Imagine you’ve come up with an idea that’s not only unique, but also allows you to turn something you enjoy into a way of making a living. That’s the dream, right?
Well, that’s what happened for Gem and Jamie Harris, founders of Cauli Rice, a 123 Reg customer. The company makes cauliflower rice, a dish the husband and wife duo would regularly prepare for themselves.
“The idea for Cauli Rice started around four years ago when my partner and I would make homemade cauliflower rice for dinner and we just thought that it was such a fantastic product,” Gem said.
“It is one of your five a day, it feels like youâ€™re eating rice but it doesnâ€™t give you the guilt because it has just a quarter of the calories, which we thought was fantastic.”
The pair suspected the product was already available commercially, but upon researching the market they discovered it wasn’t. They had uncovered a gap they believed they could fill.
But it wasn’t easy. Because they wanted to create something free from artificial preservatives that also had a 12 month shelf life, they had to develop a new way of doing things.
Gem again: “The big challenge was that usually when you see baby foods in pouches, they are exposed to really high heat to preserve them. Normally if you do this to vegetables they turn into soup. The challenge to us was how do we maintain the texture of the product and that is what took us so long to develop.”
The result was a new process which resulted in a global patent, as well as a product that people enjoy. In fact, Cauli Rice is now stocked in over 2,000 supermarkets across the country and can be found on the shelves of big hitters such as Tesco, Waitrose, Sainsbury’s and Asda.
So how do you go from the perfect product to supermarket success? Well, as Gem explained, technology was a big help: “After getting the trademark and the patent, the next thing we did immediately was make sure we got the .com for the name, to the point that we had a few business names we were working on but when we saw they were not available [as domain names] they were taken off the list.”
In fact, it always makes good business sense to see if you can get the right domain name before settling on a business name. And to make sure that the name you’ve chosen doesn’t violate anyone’s property rights.
With the .com domain secured, the duo created their website – a now crucial part of their growing business.
“Caulirice.com plays a very important role for our business. First itâ€™s a way for people to be able to get our products if they canâ€™t find us in their local supermarkets because you can purchase products directly from the website.
“Itâ€™s playing a great role in engaging our customers. Itâ€™s not just telling them about the product, we talk a lot about health, a lot about exercise, things that we believe our customers would be genuinely interested in.”
The website has also provided them with a solid base from which to spread the word about what they’re doing.
Jamie said: “We promote our website a number of different ways; socially, we also put articles on our website to increase our search engine ranking and the articles we have on the website, we also seed in social media, use in press, and traditional press always mentions the website. Our packs have the website on. Itâ€™s vital for us because what allows us to do is have a one to one relationship with our customers that we canâ€™t have through selling in a supermarket.”
He added: “The website has certainly allowed us talk broadly about the business to educate people and to sell.”
So what advice does Jamie have for anyone thinking about starting their own business?
“I would just let them know itâ€™s not going to be easier than working for someone else. Being your own boss means you are going to have kick yourself up your own arse, and everyone knows that is not easy to achieve. You have got to stay motivated, youâ€™ve got to retain some perspective because there might not be anyone there telling you itâ€™s a bad idea. Youâ€™ve got to work harder. Donâ€™t rely on favours or assume you know better than anyone else. Youâ€™ve got to test your ideas.”
But as Gem explains, all that hard work does have its rewards.
“Iâ€™m a mum, [we] have a five year old daughter and I think the biggest thing for me is the flexibility. You work hard, I have never worked this hard in my life, you put in so many hours when itâ€™s your own business, but the good thing about it is that it is flexible. I am still able to pick my daughter up from school, spend time with her during the afternoons. Of course you work in the evenings till early mornings, but in a way itâ€™s a big plus because you donâ€™t really feel like you are missing out.
Cauli Rice’s success was highlighted when they reached the final of the 2015 VOOM competition. You can learn more about VOOM and Cauli Rice’s experience in the competition here. That post also features support for people who have entered this year’s VOOM. And if you haven’t done that, you have until May 10th to enter. More details about the competition can be found here.