|Karen Kemp, like many women, had always dreamed of running her own little business, in her case a catering company. On the one hand she loves cooking, secondly she loves cooking for other people; she believes that too many people eat badly and not enough people eat fresh, great tasting food (she has strong views on how little children know about real food and cooking).
She also wanted, like many of us, to be free of other people telling her what to do at work, to be free from the daily commute, no longer be deskbound etc. She’d dabbled as a housewife with a catering company in the 1990’s but didn’t really take it that seriously, treating it more as a hobby.
Following her divorce Karen started working full time again (for others), and this sustained her for a number of years where, although she enjoyed success and the buzz of the workplace at a sub-prime mortgage broker, the desire to ‘go it alone’ kept surfacing. Her chance came as the UK's sub-prime market slowed down in late 2007 following the sub-prime crash in the USA, and the companies inevitable difficulties, Karen took her small redundancy package and with a deep breath, effectively bailed out.
The problem was how to get started in catering and earn something without a huge delay, and without huge outlay (probably the two main reasons most people don’t make their own ‘bid for freedom’). She came up with the idea of making individual tarts with savoury toppings at home, and selling them on farmer’s markets in the Stafford (UK) Area = little outlay = low risk.
The tarts Karen cooks developed from family favourites, and she experiments all the time as she explores different flavours and combinations. The Chicken, Leek and Tarragon is a firm favourite - husband Richard telling potential punters at markets of their ‘life-changing’ qualities – well they are, once you’ve sampled one of Karen’s tarts you’ll never be quite the same again.
She called this enterprise ‘the local tart company’ simple, accurate and with a cheeky double meaning (somewhat reflective of her personality) to get noticed, but also cleverly with in-built interchangability and future-proofing – the concept of ‘local tarts’ can now work anywhere as it’ll always be local, however many outlets there are, and wherever they are located.
The investment up front was negligible – no loans were required, so (for others benefit anyway) no business plans - just a few things paid from Karen’s current account – things like an environmental health officer inspection (no charge), a second hand fridge (£80), a certificate in food hygiene (£90), public liability insurance (£80), and the odd pot, pan, spatula etc.. (no more than £50). She bought business cards (£45), 2 aprons with ‘localtart’ logos (£36), ice blocks (£20), some bags (£50), labels (£20), an extension to the car insurance (for business use). Each farmers market charges c.£25, and Karen uses a tiny vehicle - a Citroen C1 which can carry everything and was already in the family - and that really was it, apart from the weekly raw materials to make the tarts.
PR expert husband, Richard became the branding, PR and marketing Dept - he built her a website (which cost him £7.03 for 2 years, see www.thelocaltartcompany.co.uk from 1&1 web-hosting), painted her a series of signs for the stall, made some matching authentic-looking display crates, and critically perhaps used his expertise in PR (under the name BIGMOUTHpr – see www.bigmouthpr.co.uk) to make sure Karen was constantly in the news locally and regionally over the early months.
The first market was in the Staffordshire market town of Stone (UK) and was on November 3rd 2007 (1 month after she left her job) and Karen sold out all150 tarts with a little discounting when the market died after about 2.30pm. The next in Stafford’s marketplace sold out with only a little discounting, and from then on she was selling out each market at full prices each time, and Stone’s second market sold out by 11.45am!
Karen now sells up to 250 tarts a week, and gets £2 clear income from each one she sells.
And the PR machine continues to work as Karen has just recently featured in a double-page spread in the colour glossy ‘Staffordshire Life’. This has already brought an approach from a new local delicatessen which wants to stock Karen’s tarts, so she is now busy looking at other outlets and opportunities to serve good quality food to others.
So, Karen is now pretty much earning her old salary, but instead of getting up at 6.00am, wakes at 8.30 – 9.00am (except for Saturday which is market day,) she then works a leisurely Wednesday (rolling), some of Thursday, all Friday (cooking) and then half of Saturday when she sells the tarts with Richard (they both love selling something people want).
As Karen says, “sometimes its hard rolling the pastry for 250 tarts, but it sure beats working”. So minimal risk, little outlay, no lead-in time to speak of, no business plan, no bank manager and no stress, boss or hassle. “Bliss” she calls it – rightly.
Notes for editors:
Karen Kemp is available in her Victorian home in Stafford (UK) for pictures and/or interviews. She will happily expand on the above and can offer strong and controversial views on the state of the UK’s fast food and thoughts on what ‘cheap food’ in the UK means. For all media enquiries contact firstname.lastname@example.org, or phone 07814919733.