Good friends Anna and Alla started their business Two Chicks from scratch more than 14 years ago after they saw a gap in the UK market to launch an entirely new product category. Two Chicks free range liquid egg white is now available in major supermarkets all over the UK and is sold internationally. Here, they share three pieces of advice on what it takes to bring a new product to market with several big challenges along the way.
FINDING THE RIGHT INVESTMENT
In some cases, female entrepreneurs typically start businesses with half as much capital as men, and fewer than one in five small and medium-sized enterprises in the UK are led by women. Although investment banks are now taking steps to close the funding gap for women, such as launching accelerator programmes, there’s still a long way to go and it’s a tricky challenge many women-led businesses face.
In our case, finding the initial investment to start our business was a real challenge: neither of us had a background in business or food, and with just an idea, breaking into the multiples seemed like a long shot to potential investors. Finally, a family friend agreed to give us £25,000 in return for some equity. Paying in equity in exchange for work such as design and production is another way you can gain traction in the market as a start-up.
PERSISTENCY AND INNOVATION IS KEY
Part of our success was down to never taking no for an answer and just persevering with what we believed in. When we were first starting out, there was an assumption that two women with just an idea and no experience in food or business could ever make a success of it. Thankfully we didn’t listen but there were times that were very challenging. Starting our business on such a low budget meant that we had to be extremely persistent and innovative in order to get into and remain in the marketplace. It was a question of always thinking outside the box and pushing boundaries - ducking under the red tape at food shows to hand samples to celebrities on stage.
When we first got listings in the multiples, we would drive around the country leafleting outside the stores. Initially, we couldn’t afford the in-store marketing options so we would go into supermarkets and place our own point-of-sale on the shelves. But this activity came to an end once we were removed by security from a major supermarket chain and got a call from the buyer!
DEVELOPING SKILLS THROUGH A BUSINESS MENTOR
We’ve grown a network of relationships with our buyers organically and have never outsourced the sales side of things. However, this has meant that we’ve had to develop vital skills from the start. When we first set up the business we were introduced to a food broker who advised us on the best way to launch into retail, and also on margins. Having a mentor was invaluable and something we’d recommend to anyone thinking of launching a new business.
It is encouraging to see that the proportion of companies run by women is increasing (compared to men), but there are still many women out there with great entrepreneurial ideas who could benefit from more encouragement to help build their confidence. This really made all the difference for us at the beginning of our business journey.
Find out more at www.twochicks.co.uk