Ep 4 Meet the Business - Bit Spicy
Henry: Hello everybody and welcome to Meet The Business. I am your host I’m Henry Stephens everybody how'd you do, and joining me today is Elizabeth from Bit Spicy Elizabeth how are you?
Elizabeth: Very well thank you Henry.
Henry: Thank you so much for joining us today.
Elizabeth: Not at all.
Henry: So Liz let's start off this interview what sparks the idea to begin your company?
Elizabeth: Well my husband and I were always cooking well, he was cooking the curries. We were always eating spicy food. He grew up in Singapore and it just never seemed to quite right. The curries were different. Every time he cooked them, we just decided to be a bit more organized about the whole thing. Start measuring ingredients and then we just thought, let's actually start a business. We do this better than anybody else.
Henry: So you saw an open area in the market I imagine. Tell me, what was that opening and how did you sort of exploit it to become the awesome company that is Bit Spicy.
Elizabeth: Well you get a lot of ground spices I mean, obviously you've got the big names like Char Woods and Pataki. Things like that there are a lot out there. Spices for Madras and Korma and things like that but you just basically don't get any southeast Asian spices at all. Spice blends and because Andrew grew up in Singapore, and those were the ones that he was always trying to cook that's where we saw an opening in the market for really unusual spices.
Henry: How did you come up with the name of your company?
Elizabeth: We were sitting in a meeting. We got some friends along we had the guy that was actually doing our website at the time we've subsequently had a newer more up-to-date website. We were just sitting around talking about names and there's an awful lot of spicy names that somebody else has already taken spice for example, spice kitchen, go spice, there are lots of spice names. We were just talking about how we could just make ourselves stand out and somebody just said, what about we know everybody goes oh that's a bit spicy and we thought yeah that's a really good name for a company because, literally we say it ourselves oh that is a bit spicy. Then my mother said, oh it sounds a bit like a lingerie company and we thought we've got to go for that name.
Henry: So in discussing imagery and company identity how did you start off sort of doing that? Was it like a natural progression moving from one thing to the other or was it going starting something then actually realizing you know this is better moving forward how did that sort of evolve.
Elizabeth: Well I have to say everything we've done has been very organic. We started off by needing a logo so we found we like the shape of a habanero. That's what we went for and then we stuck it on its side and I said look it's a bit spicy why don't we take a bite out of it. Then there was a big chat about apple and the bike taken out of an apple and we thought well if they want to sue us fantastic, it's going to be great publicity obviously they never have sadly. That's where the bit spicy logo came from and everything else that we've done has sort of evolved from there really so our packaging has gone through about four different stages. In the last six years I would say and all the other design around it as well.
Henry: So how did you create the identity of your company?
Elizabeth: We didn't really go about trying to create an identity. We just had our spice blends and we had our logo and our name and we'd go to a lot of events and people would come up and say oh, I love your packaging, I love your logo, I love the name of your company and then they would just sort of buy spices. So that was the main way we used to promote the company was actually just going to events and letting people taste the product so everything has been extremely sort of organic and you know just that's how everything's progressed.
Henry: When starting a company, and it came to such pay things as like legal fees and issues like that, how did that sort roll out for you and how did you sort of go through that process?
Elizabeth: Well we didn't have any legal fees. We literally just set the company up. I mean my husband and I were both qualified accountants so nothing phases us in that respect and we knew that you can just set up a company literally by going online and paying £50 and you've got a company. You get us articles of association, you get the company number, you get everything like that we also knew we had to register for VAT and things like that early on so that because we're selling a food product an ingredient there's no VAT on sales. There are obviously going to be there's going to be VAT on purchases so we didn't actually need any legal advice at all and we've been always been able to do the accountancy side of things ourselves.
Henry: So when it comes to the modern day market, did you want more of a digital presence first or a more real-life presence first when it came to advertising the company?
Elizabeth: Well first of all, the first thing we did we tried advertising in a couple of sort of local magazines and things like that but, the main marketing exercise we did was starting to go to gift fairs and food fairs. Since then and especially this year, which has obviously just been a nightmare for most people we've relied heavily on the digital market marketing side of things. We've actually got somebody on our team now who is doing most of our Instagram posts. We still do stuff ourselves but we've got somebody sort of coordinating our social media for us now and that that is having a big impact on online sales because obviously this year we're only doing online sales. Normally we would go to events but, they've all been cancelled so it's made a real difference to us initially starting off. I think we did spend quite a lot of money on sort of paper sales as it were advertising but it actually didn't bring anything in. You've really got to spend a lot of money on that and digital sales for a small company like ours actually works much better because people are interested in the people and the product far more.
Henry: So how did your customers find you and how do you become aware yourself of what your clientele was?
Elizabeth: Well we used to go to events so in the in the early days and we're going back sort of six or seven years we had very few online sales. We did set the business up to be an online business, it's like packaging it's very easy to send out so that was always the raison d'etre of the company. Then we very rapidly realized that if we went to events for the first event we went to was a local Christmas market we did fantastically well. We would like the new kids on the blog everybody wanted to buy our stuff it was great. Through doing that people then came and bought online gave it to as gifts other people came and bought online and that's still probably the best way that we have of promoting our business sadly not this year though.
