Hello and welcome! Can you tell us a bit about your background and what inspired you to start your business?
Ever since I left school, I've worked for a big corporation. I previously worked at one of the UK's largest insurance companies and I climbed the corporate ladder there and finally ended up in the internal communications team. When we went into lockdown in 2020, as you can imagine, that involved a lot of internal communication because we had to move about 12,000 people from the office environment to home. What that looked like for me was a lot of extra hours, unpaid.
At first I didn’t begrudge it because we were all making sacrifices in the pandemic. But at the same time, my father in law, who I was really close with, was diagnosed with terminal cancer about three months away from his retirement.
He'd spent his whole life working and saving for his retirement and it was cruelly cut short. So fast forward to March 2021, he passed away. And 12 hours later, I was made redundant. That was the catalyst to me starting my own business.
I’m so sorry to hear that. What made you decide to start a business in a subscription box then?
Thank you. It was a massive life event that just changed everything. I wanted to be able to enjoy my time when working. And I enjoy nothing more than a good barbeque.
So seeing what happened to him – he had saved his whole life to have a happy retirement with his family – and knowing that I was perhaps on the same course in a corporate environment, it made me realise that it was time to venture into the unknown.
I had been playing around with an idea of a subscription-based model business for a little while and I really wanted to bring the thing that I'm passionate about into that – barbecue cooking.
I wanted to share the joy of outdoor cooking with people because it’s about more than just the food – great food is about how it makes you feel and having family and friends around to enjoy it with you.
Liam cooking Christmas dinner outside
That’s an amazing idea! Nothing like a good BBQ. How does Mettle fit into your business? How has it helped you?
Pit Pro is an emerging business. We’re a startup and we’re agile. And I think that Mettle is quite agile as well so that was a good fit!
The app does everything I need it to do. It's almost a one-stop shop. And because I don't have a finance department, being able to do it all on my phone and linking to accounting software is ideal for me.
Because I'd never owned my own business before I didn’t have any prior knowledge of banking accounts or which were the best, so I did some research and looked into a few different providers. But I was really impressed with the streamlined induction process, which is why I decided to use Mettle at first.
Tips on how to start your business:
Which three pieces of advice would you give to someone looking to start their own business?
The biggest piece of advice I have for people starting out is to get out there. Don't be afraid to go and network. Running your own business can be one of the loneliest things in the world. I spent the whole of lockdown alone in a room, but with a team of people around me, working together virtually, every day. With Pit Pro, I'm still in the same room but I don't have a team of 12 people that I'm meeting with on a regular basis, and that can be very lonely. So get networking!
Planning is another tip. You’ve got to plan. I spent two months really just planning every fine detail from the cost of putting it together, logistics and a five year plan. Even then, I don’t think I did enough planning.
The third piece of advice would be, if you’re going to start your own business, try to think of a unique selling point (USP). At Pit Pro we have a few, one of which is value for money. The cost of our pack is less than you would actually spend on a branded or imported spice mix. The box comes with two spice blends, plus the wood chips, recipes and includes delivery.
What issues or challenges have you encountered and how have you overcome them?
So I perhaps went into it starting my business a little naively. And because of that, one of the biggest challenges has been advertising the business.
When we launched in July, I hadn't done anything like this before. I just thought, we'll set the shop up and then we'll get thousands of people coming in because everyone loves barbecues and it was the middle of summer. Seemed like the right product at the right time! But, unfortunately, that’s not how it works. If customers don’t know you’re there, then they’ll never be able to buy from you.
The way we're overcoming this is by looking at different ways that we can reach people through an analytics-based approach. This is going to help us understand what is giving us the best return on investment when it comes to advertising. For example, it's springtime soon and we're going to be launching some major campaigns where we’ll then assess how those do and learn from them.
We're under a year old really, so everything we do is new. Even if we have a large marketing budget on something and it doesn’t work, it’s not a complete failure. Everything is a learning curve.