The dust has settled and I am getting back to my normal life after what has been an incredible few weeks. The impossible became possible just a few weeks ago which has helped my small business to grow quite rapidly, from a little unknown to a little known. From a company which people only knew as a market stall to retailers contacting me asking if I wanted to stock my products.
So, how did I get to here, well the story goes like this:
After a long drive, a train journey and some walking, my wife and I arrived in London at our little hotel and booked in. This was not an inclusive one by all means, it was one that suited our budget, so central London, close to Park Lane, we had a room without a view.
Having left our baggage there, our first stop was to go to the Speciality and Fine Food Fair because we were told that all the three-star Great Taste winners were on display and curiosity got the better of us. It is something to behold finding my Spicy Pineapple Chutney inside a glass display cabinet on the ground floor central aisle of a food fair, when I was expecting a small shelf on a trade stand. I was quite shocked to be honest and although I didn’t know anybody there, I was happy walking around, chatting to the vast plethora of trade stands, chatting about my success and of course, sampling the produce which was on offer. Mid way through the day, with both myself and my partner sufficiently stuffed, we got back to the hotel to prepare for the evening ceremony. My usual attire of shorts, t-shirt and hoodie, were not going to hack it so I pulled out my wedding suit, having only worn it a few months ago, it more than matched the occasion. My wife, well she had an elegant long dress on, which outshone my meagre effort.
We could have taken a bus or a taxi to the venue, but not us, we arrived in style. On foot. The cheapest transport around and minus a few calories which was a good thing because we knew we would be in for an evening of indulgence.
For those who have never been to the InterContinental Hotel on Park Lane, it is definitely a step into another world. The cars parked outside would be considered more than our house and our two cars put together and the hotel was beyond grand with doormen and ushers guiding us through to the suite hired for the event. Normally, one would expect canapes (maybe) but the Great Taste team had gone one better and put on an array of three-star winners to come and display and for those attending the event the chance to taste their products. So, more taste testing and this was before the ceremony even began.
I did feel out of place though, mentioning numerous times to my wife, that the people who attended were from the elite of the food and drink world, and I didn’t know any of them and they didn’t know me. I think the best advice I got, was from one of the people showcasing their wares, ‘everyone is human, they don’t differ in anyway. They might have more success but you (me) are successful to’. Good words to take me onto the next stage. The dinner.
We were sat on a table with the suppliers of Loch Fyne, the owners of Robinsons Brewery, the buyers at the Cooking Channel and a multiple Great Taste award winning Preserves company, The Artisan Kitchen. I was extremely out of my comfort zone and within seconds this increased by a few notches when I found out that my Spicy Pineapple Chutney had been nominated for the Midlands Golden Fork Award. I was in shock, knowing how many amazing products were produced from such a wide variety of culinary businesses and to have got into the top three was beyond my wildest dreams. Could this truly be happening? The regional awards were to be done before the start of the dinner, so, within ten minutes of sitting down the Midlands award nominations were being read out. My heart raced as they read out my little business’s name and my award-winning product. The suspense was literally unreal. Had a won, had I managed the impossible, no. It was a step too far and the winner was announced. I was a bit sad but mainly relieved to get it over and done with. I was able to relax and enjoy the company of those around me with my wife and quite forgot all about the other nomination. The meal was incredible, created by the chefs of the InterContinental Hotel, one which I will long remember and once the food was eaten and the drink flowing nicely, the rest of the awards started to be read out.
There were no nominations this time, just the winner announced straight away. So, when John Shepherd (Managing Director, Partridges) got onto the stage to read out the winner of the Golden Fork ‘Startisan’ of the Year Award sponsored by Partridges, I was not expecting my name to be read out, nor my business. But it was. I sat there for what seemed like a few minutes, clearly not realising what was happening and it took my wife to haul me to my feet and push me forward for me to realise this was for real. I had to stop myself crying because the occasion clearly was getting to me. To walk onto the stage and to be presented the award in front of all these esteemed people of the food and drink world was definitely a moment to savour and all I could do was smile incurably because it was happening. My dream was becoming a reality. Shortly after the Golden Fork was thrust into my hands, I was then led off for an interview and had a microphone thrust into my face with the question how do I feel?
Elated, overwhelmed, overawed with the whole occasion. I simply could not get my words out, much to the amusement of my wife who was quick to quip in that this was a rare occasion. I think that was what settled me. Being able to have a laugh about it and compose myself and to be able to walk back to my table with a standing ovation by those who I thought were significantly above me was something to behold.
The rest of the evening, well that was a bit of a blur, but who can fault me. Both my wife and me spoke with some influential people, but left the hotel by the same means as we got there. By Foot.
It’s been nearly four weeks since that happened and my life has been a complete blur, with local radio and newspaper interviews, retail businesses getting in touch and markets wanting me to stand. Quite a lot to take in from an eight-month-old business run by one. Would I want to take it all back, absolutely not! My Golden Fork sitting proudly on my desk.
All I can think is how to push my company further ahead into the future, because at the moment my present is definitely golden.