As one of her hospitality businesses came to a screeching halt, food lover Hattie Mauleverer took solace in an astonishing spike in demand for her other, new, business offering.
For five years, Hattie Mauleverer had been dreaming of the new mail-order frozen ready-meals business she launched with two foodie friends.
It seemed like a logical adjunct to her existing and successful catering business, TopHat. Little did she know, however, that the new venture – Eight Foods – would turn out to be a lifeline amid the coronavirus crisis.
“I was having a TopHat meeting the second week of March, trying to work out what we were going to do, and during that meeting five or six of our events were cancelled. It was absolutely catastrophic,” she explained.
Since then, every single one of summer bookings for her catering business offering have disappeared – an important contract to cater a three-month long season of open-air operas in London, among them.
As Hattie set about furloughing TopHat’s four employees – she didn’t even know that word until a few days ago – it became obvious that Eight Food was worth putting all of her proverbial eggs into – for the time being at least.
Seizing the moment
A PR consultant had landed Eight Food some valuable newspaper coverage. Seizing the moment Hattie, set about spreading the word, contacting everyone she could think of and penning posts for LinkedIn and Facebook. “Before my parents went into self-isolation, even they were helping, hand delivering our postcards around where they live,” she added.
Initial projections for Eight Food’s healthy and gluten-free frozen meals had been modest. “We were planning on turning over £500 a week, with an aim of bringing in maybe £20,000 in our first year and really slowly ironing out every crease as we went along,” Hattie said.
The rush of activity that came as a result of their marketing and the sudden rise in demand for eating well at home, however, saw the business offering bring in an incredible £15,000 in March.
“It’s exciting, it’s stressful, it’s scary,” said the company’s co-founder. “There has been such an amazing response. When I reached out to people, I was basically saying, ‘I do have another business that most of you are unaware of – please support it’, and word just spread.”
The frozen meals are sent out via courier firm DPD across the UK. In London, a friend who has a marquee company and who currently has some time on his hands is helping out with home deliveries.
It’s been a rollercoaster few weeks. Deliveroo have been in touch to see if they can set something up and Eight Food were on BBC Breakfast a couple of weeks ago. On the flip side, Hattie has had to come to terms with the idea that she needs to mothball her beloved, 13-year-old catering business. There are, she says, constant butterflies in her stomach.
“Basically, it feels like I’ve been round a tumble dryer about 27 times,” she said.
Three top coronavirus tips from Hattie
- Be adaptable
We’ve had to be flexible, adaptable and say yes to everything – nothing is too difficult.
- Team up with liked-minded people
What’s great is when you have people who want to come on this rollercoaster ride with you. You need people who will pick up the rubbish as well as picking up the phone and making sales calls – people who are going to jump into action, whatever is thrown at them.
- Take each day as it comes
Every day is a different challenge right now, so you need to be prepared for that.
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