One of the reasons I started this business is the fun factor – and being able to share the journey as we go from starting up to goodness knows where is a bit part of that.
So after 1 month of us being up and running, I wanted to share what we’ve learned, a bit about our future plans and thought this would also be a good chance to respond to feedback from our first batch of boxes.
So What Have We Learned?
Starting a new business is always a challenge. And all the planning and preparation in the world, all the testing and the practice – nothing can truly get you ready for the real thing.
- Lesson #1: Websites Don’t Necessarily Make Your Life Easier
- Lesson #2: Packaging Matters
- Lesson #3: The Post Office Debacle
- Lesson #4: Keep It Simple Stupid
- Lesson #5: Communication Is Key
- Lesson #6: Customer Service Is King
- Lesson #7: Don’t Trust Metro Bank!
- The Initial Look Of The Box Was Disappointing
- I’d Like To Be Able To Purchase One-Off Boxes, Baking Kits And Gifts
- I Expected A Better Range Of Mixes
- Options For Allergies Or Food Intolerances
Lesson #1: Websites Don’t Necessarily Make Your Life Easier
After being up and running and well tested for a few weeks, our website decided to start playing up all by itself of course on the day we officially launched and started taking payments.
What’s worse is that when we contacted the affected customers, if they tried to log back into the website our security settings decided that someone was trying to hack into our site and blocked them out!
Lesson learned: Have back up options ready for if the worst should happen!
Lesson #2: Packaging Matters
This was an issue. While I have always enjoyed baking, and am pretty good with measuring out ingredients and stuff, I had no idea how everything should be packaged and presented.
I didn’t know about the kinds of bags, or the sizes or what would or wouldn’t look good, or about how everything should be labelled or bundled up.
I think the look of everything you receive is very important, especially as we’re trying to create a great all-round experience.
Presentation will change from month to month as we get better at it and also as your box will change each month.
Lesson learned: Presentation is important and adds to the experience. There is definite room for improvement.
Lesson #3: The Post Office Debacle
When we sent out our bigger boxes, Classic Bake Box, it took me 5 trips to the post office, holding up the queue each time and completely exhausting me to get them all posted.
Thankfully our smaller boxes could all go in one trip a few days later.
Going forward, we’re going to try to collect everything into one shipment, get a business account and get our boxes collected from HBB HQ.
I think because we’re still quite small on volume, we don’t get the benefit of couriers coming to collect from us so we’re just going to have to do the best we can until we grow big enough!
Lesson learned: Get proper and set up a business account so postage can be managed more easily!
Lesson #4: Keep It Simple Stupid
When we launched our marketing, we only had 1 box and the option of monthly or quarterly subscriptions. Then based on early feedback, we brought in a smaller box that was lower in price and also had a monthly or quarterly option.
So from a very simple choice, we ended up making it more complicated by giving more options.
So we’ve decided to keep it simple. From now on our website will only provide the option of the monthly subscription for both the classic and mini box.
We will still offer the quarterly option, but only to existing customers. It not only keeps it simple for our customers to buy, it gives us a chance to talk to all of you individually and directly and improve our service.
Lesson learned: Keep the options simple so that we don’t confuse our customers.
Lesson #5: Communication Is Key
Not much to say on this one as we didn’t really learn it. But put simply, communication is key. Pretty much to everything.
When someone had questions via Facebook or email, we responded as quickly as possible. When we had problems with our website, we worked around it and kept our customers up to date and did our best to make sure service wasn’t affected.
For those of you getting my emails, I hope you’re beginning to see a trend in the way I write and what I talk about. I believe in complete honesty, transparency and prompt communication.
I think that helps me build trust with you, helps you see the kind of people you’re dealing with and lets me provide a better level of service.
Lesson learned: Keep communication personal, clear, honest and friendly.
Lesson #6: Customer Service Is King
You can probably work out for yourself that a business like this relies on retaining customers for as long as possible, and new customers adding to growth, not plugging a hole.
