Piglet’s Pantry: From local to national – how I grew my business fast
We’re back, once again showcasing small business success stories in partnership with Sky and Tim Campbell MBE. This time, we go from festivals to football with Jo Hunter; Owner and Managing Director of Piglet’s Pantry – a pie and pastry supplier to some of the biggest football clubs in the country.
When Piglet’s Pantry secured a contract with Brighton and Hove Albion FC, they went from selling 100 pies a day to 10,000 almost overnight. But scaling a business so quickly comes with its own challenges, from deciding on funding options to ensuring product quality is maintained at scale.
Here’s some of Jo’s top tips on how to grow a small business, without losing sight of what makes it special.
1. Always sell something that you know and love
Chef-led business Piglet’s Pantry sells tasty, handmade pies and other delicacies online and at events. Its turnover has shot up exponentially in the past few years.
So how can would-be entrepreneurs follow in Piglet’s Pantry’s footsteps, and make sure their business isn’t half-baked?
It’s helpful to have a working understanding or experience of the industry you’re in – Jo is a self-confessed “passionate pastry chef” with a love of feeding people. It’s much harder to build a business without this zeal for your craft. Combining product knowledge with your passion can be a springboard for success.
Have something that you’re passionate about, but also something that can translate into profit
2. Don’t think it’s going to be as easy as pie
Whilst bringing your dream business idea to life can be immensely rewarding, ‘’you need to be prepared to rough it for a while until you make it’’, Jo says.
Taking the decision to give up a steady wage in favour of following her entrepreneurial dreams was a nerve-racking step for Jo. In the early stages of setting up her business Jo chose to retain control by taking out loans and constantly reinvested in her own business over getting investors – not necessarily the easy route, but the one that was right for her.
3. Seize opportunities and use your networks
You never know where exploring new opportunities can take you. During Covid-19, many caterers left football clubs – and Piglet’s Pantry was quick to step up, taking over retail food and drinks at Portsmouth FC and investing heavily in the partnership.
‘’Now they’ve outsourced all their hospitality to us,” says Jo, “and we’re getting approached by more clubs to act as partner.”
4. Innovate to reach new audiences
Similarly, don’t be afraid to try new tactics. Jo’s stepdaughter Lara took over Piglet’s Pantry’s social media during the pandemic and implemented some influencer marketing tactics they’d never tried before. The result: 100,000 afternoon tea hampers sold with little to no marketing investment.
Now, the company is about to give its ‘seaside box’ a proper PR launch, attended by a TV celebrity and with influencers lined up to make a splash on social media.
“It’s not something we’ve tried before,” says Jo, “but we’ve decided to do a big launch once a year with a brand-new product.”
5. Search for ways to cut costs
When it comes to your payment strategy, taking a creative and critical approach is crucial. Is your current supplier the best? Are there ways you could get a better deal?
“As any finance person would tell you – review, review, review,” says Jo. “It’s vital in terms of business spend and keeping costs down, which are straight off your bottom line.”
6. Get great people on board
Having the right contracts and the right team are key. At Piglet’s Pantry all team heads are chefs, so quality remains tip-top and the company stays true to its values.
A strong supply chain is another essential ingredient. “It’s really important to choose your suppliers wisely. You need to be able to communicate well with each other and be sure that they’re on your journey with you too.”
7. Be creative about finance packages
Piglet’s Pantry has used a range of funding methods including invoice discounting, where unpaid invoices are used as collateral for loans to ease cashflow in the early stages of the business.
In addition to this, Jo talks about the importance of working with payments partners to support growth. “People like Barclaycard, with their credit and charge cards, can be really useful. If you need to buy a piece of kit, it’s useful to have partners like that in the background and have a line of credit for breathing space.”