Henry: Obviously your marketing goes on digital now and how much would go on Physical Marketing?
Elizabeth: All digital. I mean especially this year. We're not going to any events so they would we would spend a lot of money doing events but this year we haven't done anything like that they've all been cancelled.
Henry: So when it comes to obviously marketing your company starting up marketing could you give our viewers any advice or any tips you've got on the way or anything you'd like to pass on to anyone who's starting up?
Elizabeth: I think you do need to set up all the things that sound a bit tedious to begin with like twitter and Instagram and a business Facebook page. They actually do work, twitter less so for us as a business. Facebook and Instagram definitely work. You will get bombarded at the beginning by people trying to get you to do their Christmas page of stocking fillers and wholesale food magazines. Things like that it actually just doesn't work because, the people reading those things may come and buy separately online and things like that but it just it just made absolutely no difference to us whatsoever. In the early days it was a complete waste of time effort and money so that so what has made a difference is the Instagram and the Facebook side of things definitely it's much easier to engage with people if you're doing that and engaging when you're a small business is what you need to do.
Henry: So earlier on, you just talked about events that you went to and go to. Would there be any you recommend people go to?
Elizabeth: Well it depends what they're selling but for the food businesses we've got a couple of local food festivals which are fantastic for us. In Kent and there have been some others lucky enough to get into you elsewhere in the country. People can be a bit sort of not parochial but they like to support local businesses which is absolutely what you want so it's quite hard to get into ones around the country and then there are some various gift fairs that are always quite good. I mean the most expensive ones we don't do anymore because you pay an awful lot of money um and you know our products are four pounds a packet you know it's a lot we're not selling something ridiculously expensive so we have to sell an awful lot of something to cover some of the pitch fees for some of the really big fares. I think anybody's starting out they just need to look around not necessarily farmers markets but look and see what local events sort of high-end gift fares in their local environment so for example you're are you in Richmond? yeah we're in Richmond north Yorkshire yes. So for example Harrogate and York both do great gift fairs we've done several up there.
Henry: So looking back from the beginning of your company up to now can you tell um everyone about maybe some of the sort of trials and tribulations that has you know gone in the history of your company and how you've overcome them.
Elizabeth: It's really just been trying to boost our sales. That's been the main problem. We did have somebody at the beginning who charged us a lot of money for marketing just for a couple of months and we realized that he literally wasn't doing anything he'd just taken on an extra member of staff that we were paying for without actually providing us with any backup at all. That wasn't terribly nice I have to say that it got slightly unfriendly I think that was the only thing really to be perfectly honest it's just been a case of you know tweaking the packaging um and finding events to go to.
Henry: So with many other sort of you know spice companies out there um what do you do sort of in a sense what do you how do you fight to stand out from them to get your names um said above all of them?
Elizabeth: There aren't very many who actually do the sort of events that we do and do the breath of spices that we do so we do come across a few there's somebody based in Yorkshire. I don't want to name but, they just do what we would consider to be the absolute book standard restaurant curries so Tikka that everybody has in a curry house. We do a madras which is actually our online one of our best sellers just because it's such good quality compared to most dresses you would get. That's why we never we know we would never go to event and think oh there's somebody else selling spices oh dear we're really going to struggle we go along to the event and think oh dear we're going to give them a really hard time because we're going to take all their customers so I have to say that's the approach that we've always taken because we just know because we make the spices ourselves we're not importing them we're using whole spices that we grind we just know that our spices are just a much better quality than anybody else's most people don't do what we do
Henry: From SCAYL Elizabeth you got a Phil 300 machine from us and I’d like to ask you how has it helped your company?
Elizabeth: In terms of you know getting product out time have you felt it's really been a good return of investment for you, it has been an excellent return on investment it hasn't helped the company grow but it has made life so much easier for us and this year if covid hadn't happened this year we were thinking about buying another one. Just so that we could have two working side by side the only problem with the machine that we have we went for that one because it has the very detailed measurements on it. We need to get down to the percentage of a gram we can't go for something that's you know within five grams because our packets are all 30 to 40 grams. We need the really light weight so it doesn't have such a big hopper on it for example um that that's the only that's the only disadvantage really uh we looked at your ceiling machine um earlier in the year but not quite sure that that's quite right for us um but what so what the packaging machine has done is just literally take the weight off our feet we can sit down and do it we can just get through so much more in the quantity of packing the spices than we could before
Henry: Well Elizabeth, that is the end I just want to say thank you so much for um letting us talk to you and thank you so much for your answers it's a pleasure thank you.
Elizabeth: Thank you very much.
Henry: If you'd like to hear more don' t forget to check out Bit Spicey as well but for the meantime I’m Henry Stephens and this is SCAYL Meet the Business, goodbye.