Last February I was sitting in my office at home pulling together proposals for some really exciting consumer sampling projects for even more exciting, up and coming food and drink brands.
I had taken the plunge and started my own company at the beginning of 2019, word was starting to spread, and I had taken on a truly wonderful and experienced person to help me win business.
Then I got a phone call from my biggest client: “Caroline, I’m really sorry but the HQ in Sydney says they are cancelling all global events because of Coronavirus”. I remember sitting in my kitchen that night thinking how overly cautious that was, and how surely it wasn’t going to be a problem here in the UK. Yes, I know, how stupid that was in hindsight.
A week later all my proposals and leads were colder than a polar bear eating snow cones on an iceberg. My business looked fairly doomed. I mothballed everything I could, stripping out every possible cost to give me a chance of starting up again when things were able to open up post-pandemic.
I threw myself into homeschooling, like every other parent out there, and thought about the positives. I had never taken a career break, well that’s not true, I did try to once but it only lasted 3 days. I finally had time to be a Mum, pretend I liked tidying up after my feral children and keep on top of the washing.
What I learnt through that time was that my children loved having more of me, but frankly I was bored (shh, I didn’t say that out loud)….I need to have a project, I need to use my brain, and I absolutely loved running my own business.
So I asked for some expert advice from James Gentle at ActionCoach West Herts. I was expecting him to say: “food sampling & events? In a global pandemic? Yep, you’re doomed”. But he didn’t. He asked me a question that got my brain whirring. I love those kinds of questions, because they are the catalyst to creativity. He asked me: “you’ve always wanted to help brands get to consumers, and provide solutions to their problems. Well I reckon they’ve got problems now that you can help fix, how can you still do that without face to face sampling and events?”.
From that question the idea for Taste Treats was born.
Taste Treats is a monthly food festival in a box that is delivered directly to the doorsteps of foodies nationwide. Each month we select an exciting, surprise assortment of crackers and snacks, soups and sauces, sweets and treats, wine, deli and dips – handpicked from independent makers, artisan creators and up and coming brands – just like you’d find at a food festival. There is also inspiration in the form of recipes, tips & tricks, focus ingredients and the latest foodie new. Plus, links to buy your favourites and special discounts.
We conducted some consumer research with friends and family, and it went a little viral because everybody wanted to support us – an encouraging first sign. We found out that 90% of people were interested in discovering new food and drink products and couldn’t, and 73% were interested in receiving a monthly subscription box.
We held a ‘soft launch’ in December and learnt so much. Launching something new is not easy, and I think babies were less tiring – but it is addictive. Waiting for the ‘ping’ of a sale is like waiting for the phone to ring after a first date!
I am now preparing to send out our third box next week, themed ‘Love & Pancakes’. Brands are starting to call me asking to be involved, and bloggers are loving the idea and posting wonderful content. In January, we had Instagram stories and posts to over 300,000 followers – with the same planned for February!
And in March, our box is going to be celebrating wonderful brands and produce from The Chilterns. For £16.95 for a single box or from £14.40 if you subscribe (a saving of up to 15%), foodies can enjoy a selection of scrummy local delicacies. What are you waiting for?! Sign up at www.tastetreats.co.uk to ‘discover deliciousness’ right on your doorstep.
We have also now launched a small but perfectly formed gifting range which can be sent at any time of the month. They are perfect for a night in, or as a gift for those you are missing most. There is no better way to bring a smile to someone’s face than a surprise box of deliciousness.
Looking forward, I am really hopeful for the future of my business. We are building something new and exciting with Taste Treats, but there is scope beyond that. When live events start again, and they will, we can take Taste Treats and build it into what we were doing before. I’m not quite sure what that looks like yet, but that is half the fun – thinking it through and building the strategy.
And the best bit of all is that both my daughters have told me that they are proud of their Mum for not giving up, surely that’s a pretty important homeschooling lesson for them to learn.