Toni Morrison was once quoted as saying; “If there's a book that you want to read, but it hasn't been written yet, then you must write it.” – and we believe that this can be applied to all areas of your life and it’s a motto that Katy Elliot – founder and director of The Nursery Kitchen took on in 1998 when she started her own business.
Nearly 20 years ago, Katy who at that time was a single mother with two small children found that the quality of the food in her children’s day care nursery was not what she thought it should be. After speaking to the nurseries about this, she says; ‘They implied that if I could do better, then maybe I should.’ – This sparked an idea in Katy’s mind and The Nursery Kitchen was born – she was on a one woman mission to create and produce a range of delicious, home-cooked meals using the freshest local produce for babies and toddlers and to be supplied to nurseries.
And she’s succeeded! The Nursery Kitchen now feeds over 12,000 mouths a week and delivers to day nurseries throughout the UK. Katy manages a team of 12, has moved from her kitchen table to own premises, won awards for her achievements and is thinking of more exciting ways to expand and grow The Nursery Kitchen.
Katy told us; ’20 years ago there was not the help out there for single mums wanting to start a business. And I was really nervous at first! I had two small children and no childcare so at the beginning I made the decision to work from home so when my children weren’t in nursery I could care for them.’
Like most start-ups, one of the biggest barriers for Katy was financial – ‘I struggled to get finance from the banks as they viewed me as a single mum trying to start up a cottage industry from home’ and of course, like many of the women starting their own businesses, juggling different roles was a challenge for Katy; ‘I juggle so many different roles both within the business; managing staff, cash flow, customers, secretarial work and cleaning work too! And on the personal side of things, I’m trying to be a good mother of two, a friend, a daughter and a sister.’
But Katy is clearly fantastic at juggling as the business has gone from strength to strength over the years. In 2013 she moved the business from her house to premises. ‘At that point my house had 30 chest freezers in it and my garden was full of sheds!’ It was at this point that Katy began to expand her team, starting with 2 members of staff and growing to the 12 strong team that she has now.
|Katy at Merseyside Women of the Year Award|
2016 has been one very exciting year for The Nursery Kitchen! ‘At the beginning of the year we won a contract to start supplying weaning food to COOK who have over 90 retail shops. Our initial order was 18,000 meals which was so exciting for us and was our first venture into retail! We were also able to beginning delivering nationwide to nurseries and this has continued to expand.’
It was this year as well that Katy met our team at The Women’s Organisation and began working with us on our business growth programme; ‘We have not looked back since we met The Women’s Organisation. We’ve worked with Janine (Hyland – Business Adviser) and Ali (McGrath – Enterprise Enable) who have offered us help and advice on every aspect of the business! This included recommending a bank that would work with us; we switched banks, consolidated our loans and got a much improved interest rate which instantly saved us £400 a month! Janine and Ali have been superb and have always been on the end of the phone when we need them!’
This year has also been the year that Katy has achieved some fantastic recognition for all the hard work that she has put into her business since 1998. ‘I was nominated for the Merseyside Women of the Year Entrepreneur Award and to my amazement I actually won! I was told by my team that it was what I deserved for all the hard work I had put in over the years, which was lovely! The award now takes pride of place in our offices!’ As well as this Katy has also been shortlisted for the Businessperson of the Year Award at the Wirral Chamber of Commerce which will take place at the end of September; ‘It’s another great honour.’
|The Merseyside Women of the Year Award|
The Nursery Kitchen has some great plans for the future and Katy told us; ‘In October this year we will be launching our new range of ready meals which will appeal to all ages. Firstly we have our Pensioner Pots, which are not quite full adult portion sizes as we have found that as people get older a normal sized meal is too much – so we have developed this one pot range which can be put in a microwave or oven with just enough content.’
‘Then we also have our single portion and family sized portion ready meals, all these dishes are based on the same ethos as the children’s nursery food – locally sourced produce with no additives and cooked with care by our lovely team of chefs.’
And what advice would Katy offer to a woman who might be in the same position that she was nearly twenty years ago? Wanting to start her own business but not sure where to begin! ‘DON’T! Only joking! My advice would be to surround yourself with a good team who care about the product and are willing to work together. I would also say, take good financial advice and keep an eye on the numbers!’
‘I have worked hard to get to this point and have learnt things along the way – I would have done things differently looking back – but there wasn’t as much support out there when I started the business. I would say – keep preserving and it will happen – Don’t give up!’
If you would like to find out more about Katy and The Nursery Kitchen, you can do by using the contact details below!
Phone: 0151 345 0155
And if you’ve been inspired by Katy’s story and would like some support and advice to help you start or grow your own business, then get in touch with us – email us on firstname.lastname@example.org or ring us on 0151 706 8111