Now I’ve got much more confident with MY business and MY vision. I’m happy to tell people about where I’m at and what the current hurdles I’m leaping over are!
-Emily King, Founder of Milly's Kitchen
Can you give us a brief overview of what Milly’s Kitchen is?
Milly’s Kitchen is an artisan food business making and selling a range of delicious free-range sausages. All the ingredients that go in to the sausages are sourced from within Hertfordshire, making them low on food miles and showcase the amazing produce on my doorstep.
Tell me more about your career before starting your business?
I started life as a health professional (Podiatrist) and from this I moved into operational management, then project management and redesigning health and social care services. Initially my project roles were substantive then in 2012, my husband and I set up Willking Ltd – a consultancy offering procurement and project management services to the public sector. Last year I also completed a Masters degree in leadership and management in public services, which I completed part-time over 3 years whilst working full time.
What inspired you to start Milly’s Kitchen?
I’d been working on a large redesign programme for two years, which had slowly sucked the life out of me and destroyed my self-confidence. I knew I was unhappy and couldn’t carry on as I was. This is when I met Beth (life and career coach and founder of The Career Stylist) who has helped me re-build my sense of self-worth in a professional capacity, and helped me realise that developing a business around my passions is viable and will enrich my life immeasurably. For me, my passion has always been food! I love to cook quality, local, ethically sourced, seasonal produce. I’m not a vegetarian but animal welfare is paramount in what I choose eat, so it’s free-range or nothing for me. If I don’t know where it’s come from then I won’t eat it. I often struggled to find truly free-range sausages, and certainly hadn’t found many local varieties that I would consider delicious. So, this is how Milly’s Kitchen began!
How do you manage building it alongside your other career?
I’d decided to finish that contract and my husband and I were then going to Mozambique on holiday. Beth encouraged me to not have another contract lined up for when I got back – this was terrifying for someone who likes everything to be thoroughly planned and in order! But this ended up being such a valuable experience for me. It’s so easy to get in to the cycle of fear that lets you believe that you’ll end up penniless and on the street if you don’t know where your next paycheck is coming from! But in reality, this is obviously ridiculous. I’m intelligent, personable and self-resourceful; why would I ever let a situation like defaulting on my mortgage turn in to a reality?! It was a prime opportunity for me to put my newly rebuilt self-confidence to practice.
Mozambique was phenomenal; such an amazingly rich experience, and having the head space to think and take stock without the dark cloud of work to come back to hanging over the experience was really liberating. I indulged myself in thinking about what Milly’s Kitchen could be and how I might start to go about it.
On returning, Beth again encouraged me to take some more time. It felt both uncomfortable and amazing. I had no money coming in, but there were some savings in the bank and I had the support of a lovely husband (who was just thrilled to have a happy wife again). I had another month off, which I used to make contacts and find suppliers, learn about the new world of food legislation and council requirements, and enjoyed making lots of sausages to develop and refine my recipes.
After the 4 weeks I looked to pick up a part-time contract in a less stressful organization. I was working again within two weeks. It was 4 days a week, managing my own time, with a quick commute and getting paid better money than before! The flexibility and part-time nature of my new role gave me the time to continue exploring and organising the components needed to get my business launched. I’ve been continuing to work on Milly’s Kitchen in the evenings and on weekends to keep things moving; it’s not a chore though. I’m investing in my own business and it’s obviously something I’m very passionate about!
What’s been the biggest highlight?
Spending time exploring the countryside in Hertfordshire and discovering farms which rear their animals in such a great environment and with such integrity. In this world of intensive farming and cheap, low quality food, it makes me so happy to find farms being run in an ethical manner. I’ve literally pinched myself as I’ve been driving around in the countryside to the farms. I’ve been having so much fun and to think I may be able to make a living out of something I derive so much enjoyment from is truly amazing!
What’s been the biggest challenge?
Managing my response to other people’s opinions and interest has been a real challenge for me. So many people have been interested in what I’ve been doing but I’ve really struggled not to perceive this as negative scrutiny. Setting up a business takes time and once you get in to the detail there are so many little things to do. When people kept asking me how I was getting on, what my plans were, whether I had written a business plan yet, I often didn’t feel like I had any progress to tell – it made me feel like a failure and that I wasn’t doing enough, fast enough. Maybe I wasn’t good enough to make this happen at all? The reality of this is that they are just interested – mostly because they actually think it’s really cool and they want to support me, or that they would actually really love to do something similar themselves but are too scared.
Now I’ve got much more confident with MY business and MY vision. I’m happy to tell people about where I’m at and what the current hurdles I’m leaping over are! When people ask me what my plan is, I’m happy to say I don’t know – and that’s ok! I am just enjoying seeing how it pans out and will use my senses to guide me through. I have faith that I’ll make the right decisions for me and my lovely sausages.
What’s your secret to getting your products out there?
I’ve loved building my website, and I’m really pleased with how it looks. I hope it will resonate with other ‘foodies’ like myself, and will be the kind of website that you would forward on to ‘foodie’ friends! I’m also on Twitter and tweet about all things food related which I discover.
Now I’m more comfortable singing from the rooftops about my business, it’s amazing how much interest word of mouth generates from family and friends. As this is a business focused on local produce, building my business close to home and then it cascading from there is a really great place to start.
I’ve been on local radio in Hertfordshire, which was initially a very daunting prospect, but ended up being such a fun experience. I would love to do more stuff like this and am constantly keeping myself aware and open to amazing opportunities that now seem to be appearing. I’m currently not selling in markets, as I don’t feel it’s right for me personally, but I could go down this route in future. I would love to sell wholesale to Deli’s and restaurants too.
What advice would you give to other women who dream of starting their own business?
I’ve always cooked (a lot!), but knew nothing about what it takes to work in/run in a food business. The learning curve has been steep and very frustrating at times but with a little tenacity, passion and an acceptance that not everything runs at the rapid pace that a Project Manager wants it to, you can successfully run a business in an entirely new sector. Don’t let this put you off or have doubts that you can’t succeed – you can!
What’s next for you?
We are looking to move house to a place with enough space for me to build a new/ separate kitchen, which I can get approved and can then sell to wholesale market. This is a really exciting prospect!
What’s your favourite quote?
“You’re a long time dead”! Life is ticking away – make sure you enjoy it whilst you’re here….
To feast your eyes (and your taste buds!) on Emily’s scrummy freerange artisan sausages, then jump on over to Milly’s Kitchen here
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