Name of Business: Winona’s Fresh Organic
Tell us about your family: My husband (business partner and high school sweetheart) Adam moved to East Finchley from Berkeley California in 2003. He’s an Animation Director in film. I am a Pilates teacher, with a background in midwifery, and am most importantly, a mom of 3 fantastic kids (ages 16, 14 and 11)!
When did you launch?
We started mixing dough our of our home kitchen in January 2005, for sales at the local Alexandra Palace Farmer’s Market. We launched our premier line of Twisted Oats & Raisins cookie dough in select Waitrose stores in November 2007.
How did you go about getting started?
I grew up in a baking house and I always made hand made (literally) cookies for my kids. When we moved here from California my husband Adam got me a Kitchenaid mixer for Christmas and from there I was mixing up so much dough I started giving it to friends to bake up…. An idea was born!
What were the particular issues in setting up an organic food business?
It was fairly simple to meet the requirements of Haringey Food Safety and the Soil Association in my home kitchen…. a few systems
documented and in place, an extra sink in the kitchen and we were good to go! The people at the Soil Association were very supportive
of my small enterprise and offered much advice about the setup and helped me source quality organic ingredients from good suppliers.
What has worked well about your business?
We have a unique product and a very unique branding which has brought lots of attention our way. We make a quality product with an ethos of
being good for the earth and good for the soul. It is our full intention to spread joy.
Our staff make a fantastic team, who are as committed to the quality and the brand as I was when producing from my home.
How have you got your products stocked in stores and supermarkets?
We did our first trade show in April 2007 and a broker for the major multiple supermarkets approached us there about our products. To
supply Waitrose we had to move into new premises, and retrofit an old recording studio space in The Chocolate Factory 2 in Wood Green
to very high hygienic standards. I had to train in HACCP, putting major quality systems in place and detailing every aspect of my
business from intake to dispatch in (sometimes) grueling detail. We also had to repackage the entire line to meet new standards.
What has been your biggest challenge so far? How have you dealt with it?
Becoming an established and trusted brand on the supermarket shelf. So much of our success comes when people taste our products and this
is hard to achieve just being a new product on shelf (that’s why the farmer’s market was such a good venue for us!). We are working on
getting more and more PR coverage so the brand becomes more familiar to the public.
Being a small producer who is playing in the big world of supermarkets is difficult. We haven’t had the funds for big marketing campaigns
and to offer lots of promotions- which is the most effective way to “drive trial” of a new food product on the shelf. We’re still
figuring out how to deal with this issue! Perseverance is key!
How do you fit in work with the family?
Parenting skills and small business skills go hand-in hand: planning, efficiency, time and money management, the ability to respond to
unknowns and surprises, highs and lows, multi-tasking…
The skills I gained being a stay-at-home mom for 15 years have made being an entrepreneur, not easy, but more do-able. And in the end
business is very much like parenting, you can’t be ready for something that is so unknown to you (though you can be willing to give it a go),
it’s always bigger than anticipated, and you keep on keeping on because you’ve made the commitment, you’re in for the long haul, and
you love it (and them!) It’s a venture of the heart.
On a practical note: I’m lucky that my children are old enough to be quite self-sufficient; I couldn’t have done this when they were too much younger. I found premises that were near my home and their school, so work fits in with my life (this was a must!) The kids are helpful with the business and
really understand that’s it’s a family effort that’s going to make it all pay off, they’re not afraid to jump in and lend a hand when I
really need it- this has made all the difference in my ability to launch the business.
Though the production is in Wood Green, I run the office out of my home so that I can be around in the afternoons when the kids are home
from school. In an attempt to keep some balance, I try not to work on Saturdays (though sometimes that’s a dream…)
The hardest thing is having the energy and where-with-all to cook dinner for my family every night (which I miss), we’re getting a lot
more takeaways lately!
What advice would you give to someone else wanting to start a food business?
Take it slow. Plan, get good advisors and re-think your plan. Start small and really get established before taking on anything huge (walk
before you can run). Build good personal relationships with all your suppliers (raw material, packaging and equipment) so that they have a
vested interest in helping you along your path. Make sure you have something else going for yourself besides your business so you can
stay sane. And don’t ever forget to breathe!
Your website link. www.winonasorganic.com