Rosie Ginday is the founder of Miss Macaroon, a Birmingham-based producer of French macaroons, and uses the profits she makes to provide training and jobs to unemployed young people. Here, she talks about her experience of setting up the business and the challenges she faced.
How did you come up with the idea and what were you doing before?
As it happens, Miss Macaroon isn’t the first small business I have set up and run. My passion for beautiful things stems from the time I spent at Leeds Metropolitan university studying for my fine art degree but after this I upped sticks and went to teach English in Tainan (the old capital of Taiwan) for a year and half. During my time there I noticed a gap in the market, particularly among the ex-pat community, for a community space serving healthy food. So, a friend and I pooled together our English teacher wages and opened up a pop-up vegan and vegetarian restaurant and art space called ‘Timbuc_tu’. We were really very popular but closed up shop when I decided to return home to the UK. I’d had the idea to start a community business providing work for unemployed young people in mind since I was 16 but ‘Timbuc_tu’ gave me the confidence to get something started on my own when I got back home and that’s how Miss Macaroon was born.
Procedurally, what were the steps you went through?
When starting up Miss Macaroon I was lucky enough to have the support of an amazing Birmingham-based agency called the Institute of Social Entrepreneurs (iSE). They were incredibly helpful when it came to things like filling out the forms for Companies House and helping me create the model articles required to set up a limited company. Despite us now being much further down the line, we remain good friends with the guys at iSE and they still help out with things like introducing us to potential new investors. I would recommend any fledgling social entrepreneurs in the West Midlands area get in touch with them ASAP!
How did you raise money?
I started Miss Macaroon in 2011 with just £500 of personal funds but having free access to the kitchens at University college Birmingham helped keep costs down in the early days. We had some grants of around £10,000 in year two, three and four to fund pilot training programmes and to move into our own kitchen premises. The company grew organically as we’re a cash-rich profitable business focussed on process improvements and efficiency, until March 2016 when we embarked upon our first round of investment.
We managed to raise £120,000 via a BCRS (loan) and Unltd’s Big Venture challenge (competition where they match fund the investment) to set up our Miss Macaroon shops. I was supported by my enabler at the Entrepreneurial Spark programme powered by NatWest to find the investment after the original deal fell through. It was a really stressful time and having that extra guidance really made a difference.
How did you go about marketing?
Being a social enterprise making a very specific product, we have an interesting story to tell and people ‘get it’. The thing we really want to be known for is producing the perfect Macaroons, and we have actually had help from the start to spread the word. Initially this came via the agency now known as Cucumber PR who did our start up PR free of charge which we won through the Business in the Community Dragon’s Den competition. This helped me understand the importance of PR and marketing and I am always on the lookout for ways to promote the business. We really value the support Cucumber PR gave us and we now have a commercial relationship.
Other than that, we were also active on social media from very early on. We love to show our fans and followers what we are up to via Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest and Instagram and we regularly consult them when deciding on new flavours or menu items. We have actually built up a really engaged following on social around our product, our social impact training for unemployed young people and me as an entrepreneur, which is awesome.
How did you grow your turnover?
We have grown our turnover by being very niche and focusing on product quality. We have one core product and we invest a huge amount of time striving to make it perfect. We have invested in equipment which has enabled us to optimise efficiency while keeping production cost (and therefore cost to the customer) low. One of our USPs is that we are the only macaroon-making company in the world that can Pantone-match colours. This has been a massive boost to our corporate line of business as customers ranging from Orange and EE to Ted Baker and Kerl Lagerfeld have jumped at the chance to purchase such premium, bespoke corporate gifts.
Most recently however, we opened our very first retail store – the Miss Macaroon prosecco and macaroon bar in Birmingham’s Great Western Arcade. This is already doing well and we have our sights on more outlets, starting with Leeds hopefully in the very near future – so there are some very exciting times ahead.
Any challenges/particularly interesting anecdotes you would like to share about the whole experience?
I recently appeared in the first episode of NatWest’s new digital lifestyle ‘Money Bite’ show alongside Angelica Bell and Gethin Jones, which was pretty crazy!
Filmed in a pop-up studio in my home town of Birmingham, the show looks at how NatWest supports its customers across a range of real-life situations. My section was all about what the bank does for entrepreneurs and small businesses across the UK through its Entrepreneurial Spark programme, the business accelerator for early-stage and growing ventures. I joined the programme in August 2015 and it has not only led to me gaining exposure through things like the ‘Money Bite’ and having a stand at the Conservative Party Conference as well as entering and winning various awards and accolades – they have also helped me realise more business minded goals such as opening my first retail store.
I guess what I am getting at here is that you need to know what support is available both in your area and at a national level and really make the most of the allies you make along the way. From the iSE to NatWest and everyone in between, I’m so grateful for everyone who has believed in us on this journey, helping us to scale up so rapidly and meet the next challenges that come along.
What advice would you give to others going into this sector?
If you have an inquisitive nature and the energy and drive it takes to start up your own business, I would definitely say go for it. However, when it comes to advice specifically relating to the food industry, my number one tip is to focus on making your product perfect. Test your product as much as you can with your actual audience and keep learning, improving, measuring and recording and just constantly strive for perfection.