28th November 2017

ADAM SOPHER

Joe & Seph’s all started with my dad.

While other parents were making spaghetti bolognese for their kids, my dad was popping corn and adding original, natural ingredients for us to try.

After retiring, he created six different recipes in our home kitchen that we had friends and family sample. Seeing their reactions gave us the confidence to book a stall at a food show where my dad, my mum and I pitched up with a car full of popcorn and a promise to commit to the business if customers loved the product. We sold out by the end of the second day and, sticking true to our promise, we started to plan how to move out of the home and into a production kitchen so we could supply at scale.

Initially we moved to a ‘rent-by-the-hour’ kitchen because we didn’t know what the business would need so were hesitant to commit to a 10-year lease. Three times a week we would set-up the kitchen, cook, clean and leave with the product. On that basis we began to supply Selfridges, Harrods and Harvey Nichols. We soon transitioned into a ‘rent-by-the-month’ kitchen and then to the larger site where we are currently.

We managed to make the step up in a low-risk way, using just a bank overdraft and careful cashflow management. It can seem fashionable to seek vast amounts of investment – but every business is different so do what’s right for you.

Stepping out of the home and into a professional facility means we can work with all the retailers we want. It also pushes us to pay more attention to the small details that deliver big results. When you’re operating out of your home you can take things like electricity and space for granted. But, when you’re in a rented space, pricing and margins become even more important. It gives you a more professional mindset.

We’re now supplying 20 different countries around the world and customers ranging from supermarkets to cinemas to airlines. As we’ve grown, we’ve worked with our partners to secure payment terms that all parties are happy with. It’s all too common for scaling businesses to enter into agreements they regret later because of something as simple as payment dates.

Some businesses want to stay in the home while others always have the ambition to scale up and take it to the next level. Either way, in our opinion, a business has to commit to one
or the other. If we had dabbled in just supplying Selfridges for example but still moved out of the home, the business would not have been viable.

“STEPPING OUT OF THE HOME AND INTO A PROFESSIONAL FACILITY MEANS WE CAN WORK WITH ALL THE RETAILERS WE WANT.”

Food businesses that decide to scale up should seek advice from those that have been there and done it. The food industry is incredibly open, founders are happy to give their time and expert organisations can help get your product to market. It’s also vital that you stay true to your founding vision. At Joe and Seph’s we have a really simple mantra, ‘we want to make the best tasting popcorn there is’. That’s the most important thing for us. Focus on what you’re good at and dedicate yourself
to it. Then all the rest, like scaling up and growing out of the home kitchen, will naturally follow.

More from stories and advice