In a new section for SmallBusiness.co.uk, company owners tell us why they started out and how life is different to when they worked for someone else. In the first instalment, Kathereen Paterson talks about starting market trading business Dulce Kitchen in 2011.
I’m originally from Chile and I used to work in customer service for the national airline, but I fell in love with an Englishman and moved to the UK in 2001. When I arrived in the country I realised I wanted to pursue my passion of food in some way.
I trained as a pastry chef and found work for a catering company, where I stayed for three years. I worked my way up to be head of the pastry section and I enjoyed some freedom in my role, but after a while my working life got a bit repetitive. I missed the customer interaction I had in other jobs so I decided to use £3,000 of my savings to start my business in 2011, selling hand-made South American cakes on a market stall.
At the beginning it was very difficult. When I gave up my job in December 2010 I knew it would be hard to get my presence at the markets sorted. I entered the NMTF First Pitch competition for entrepreneurs taking their first steps as market traders, and was fortunate enough to win it. Following this, I managed to establish myself on a market in Pimlico, and people got to know me and my products.
A market is the best place to start a company. It’s not just the low overheads but you get to meet your customers and receive direct feedback. I try a new product every day and it’s a great way to develop a business because you find out exactly what your customers like and want.
I have to say it’s harder than I previously thought, harder than when you’re working for someone else. You are in control of everything, and you work 24/7. In my job you are buying, selling, promoting. Sometimes customers can be difficult to work with but if they see you love what you’re doing it makes it all easier.
It doesn’t stop on the weekends; when I am not selling my products I am working on the website, and making sure my Twitter and other online marketing is ticking over. There are so many facets to the company. You have to have good customer service skills to run a business, whether over the phone or in person. It makes a big difference to the attitude you project to your customers.
My products are not very expensive so I have to sell quite a lot [to make a good profit] but on top of the sales you have to be very tidy with your money, with costing. For me expanding would be trying to get a food establishment to stock my product. At the end of the day, I’m not going to be a millionaire but I will be able to be comfortable, follow my own rules and build my own future.