Bisquites: Ann and Rachael McNeela
Company name: Bisquites
Founders: Ann & Rachael McNeela
Age: 54 and 29
Based: Preston, Lancashire
Staff numbers: 2 – 4
Date started: August 2009
Tell us what your business does?
We make novelty, hand-made biscuits for all occasions.
Where did the idea for your business come from? My daughter is a food stylist and she had produced some biscuits that had been much admired. And the opinion was they would sell well.
How did you know there was a market for it? There are lots of companies producing cupcakes, as they are ‘in-vogue' so to speak, but we only found two other companies selling decorated biscuits. Our biscuits are actually shortbread and are made from an old family recipe. We offer a much better sized biscuit and a higher standard of decoration.
What were you doing before starting up? I had many years in catering and my daughter and I ran a successful sandwich take-away shop in Blackpool, which we then sold. My daughter is a qualified make-up artist and beautician, as well as a food stylist, and she runs her own business (rachaelmcneela.co.uk). Since selling the shop, I work part time in a clerical capacity, but we are trying to grow our biscuit business, as we feel there is potential to increase our sales.
Have you always wanted to run your own business? We both like the flexibility of running our own business and we have already set up and sold our first sandwich business.
What planning did you do before you started up? The business grew from the food styling idea. We did not have business plan because making the biscuits and decorating them was not costly. However the cost of setting up the Magento shop was paid for out of our own money, so we have taken a long time in getting to the point we are at now. With regards to the business plan we may not have had a plan but knew from the first biscuit what are profit margins were.
How did you find suppliers? We found suppliers via the internet, especially for packaging materials. The food ingredients were sourced locally from old contacts.
What challenges have you faced and how have you overcome them? The biggest challenge we have found has been finding a Search Engine Optimisation company. We have two real horror stories regarding the ‘cowboys' that have had control over our site, for example, one guy turned the site off. Our other biggest challenge has been getting our target customers to know we exist, so we are trying to get as much free exposure as we can, because advertising is very expensive.
Where is your business based? Our business is based at home, and we have been inspected by the local authority and have ticked all their boxes.
How have you promoted your business? We are still in the early stages of trying to promote the business and we are targeting magazines to see if they are interested in giving us any exposure. We have paid to go on a website called notonthehighstreet.com, and they bring in a steady flow of orders, so that has been a good move.
How many staff do you have? There is just the two of us with the help of my husband and another two daughters who pitched in at Christmas when we got a large order.
What has your growth been like? Growth has been quite slow, however we are profitable on every biscuit we sell.
What has the impact on your home life been like? We can make biscuits at any time especially if we are requested to send one out as soon as possible, but we are able to keep home and work in the kitchen separate.
What would you say the greatest difficulty has been in starting up? The internet jargon and the search engine optimisation (SEO) have been the most difficult. We are not computer guys, but we have had to learn fast! Making the biscuits and posting them out is not a problem, that's what we are good at.
What would you do differently and what have you learnt? We would research the internet shop designer and learn lots more about SEO. Understanding the amount of work that is involved in running an online shop is really important.
What advice would you give to budding entrepreneurs? To try it but don't always believe what people tell you and make your own mind up.
Where do you want to be in five years' time? We would both like to be able to run the business from home still but to employ three or four people. We would also like to concentrate more on marketing and new designs.