Telling the truth about SME life today

Why the internet was the secret ingredient for these British food startups

Rather than having to invest funds in renting or purchasing a retail space, websites provide a fast, efficient and cost effective way for entrepreneurs to create a space in which to promote and sell their products and services to a vast audience.

If you’re looking to set up a new ecommerce business, but not sure where to begin, we have spoken to successful ecommerce startups in order to get their advice. The startups below have shared their experiences below of setting up an ecommerce business, difficulties they have faced, as well as their approach to customers.

First up we have insights from Adam Sopher, the co-founder and director of Joe & Seph’s. Joe & Sephs produce and sell gourmet air popped popcorn, coated in natural ingredients, online.

What made you decide to start the business

My father Joseph cooked us popcorn as children when we were young. The flavours he created, such as Espresso popcorn, differed from the traditional flavours of popcorn (salt, sweet, toffee) available at that time. He also cooked the corn differently, choosing to air pop over frying and only using natural ingredients for the flavouring.

In 2010 we decided to take the plunge and my mum, dad and I took his popcorn to the Food Show at the Olympia in London. Before we went, we made the decision that if it went well we would continue the business, but if not we would stop there. Thankfully it was a huge success and after six months we were selling our products in Selfridges and had created a website.

What has been the biggest challenge you’ve faced

There were no other gourmet popcorn products on the market when we started. Although that sounds like we had no competition, the main problem we faced was convincing people to try our product. The first two years were challenging. But we persevered and enlisted the help of foodie bloggers and journalists to taste our popcorn and write about it. Word of mouth has been our greatest sales tactic.

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What do you do differently for your customers

There are a few things we do differently for our customers. When it comes to our product, our popcorn is air popped and made from natural ingredients (making it both healthy and tasty) and we offer a wide selection of flavours to cater for differing tastes. To date we have won 15 Gold Great Taste Awards.

In terms of customer service on the website, we pride ourselves in responding to every customer query within 24 hours. We are a small team but we are prepared to work longer hours to ensure that all questions are answered and any problems that may arise are resolved.

What advice do you have for entrepreneurs looking to start an ecommerce startup

First of all, do it! An ecommerce startup can launch without having to spend that much money. If done creatively, you can launch cheaply. If you want to extend your brands reach and awareness, sell your products on your website but also think about selling them elsewhere on the web, such as via Amazon. This way you can sell to the customers who are looking for your product online but who may not be aware of your brand.

Continue onto the next page to hear from female entrepreneur Pauline Quigley, who launched baked goods business Cake-Cetera using the web.


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