Management consultant Charlotte Bowers, 25, has decided to pack it all in and open Charlotte’s Fine Foods – a good quality food store set to launch in North London before Christmas. We chatted to her on her lunchbreak (she’s still not left yet!) about how to set up your own company.
Where did you get the idea to set up a company?
My mum and her father before that had their own businesses so, growing up, that’s what I’ve been used to. Working for yourself is something I understand and the lifestyle has always interested me. Of course, I always thought it was a longer term ambition to have something of my own but in the past year I started to think about it a bit more seriously. Once I started to do research, I found it’s not as much of a pipedream as I originally thought.
How did you learn the skills?
I presumed it’d be impossible to set things up, and couldn’t imagine all the different things I’d need but after I’d done some research it turned out that starting small wouldn’t be that impossible. The internet is the perfect research tool; there’s so much advice out there especially for young people. If you’re looking for something specific dedicated to accounts, or business planning, or whatever, you can just Google it!
Where did the idea for a food store come from?
I’ve always been passionate about eating, but there’s a real foodie movement at the moment – a lot of people turning away from the supermarket giants, wanting to find something locally produced. Or a better quality version.
Charlotte’s Fine Foods stocks a huge range of things from pantry staples like oils and vinegars and chutney and jams to sweet treats and gifts all the way through to spices. It does what it says on the tin; a store that sells high quality produce without the pretention you get in some of the high class delicatessens. I want it to be really accessible so that everyone feels they can go in there.
What’s been the biggest challenge so far?
The premises I have now were on the market earlier in my planning process and I got fairly far before everything fell through. It was a massive confidence knock. I thought maybe it was a sign, but the best thing you can do is not lose faith. Go back to your plans and look at everything you’ve achieved so far – it’ll show that what you’re doing is right.
…And the best part?
The best thing is being your own boss because you can be in control of everything you do! Being in control of every decision is daunting, but at the same time, you can create something completely personalised. The freedom is fantastic! Also I think if you have an appetite to learn, this is a good route to go down because you’re constantly learning and expanding your horizons.
What tips do you have for someone wanting to set up their own business?
If you have a vague idea of the milestones you need to hit, and you have five or six things you’re working towards understanding or getting a hold of (like funding, for example) then within those categories, you’ll have items you can tick off. It gives you a sense of progression. Plus, I’ve benefited massively from talking to people. It helps you not to feel like you’re wandering about on your own. I didn’t realise when I started that I knew so many people who would be able to help, but people love to see others being entrepreneurial. They’re often willing to put in the time.
What advice would you give yourself a year back, knowing what you know now?
If you have an ambition, or there’s something you’re particularly passionate about, don’t presume it’s unobtainable. I spent too long feeling like that and ultimately the only thing that limits you is your ambition. If you have something you really want to do then look into it, do some research, find out what it would take to get it off the ground. More and more these days starting a business is becoming a viable option and not everyone has to go down the route being swallowed up by a corporate machine.
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