09/05/2020

Good News Story: How a preserve maker is preserving her business

We spoke to Camilla Lywood founder of What A Pickle about her COVID-19 story and what steps she’s taken to be creative and reinvent her business.

How did the lockdown announcement affect you and your business?
The first major hurdle was the cancellation of our most important exhibition of the year The Farm Shop and Deli Show – a huge blow as this is where we touch base with the majority of our customers renew relationships and meet new ones.

Initially I was very worried for what the new restrictions would mean for my business, I develop all my products from my home where my office is based but all my production is outsourced to a company based 1 hour away. Luckily before lockdown was announced I had ordered a good level of all my stock – but I have to admit my main worry at that time was – how was I going to sell it? It looked as though many of my shops were closing their doors for the time being or moving to delivering essentials locally, my market looked like it had evaporated overnight.

What motivated you to take positive action?
My initial state of paralysis did not last for long, I have worked incredibly hard over the years on What A Pickle! It has seen me through some very difficult periods in my life and I quickly decided that this was my time to adapt and make my business relevant in the current situation.

A few fortunate things started to take shape about a week into lockdown. A distributor that I had been talking to before Christmas finalised a listing in 4 Shropshire based small supermarkets – perfect timing. Also I invested in a digital marketing campaign and this proved to be a very sensible decision and already my online sales are up by some very significant margin.

What support have you got from other chefs and suppliers?
I had worked in the main with independent retailers and whilst yes some were not operating -many still are and sales have picked up for us hugely over the last 10 days. We are also talking to many new operations that are bravely starting up, or adapting to the current situation. For example one of our newest customers is a Bar turned Deli and Grocery Store in Cardiff – Sobar on Whitchurch Road. They have dealt with this situation in such a positive way, instead of shutting up shop they have decided to provide something that all their locals want and need right now, when I initially spoken to Leuan he had just had had their most successful day trading ever! I have also started to supply a lovely local Pizza Trailer business, all of their shows for the immediate future had been cancelled so what have they done………set up the most brilliant pizza delivery service to a 10 mile radius of where they live on Fridays and Saturdays – they are are so busy – if you don’t get in with you order first thing on a Thursday morning you will miss out!

What are your hopes for your future?
I am extremely positive about the future, I am a great believer in bad and difficult times producing positive effects, you just have to make them happen. I have highlighted and addressed the areas that needed attention within my business and I am already seeing the positive effects coming to fruition. The extra time that I have gained from not running around the country has concentrated my mind to hone systems within my business for the better. My hopes for the future are to continue to develop these areas and to ensure that all avenues of sales potential are maximised to the full within reason.

Do you have a message to share with other women in the food industry?
Have a few strong words with yourself! Tell yourself that now is your time to shine. Make a list of everything that you know that you should be doing (we all know it deep down!) work out which bits you are doing well and work out how you are going to improve those areas that you have neglected. Then get on with it! If it means that you are burning the midnight oil a bit that is fine. Successful businesses are never grown between the hours 9-5! My favourite saying is from Eleanor Roosevelt  “A woman is like a tea bag; you never know how strong it is until it’s in hot water.”

Look out for more good news stories as we cover how women are doing good with food during the lockdown and beyond. Be the first to hear by signing up to our newsletter.

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