“My first two sales were achieved shortly after I joined EC in October 2012.
I remember having a 1:1 with Nigel, when he asked me : ‘Why are you not selling yet?’
I replied “I thought that was hard work as this would mean delivering goods’.
My first order of three pallets was placed in November ’12. I had to produce all of the importation papers and register for customs clearance, but more importantly – I landed my first two customers!
Within 3-4 months I gained around 30 customers (independent retailers) by doing exactly what EC advised me to. I sent them beautifully wrapped parcels, followed up by a letter, then a phone call, and setting up the meeting if they were interested.
My conversion rate then was 33% which I had thought was pretty good.
In Spring 2013, after months of following up my first leads from the trade shows in the previous year, I managed to secure a contract with one of the largest distributors in the UK, who has some 800 independent shops that he was distributing too.
A week later I secured my first overseas contract with El Corte ingles (The Spanish flagship department store Gourmet club). I blame my good website for this – I was first noticed at the show but then easily found on Google. Prompt and enthusiastic conversations with this senior buyer have brought me a huge contract: some £60k per year in the first year.
This project didn’t go without difficulties , as many emails were translated from Spanish, the stickers were designed in Spanish, we were fighting the floods of biblical proportions in Serbia and Croatia that spring, to bring the first El Corte Ingles order of juices (half a lorry size – worth 30k) first to Dover then to Madrid. It all arrived on time!
In parallel , we had inquiry from Luxembourg chain of restaurants, who ordered pallets of goods , and still do ( each pallet is worth approx 2k). So my ,shy English business has overnight grown into International!
Each year I have continued to attend the trade shows as they were my main source of good quality leads. I was getting so well prepared for he shows ( uploading all the products info on the show website was one of them) so that the leads could find us and understand what we offer.
Next thing that happens, I am on a plane to Serbia, to meet the ‘Dragons’ of new owners of my manufacturer – who happen to be giants! Now, working with the ‘giants’ could be very difficult thing – lets be clear. They have their rules and procedures. And, you have to fit into their expansion plans of taking over the world with jams and juices- although you are the buyer!
So, I had some of the toughest negotiations in my business so far, as I wanted to win them over for the America’s market. Call me crazy but I just love it!
I’ve got some big plans for the next two years but they require us to ‘step up’ to another level. The changes would have to be:
a) The money – invoice discounting or larger bankers overdraft, terms of payments negotiated; We had to watch our fixed costs until established fully in the new premises.
b) the bigger premises – we have found the new 3 times larger warehouse and the same 3 times larger office, moving in December’15!
c) more staff -we are recruiting for 2 more staff – bringing the total to 5 staff and 2 directors. I will be in my castle – conference room with no one else so that I can do my marketing and planning for the expansion.
What is next? Yes, in the meantime we attracted one on line store in Hong Kong, and there is some talk on some of our business partners trying to get into China. But, hold our horses – we don’t go there as yet….I need a drink!
The times have never been harder or more exciting! We are only a small team but with big dreams and plans!
And we work so hard. What I enjoy most – is the challenge of ‘Getting’ the New customer – big or small…”