Laura: It was originally intended to be The Gluten Free Brownie Company and we even had the first drafts of our logo done using that name. However, we reflected and decided that we probably were going too niche at that point; effectively it was a niche within a niche! Whilst the gluten-free element was incredibly important I believed that I could produce a product as good as any containing gluten, so didn't want to restrict myself to only the gluten-free market.
How did you turn the idea into a reality?
Laura: We started the initial set up in 2016. Adam and I were doing bits in the evenings and at weekends. Like most things in life, this took far longer than we expected! Building a website as complete amateurs was tough enough, but there was even more work involved in getting the product offering right and ensuring we could deliver the product. We'd already decided we wanted to be able to sell nationally so spent a lot of time working out the ideal product size, how it should be packaged, who to send it with and how to price everything. We had to test all of this to death so sent out lots of trial packages!
When and how did you actually begin selling?
We eventually felt ready and switched the website on one evening in the run up to Christmas 2016. We launched a Facebook page at the same time and started trying to spread the word and share links with family, friends and previous cake customers wherever we could.
How long did it take for things to start happening?
Laura: I remember being so excited when I had an order flash up on my phone about an hour or two after putting the website live and shouting to Adam "We've got an order!!". It was actually my Dad being a good father and getting the ball rolling for us, but it was super exciting to see how it could work! In the early days we only had a small number of orders from family and friends, but then out of the blue we had a local cafe get in touch early in 2017. They'd tried my brownies through a friend and asked if I could supply their cafe. I met the lady for my first ever 'business meeting' and we've been supplying them ever since. I was so nervous about that meeting, but having somebody that knew their stuff wanting to sell my product gave me such a confidence boost!
What happened next?
Laura: We got some help from a marketing company in 2017 and they did a lot of SEO and Google Adwords work for us which allowed us to start getting some website orders from people other than family and friends. Adam and I also took our products to some more local cafes, coffee shops and restaurants and we were soon supplying 5-6 of them weekly. The numbers were very small but we had regular business every month, I was earning some money and doing something I enjoyed that I could fit around family life.
Things have obviously changed quite a lot since then. When did things step up again?
Laura: We continued growing slowly for the next couple of years as we weren't really pushing the business beyond what we had. Adam was working away each week and we were quite happy just running things as a lifestyle business. An opportunity then came up for Adam to drop down to 3 days per week in his other role, so we decided the time was right for him to spend the other 2 days on The Homemade Brownie Company and try and help me grow it. We'd seen the potential and felt we could now have a good shot at taking things further. We built a completely new website, invested in a new home kitchen, expanded our product range and took on some social media support over the next 6 months and things started to pick up quite nicely. It was still reasonably steady at that point though, but when Covid hit in 2020 things changed really quickly! That's definitely a whole story of its own though, so I'll save that for another day!
In next month's blog we'll talk through all the opportunities, challenges, highs and lows that Covid threw up for us in the next part of the journey!