How the business has developed over the past year
We launched the business in September 2020 amid the pandemic! Because of the restrictions in place, we had to adapt our services and started off hiring out our hand-crafted Prosecco & Donut walls running a COVID-safe doorstep drop off so that customers could still enjoy special celebrations with their families despite being in lockdown. We then designed and sold a range of Christmas hampers which had all sold out by December!
In March, we launched our cocktail delivery service which sky-rocketed our business overnight and took us out delivering to all corners of Kent, building up a loyal and regular customer base. We continued this until May when restrictions eased and we were able to start getting out to Weddings, Hen Do’s and more with our Horsebox bar! We were soon fully booked with several events every weekend from May until the end of 2021, an achievement we were overwhelmed with and very proud of!
We also launched cocktail classes to expand our services which have been very popular with bookings in the colder months especially and have provided a great way for friends to reunite after being isolated for so long.
We managed to grow a base of loyal customers, our social media pages have hit 1,000 followers in under a year and we have featured several times on Kent radio stations talking about our business and all that we do. We have been fully booked with several events every weekend since May and in the past 5 months alone have shaken, stirred and made over 1,500 cocktails! We’re now leaping to leave the Peggy Sue’s franchise and re-name our business as JEM’s Cocktail Co. a business that will be fully ours, still offering the same services but under our banner.
How I balance the business with my studies and job
When I started the business, I was heading into my final year at Pearson College London. This meant that I had to juggle studying, working and running a business. I received some great support from Arnold Du Toit, Pearson College London’s resident Entrepreneur advisor, in the form of regular catch-ups and guidance.
Jamie (co-owner) was working as an undertaker at the time of the business launching, a job that was very busy during the pandemic with very long days. The two of us had to work really well together as a team to ensure we balanced the business with everything else going on and we’d like to think it paid off!
How the pandemic has affected the business
The pandemic actually afforded us the chance to take things slowly, there was no pressure of looming events because there were no events taking place at the start! Starting up in the pandemic meant that we could take our time to get things just right, build up our presence online and do sufficient market research.
All-in-all, the pandemic has been a blessing in disguise for us and has helped us to become more innovative with our services, meaning that should we face another lockdown we can continue to run.
My advice to students who want to start businesses
The best piece of advice that I could give other aspiring entrepreneurs would be to have patience; make sure that you are prepared for each step of your business so it can go smoothly when you get to it, and understand that things may not go to plan. In each case, be patient, and try to stay calm, because as long as you know what you want to achieve with your business, you will realise that everything else that happens is temporary.
Secondly, we would say to be brave and ready to take risks. We launched our business during a lockdown – a huge risk looking back as this could have flopped, especially when it is such an events-based business! But by taking that risk we have achieved so much in such little time and are now in a position to take the business forward as our own and focus on this becoming our full-time job.
Finally, some friends and family may not support your venture at the very start as they may not take it seriously or may be worried that it won’t take off. Don’t let this dampen your spirits, surround yourselves with people who can offer good advice and are willing to help you in your adventure!
We have been very lucky to receive support, guidance and encouragement from several people at Pearson College London, with whom we could not do without! So, if you are thinking of starting your own business definitely approach staff/tutors for help.
By Emilie Bowes-Read, Business Management Alumni