An actual decade.
On this day 10 years ago was the first time I revealed the branding and new packaging of the granola I had started to make on a bigger scale at home. The recipe from my wonderful, Canadian cousin Becky that I had started making and selling in paper bags in the local market, a long time before the shelves were stacked with different granolas.
People loved it and wanted more.
Some local shops agreed to stock it as a trial so I set about trying to persuade the cafes locally that Bendylegs Granola, fruit compote and yogurt was actually something that people would pay good money for on a breakfast or brunch menu like they did in Canada, Australia and New Zealand at that time.
This was greeted with a considerable amount of scepticism in South Wales.
"Really? Instead of or as well as a bacon sandwich?"
"We can try it, I guess"
But. It had to look nice on the shelf. The paper bag wasn't quite right.
How does that happen? How does a product go from a paper bag to looking good.
Enter the very talented Lucy from Allihopa, a grant application for start up support and a chat about branding.
At that stage we had a name “Bendylegs" but nothing else.
Bendylegs is a family name invented by my nephew Charlie Pan (below) when he was about 5 (he tells me he is now 22 but surely that can't be right) which describes that feeling kids get after a long walk when they can’t quite make it up the hill and need to be carried. ‘I can’t walk anymore, I’ve got Bendylegs’
It made perfect sense. A low sugar, organic granola to fuel you at the beginning of your day and help you have adventures and get that Bendylegs feeling.
Lucy from Allihopa had a job on her hands.
I had NO idea.
She literally had to start by sitting down and explaining what a brand was to me and my "only ever done medicine so have no idea about this" brain using examples like Nike and Heinz then showing me some mood boards. Then, after a few messages and her brilliant creative juices swinging into action she came up with this.
10 years ago today.
The first Facebook preview of the new look and feel Bendylegs Granola.
That was the beginning.
The beginning of a journey into a world of food festivals, awards, marketing, a bursary to the BBC Food Show, a chat with the buyers in Harrods and a phone call from Amazon. The beginning of learning about branding, business, sales, marketing, everything a start up needs to know. Building relationships, social media, giving your heart and sole to your business baby, trade relationships, online sales, web design, the wonderful people who run their food businesses and the struggles they face and over come.
Learning from the best and meeting some incredible people along the way. Taking long suffering family and friends with me on the journey of cooking through the night, loading the van up with everything and spending days on end selling all over the place.
But, what happened?
We had out grown the kitchen. To grow further we needed to scale up production and employ staff. I visited a bakery to look at renting a space to use. I went to look at a unit to rent of our own but something wasn't right.
I realised after 3 years, that baking and making granola was not my passion, not what lights me up, what I would get up and do every day without being paid.
I loved running a business. I loved being creative, learning and developing my skills as a person. I loved meeting people and helping other people who were starting out. I learnt SO much. This was actually the beginning of something much much more, which was a journey of working out what I wanted to do in life by looking at what people come to me for, what I loved and and what I was good at doing.
What skills did I learn in the 3 years of making and selling vats of granola from a family kitchen with young kids and a dog?
Too many to list here.
When I pressed pause on it people said things like
‘That is a shame’
‘Why didn’t you carry on with it?’
‘Did it not work out?’
‘I think you should start it up again people loved it’
I felt so guilty letting people down by making the decision that it wasn’t what I loved and wasn't compatible with family life to run from the kitchen. I didn’t feel committed enough to want to invest in a unit and look at the fickle world of supermarket growth; cutting down the quality of the product for mass quantity production.
People will always be quick to give you their opinion but, unless you have done it yourself, no one knows what goes into running a business, the effect on your family and people around you and the difficulties of wearing all of the hats.
What I am absolutely sure of however, is that if I had never started with Bendylegs then the path ahead would’ve been very different and what we are doing with The HOW People may not have evolved. I knew the next project needed to involved being aligned with my passions, using my skills, working with a brilliant co founder and focusing on building a team. Life is a journey with twists and turns and we are always learning. What we learn shapes us, adds to our experience and helps us with the next challenge ahead. It also gave me an email address and social media handle that people remember and question that I just can't change! Dr Jo Watkins @bendylegsjo www.jowatkins.com The HOW People firstname.lastname@example.org @thehowpeople