Q+A with Nico’s Kitchen – Bristol catering company
4th Oct 2018
Every month (if not more often) we rely on the wonderful treats that come from Nico’s kitchen, a Bristol catering company launched in 2015. In between deliveries, we caught five minutes with Nico, to find out the secrets behind his business success and what it’s like running a corporate catering firm in Bristol.
What inspired you to start your business or get involved?
Lou and I met one another while working for another company, catering at festivals which was great but only provided us with seasonal work. We soon realised that we really enjoyed working together and that we were good at it! We then spent some time working in separate jobs for various different employers; but we couldn’t help feeling that we could do something together and really make it work. It would be a chance to offer ourselves a better way of living and an opportunity to spend more time with one another doing a job that we enjoyed. We were then put in contact with The Prince’s Trust and Lou did their Enterprise course which was a fantastic way to explore self-employed working. It gave us access to a fantastic range of resources and they supported us in making a great business plan. We also had the opportunity to work with an incredible business mentor who helped us for the first two years of business.
What do you think it takes to succeed as a startup in 2018?
I think you really have to be focussed on what is most important for you in business, but you also have to be flexible to adapt your business to make sure you are working in the best way for you and getting the perks of being self-employed. For us, an important aspect was having the time to be with each other and our children. We started our business and our family at the same time, so we have been able to balance the two quite well.
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Originally we were unsure of what type of catering business we would have. Did we want to offer street food? cater weddings? private functions? Or focus on corporate catering? Up until that point we had been doing all of these however recently we decided that we would not take any wedding bookings for next year to give us the space to grow the corporate side of our business. We love this aspect of our business even though we never intended the business to go this way. It allows us to follow a Monday-Friday work pattern which works well with our family dynamics and there is also a huge corporate market available in Bristol which we have only just scratched the surface.
What challenges did you face when starting your business?
I used to be terrified walking into office environments as they were such unfamiliar territory to me but I think when starting a business you really have to be willing to step out of your comfort zone in order to succeed. The companies we work with are all great and are always supporting us to get more work through other businesses.
What are the three biggest challenges facing the startup community?
In terms of catering companies, I think huge overheads are a massive issue at the moment. There have been so many amazing catering businesses that have closed their doors in Bristol in the last few years. I have no doubt that a huge factor in this is the rising business rates, increased staffing costs and the lack of disposable income. There is also a great deal of competition in Bristol in terms of catering, people really are spoilt for choice!
What are the most common mistakes you see startups make?
I think sometimes people don’t spend enough time planning before they set out. Many businesses don’t have a business plan which is a shame as it really does help to think about what you want your business to achieve.
What advice would you give to startups looking for support in your area of expertise?
If you are 30 or under, then get in touch with The Prince’s Trust and their Enterprise team and see if they can offer any support. If you don’t qualify for this and you can afford it, then get yourself a business mentor, it’s great to have some guidance and helps build confidence in those early days. Most importantly, talk to people who are successfully doing what you do as you can learn so much and it’s a real boost to know that what you want to do is possible.
Which areas of the business are you looking to focus on in the next 12 months?
People often ask us ‘will you get a cafe/space?’ and at the moment the answer has to be ‘no’. We were given great advice when we started out about building up slowly and to avoid pushing ourselves to the maximum before taking the next step and we have followed this advice closely. We would love a shop/cafe one day, but we are thinking very carefully about where we do this and when. We are really looking to grow our corporate catering. We have a plan to market ourselves a bit more – so far we have been very lucky getting work through word of mouth and our website but we would like to introduce more of a marketing plan.
How do you keep a healthy work/life balance?
We try and only take on as much as we can handle. Sounds obvious but I think sometimes people can try and do too much. We always chat about events and if we don’t think we would have the time to do it well and give 100 percent then we will not take on the work. I find it’s really hard to say no to people sometimes, but Lou keeps me on track and makes sure I’m not on the go 24/7.
What is the best thing about running a business in Bristol?
Supporting other small businesses along the way. Bristol is absolutely fantastic for this. We use local small suppliers for as much of our produce as we can and as we are lucky enough to live near Gloucester Road where we can find nearly everything we need.
If you want to try out some of the treats that come out of Nico’s kitchen, join us at our monthly Workout + Network events.