Fiona Pink of PINK'S, Merstone
“Steady!” advises Fiona Pink.
"Living in London, work and money were good, so life was great overall. But a car window left open, a house door left unlocked, a briefcase unattended... there was no margin for error. We didn’t want to raise our 3 boys in that environment.
"We moved to the Island and slowed down, and got a new perspective. Priorities changed, energies shifted and I was able to restart my family’s old business.
“My great-great-grandfather Edward Pink started a food importing business in the late 1890s.
In those days there were no food standards laws and all sorts of contaminants were added by manufacturers to make an extra shilling. Edward emphasised Italian goods of high quality and PINK’S became renowned as trustworthy.
His son Thomas took over the business and within seven years had built it into the one of the largest jam manufacturers in the world. PINK’S was sold after the war and the brand disappeared.
It’s all very well spotting an opportunity, but you have to work hard to make things happen. The preserve market was saturated so I picked up on the Italian connection and created a range of seven vegetarian pestos using only the best ingredients.
We started to build our customer base with fairs & markets in London. Then Whole Foods in Kensington stocked our range. One day they rang me, really excited...
as published by IW County Press, Column by Dave Simon, continues below.
Starting a business is very demanding.
Commentary by Dave SImon
It takes time, effort, persuasion, help.
And money. Only half of start-ups reach five years old. Sometimes that’s because they try to start with too little money.
In our capitalist economy, raising money usually means borrowing. Tim Ellis of EllisBower Consulting says “It has never been more important for SME businesses to fully understand the Bank’s requirements. It needs more time devoted to preparing comprehensive plans to secure the required financial assistance to support future growth”.
Aside from a bank loan, there are other ways: family money, crowd-funding or grants.
Grant money is available - a £4m pot coming soon. There was only one application for the previous round, so the chances are good.
But applications for grants have an off-putting reputation – lots of work and dashed hopes.
Still, Bob Dimpfl of BDC says it’s worth trying: “Facilitating the Gunwarf development years ago, I realised the Island put forward fewer applications than I felt it should. There are a wide range of invitations so I’m sure there are projects here nowadays that could succeed with grant applications.”
I suggest anyone wishing to build their business consider this option.
Professional assistance need not cost an arm and a leg, and the rewards are so exciting!
Fiona Pink continues:
"Whole Foods in Kensington had featured PINK’S Smoked Tomato Pesto as their product of the month. It achieved a store record in sales – 350 in a month. Normally they would expect perhaps 8 units a week!
Then Cotswold Fayre, one of the largest artisan food distributors approached us. That’s unprecedented. We were listed with them in January 2014 and we won Best New Supplier for 2015! With 8 sales managers across the UK & Ireland they have been invaluable in building our brand. And additionally we sell direct into Germany, Slovakia & Czech Republic.
We’ve won over 15 food awards in four years. So we’re confident of our range & our new production site in Merstone. Cotswold Fayre approached us in the autumn of last year to make a range of Peanut Butters.
After development, hand-roasted peanut butters – Smooth, Crunchy & Chocolate – were launched in January with great results. So our next challenge is to build production up to keep pace with our orders.
Riding the Ups and Downs
Cash-flow is an important issue during growth. As the business grows, the peaks and troughs in cash-flow can get bigger. So you have to be adept at keeping a tight rein on money to make sure the boat stays steady. Having good business relations with all your suppliers is as important as having good relationships with your customers.
Profit is essential – it gives you a reserve – but it’s not the ‘be all and end all’. I think it’s more important to enjoy what you are doing and take pride in it. I had a position once where the money was high but the working conditions were bad. Making a profit and disliking the work is no good!
Keep Your Nerve
Previously I worked in the City for training & conference companies, setting up & running departments, so I don’t worry about multi-tasking. Hard work is easy.
The advice I wish I’d been given is ‘don’t sweat the small stuff’. You have to keep your nerve and look beyond the small problems to the opportunities. It’s very important when you are building a business to keep your eye on the prize.
The modern trend of coaching is really good. Gaining from other people’s ideas is such a powerful force when you are trying to create something new. And avoiding pitfalls is helpful too! I had to be self-sufficient from my late teens and never really had a coach. So I’ve been pretty much self-taught along the way.
New Solutions For The Island
I do feel the Island is struggling with its economy. We need to look at what we are good at. We can get too focused on problems and overlook the work that gets done. The community here can get demoralised and not see the opportunities. For the sake of the Island, we need new solutions to old problems.
If we could create an Environmental University on the Island, it would be great for the economy. Universities bring employment, and always bring a strong economy to any city. There is one in America: surely there must be a need in Europe? Maybe there is funding available? The Island is the perfect place for such a project – with our varied countryside and extensive coastline. We need to look at a new way forward.
In business you don’t take No! for an answer. You have to keep working to find a new way round problems. And that’s what we have to do here for the Island too.