For 'The making of an entrepreneur', we speak to business founders about what it takes to be an entrepreneur. The series will commence by focusing on start-ups striving or thriving in a time of crisis.
Despite the disastrous impact that COVID-19 has had on the global start-up market, Sarah King, criminal defence lawyer and founder of The Cookie Mail, took the decision to launch her new business a few weeks into the UK's first national lockdown. Today, we speak to her about her experiences.
Q: Most people would fear that starting a business during a global pandemic is too high risk. However, you deliberately launched The Cookie Mail just after the UK went into its first, and strictest, national lockdown. Why was this?
A: With the inability to see anyone in person, the 'jokes' (shameless requests) for me to send my baked creations to friends and family through the post came flooding in. The concept itself for The Cookie Mail was in fact born during lockdown.
Courthouses closed and therefore I was furloughed from my full-time job as a criminal defence lawyer. I suddenly found myself with more time than I knew what to do with and there were only so many zoom quizzes and loaves of banana bread I could commit to.
I had always wanted to start a business. Being a good lawyer requires you to follow all of the basic principles of growing a business: excel in what you do, establish your demographic, grow and nurture your client base. I have often found myself with ideas but lacked the spare time to turn them into something more.
With a relatively low start-up cost, and a huge amount of time to dedicate to it, I saw it as a huge opportunity rather than a high risk. I designed my business to fit the lockdown. Whilst established companies worked out how to adapt to this new way of living, I built my business from it.
From the Old Bailey to Baking
Q: Before The Cookie Mail, you were a full time criminal defence lawyer. How does running your own business compare to this? Can you see yourself ever returning to law?
A: I have worked in criminal defence for over a decade and therefore am no stranger to working in a high pressure environment. However, running my own business is a different type of pressure. I have found myself undertaking every job role: business owner, design and product development, baking, marketing, customer service, packaging, shipping, and of course chief taster. I have found it surprisingly fulfilling and extremely rewarding. It has allowed me to be creative and flexible, however as with all start-up ventures, the hours are relentless.
I am fortunate enough to find two careers that I am passionate about, so who knows what the future will hold. Working in criminal law is fascinating and often challenging. Whilst I have left my full time job, I have maintained a position as a consultant for now, as I am not ready to walk away from the legal sector just yet.
A day in the life of
Q: The Apprentice will teach you that being an entrepreneur is not always as glamourous as it seems. What would a typical day look like for you?
A: Cookies, cookies & court attendances! Always an early start, usually around 5am. I start the day baking and will continue to bake until all of the orders have been fulfilled. In between the baking I’ll be packing, shipping, responding to enquiries and trying not to eat the profits. Some days I’ll be booked in for court appearances which means an earlier start. I try to fit in a workout and some social media content! In the evenings, I undertake product development, check inventory, and make more cookie dough.
Q: What would you say are the three most important lessons you have learned from your journey so far?
A: Lesson number 1 - Just do it.
I could have spent far longer worrying about whether my business would succeed. The chance of success was unknown, but the chance of failure was guaranteed if I did not go for it. I channelled the time I could have spent worrying into product development, a strategy I have found to be far more productive. There was a gap in the market. I had a good business model, sufficient capital to invest, the benefit of time and belief.
Lesson number 2 - Solve a problem with a simple product. My business has enabled people to access high quality home baked goods without having to leave their homes. Cookies through the letterbox is a simple concept, perfect for contactless delivery and gifting.
Lesson 3 - Your mind is your greatest asset, take care of it. Finding time for yourself, to stop and recharge is essential. When you work for yourself, it’s easy to invest all of your time into your business. I am still learning to master this lesson.
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