The key to that I believe is providing excellent customer service. So it is my aim to provide a level of service that you might not experience elsewhere, and do my best to go above and beyond what you might expect.
I don’t think I’ve done badly in the chaos of our first month, but there is a huge amount of room for improvement and I hope between us being a bit more settled, a bit more experienced and working on our future plans, we’ll be able to provide the level that I’d like to very soon!
Lesson learned: Provide excellent customer service above and beyond what might be expected.
Lesson #7: Don’t Trust Metro Bank!
I like to think my business model is pretty simple and pretty low risk, so I thought setting up a business bank account would be easy enough. It turns out that it is a much more complicated and drawn out process than I expected.
And the main culprits in this saga are Metro Bank.
I’ll be honest, my local branch has a couple of members of staff who, to put it politely, it actually worries me that they’re in charge of people’s money for a living!
Anyway I went in there to get a business account set up. After sitting down and talking through my business for the best part of an hour – and repeating the same information at least 4 times – I got phone calls over the next 4 days asking the same questions again, and again, and again.
Then the application went to their head office, and then I had a phone call yesterday, asking for….the same information….again. They said they needed more information but asked the same questions.
Given how inept the whole process seems to be (I managed to get a business bank account set up in all of 48 hours with another, clearly much more professional bank), and the fact that they don’t even seem to know themselves what information they need, I probably dodged a bullet on this one, so maybe I shouldn’t complain too much!
Lesson learned: My local Metro Bank absolutely sucks for business.
The Future Of This Business
These monthly boxes are the main component of what I want this business to be about but there are a lot more things we’d like to extend to including:
- Video content and tutorials
- Special one-off baking kits and gift boxes
- Being able to purchase extra supplies
- Digital downloads
- Reviews of products
- Finding great deals and discounts for our user base
I have a clear vision in my head but it is hard to put into words for now, and probably isn’t wise to do so anyway just in case I can’t deliver on everything that we promise!
We’re going to take it slow, one step at a time, improve by at least 1% every single day and in the end who knows how far we can go!
Feedback From This Month
I had sent out a quick survey to our customers asking for feedback and thought this is a great opportunity to respond to it.
So here goes:
The Initial Look Of The Box Was Disappointing
I agree. I had a vision in my head and I don’t think we were quite there with it. But I think that will come with a bit more practice and experience.
We want to use boxes with our branding on the outside, but it was prohibitively expensive to get custom boxes printed for our small volume. So we’re seeing what we can do to give the box a better appearance overall and give it a bit more ‘wow’ factor!
I’d Like To Be Able To Purchase One-Off Boxes, Baking Kits And Gifts
It’s definitely in our future plans, but with the techie problems we’ve had and with just starting up, we wanted to focus entirely on getting our launch right before we start expanding.
I’m getting a bit of extra help which will make it possible for us to expand into these extras though, sooner than we first expected.
I Expected A Better Range Of Mixes
I can understand this point. A lot of our marketing materials were focussed on providing 2 or 3 baking mixes to try out and this month we provided 3 flavours of one thing.
Part of the reason was that because it is quite technical, we thought it would be better to focus solely on it as the theme for this month. Plus it gave us a good opportunity to send out a variety of flavour combinations to try out which you hopefully haven’t experienced or worked with before.
But going forward, we’re not going to do the same thing again. We’ll make sure we have a full range every month for you to be able to enjoy.
Options For Allergies Or Food Intolerances
I’ve love to be able to cater to every single food allergen or intolerance, but with the manpower and resources we currently have it’s just not possible – even just the risk of cross-contamination is too high!
However, subject to getting some additional help, it looks like we’ll be able to offer gluten-free and dairy-free (and vegan-friendly) boxes sooner than I expected. So stay tuned!
So On The Whole….
I’d say it was a successful month and a pretty good launch. Yes, we’ve had some issues and yes, we’ve had to wing it and learn on the fly in a lot of areas.
But the foundations are laid and we’re on the path to hopefully creating something truly special.
Thank you all for your support in our early days and hopefully we can continue to meet your expectations!