I cannot express how much I thoroughly enjoyed my involvement at The Woking Food Festival over the weekend. If there was ever a way to fully thrust myself back into work after the birth of my baba bean, this was it. It was nice to be Jess for a few hours. Naturally, I took the opportunity to wear high heels. Afterall, they have been somewhat redundant lately. It's been so long that I half expected to fall flat on my face, but apparently wearing heels is like riding a bike - as a woman you will never forget how to carry yourself and walk like you own it!
The Woking Food Festival, voted "best local food event in 2015, 2016 and 2017", is held once a year and brings together lots of brilliant local producers and national providers in the food industry. I was delighted to be asked to sit on a panel with Danielle Webber from Ripe and Nine and Lorna Nanda Gangotra (winner of BBC2's The Big Family Showdown). On Saturday, I did a bitesize talk about the Medicinal Benefits of eating a Natural Breakfast (separate blog to follow - I don't want to bombard your brains with rambles in one hit). Being considered an "inspiring women", which quite frankly came as a shock to me, and getting to sit with some truly amazing women in business was the highlight.
Not only did I get to share my journey so far with some fantastic ladies, I also got to meet Ella Mills (aka Deliciously Ella) and hear her advice on how to make a successful business. Drawing upon the things raised by the panel discussion, Ella herself emphasised how nice it is to be in an environment where you can talk about your journey, because only then do you get to see that you are not alone. Even the most successful people have had their fair share of ups and downs.
So now let’s get into the reality and the words that truly inspired me.
For those of you who have followed me for a while, you will know that the last year has been a bit of a whirlwind. For those of you who are coming across Breakfast by Bella ("BBB") for the first time, I basically started a business selling granola where I was starting to work my way into retail alongside a fulltime job as a lawyer. Business developed after what was meant to be a blog about my breakfast in jar, which I would make to ensure a healthy, portable and quick to make breakfast with no nasties. I started this to help my gynaecological health issues after realising the toll that refined sugars was having on my body. As business developed, I quit my London job to open a cafe / deli and then fell pregnant all at the same time.
One thing I said in the panel discussion was that when you see posts on social media, you see perfection. What you don't see is what is going on behind the scenes; the stresses, the financial strain, the tears, those inevitable days where you feel like you just want to quit... I have had many!
Deliciously Ella during her key note speech touched upon days where you feel like a "fraud" because deep down, you believe that you are in too deep and you cannot really do what you have led people to think you can. That really hit home for me because that is exactly how I have been feeling. Last year, I thought I had it all figured out, but then so much changed at once that I have just been going with it to survive. What I have never truly admitted to anyone is that I have been lacking confidence, which is one of the reasons I have gone quiet on social media and just when I was starting to get somewhere too. Plus the fact that I have just been rushed of my feet and haven't even had time to think about posts.
In January 2018, my cafe / deli opened full time. I was 3 months pregnant working 7 days week. Being the only one manning a busy kitchen from 7am until 6pm as well as managing day to day business admin (for e.g., orders and accounting), I was absolutely shattered. To this day, I will never know how I did it and managed to maintain a healthy pregnancy with a baby who is actually a surviving twin.
I was asked on Friday if I have ever wanted to quit. The answer is a big fat yes. I often feared for how much my business was changing and the little grasp I felt I had on it. I also feared for the fact that I had a baby on the way and actually had no money. Starting a food business is no picnic (excuse the pun). What people also don't see through the eyes of social media is that the entrepreneur taking those pretty pictures is likely to be suffering a great deal of financial strain. Even when you get to a point where you are making money, you may want to grow and therefore your profit is simply reinvested.
I was then asked what my words of advice are. They are simply this:
"KEEP CALM AND CARRY ON!"
Take a step back from the situation and look at the bigger picture. I have to ask myself, what would quitting have achieved? I could have gone back to work, yes. Had a stable guaranteed income, yes. However, that income would be capped. Not to mention the fact that while in 4 years time the employed version of me would in be stuck in an office, the determined entrepreneur version of me would be able to pick her gorgeous child up from school and spend the time with him that he deserves.
So when I think about my words advice now, I reiterate what has always laid at my core:
NEVER EVER GIVE UP!
Business is a rollercoaster. Having heard from those other brilliant women on Friday, I realise now more than ever that if you are not crying or wanting to quit at some point, then there is something you are not doing quite right!
Thank you to all those on Friday who invited me to be on the panel, who listened to what I have to say, who asked questions and who inspired me all over again! In one way or another, you helped me to find me again!
Now that I look upon what I have achieved, I realise that things have changed but only for the better.
Words that inspired me
Deliciously Ella spoke highly of having a good support network around her and she expressed how truly important this is both mentally and physically. It isn't until people asked me after the talk how I am coping with being a new Mum with a business that I realised: a support network is exactly what I have. I have an amazing husband who is a very hands on Dad and extremely supportive family and friends. They have helped me tremendously, especially in relation to my pregnancy and since giving birth.
Deliciously Ella also inspired me when she spoke of her online community. Even with a busy day, she takes time to go through comments from her fans and write back to them. She receives around 700 messages a day! Social media obviously provides support in a very different way, but this reiterated a value that I have always had: your business is only as good as your people whether they be staff, customers or fans...
...so THANK YOU to all those who are involved with and / or follow BBB. We wouldn't be where we are without your support and loyalty.