We first met Karen for dinner with Kirsty from JamJar Investments, back in August last year, and we got to know her a little better since then. Throughout her career, Karen has launched many products and brands for major retailers – but we wanted to find out more about her own growing brand – the delicious range of Cream & Country.
Explain your business in one sentence!
Cream & Country is a quintessentially luxury British ice cream offering an awesome menu of quirky recipes including Scarlet ripple (our take on Eton mess!) and English Cream Tea (yup, complete with clotted cream ice cream, scone and strawberry sauce!)
What were you doing before you launched Cream & Country?
I’ve always been in the food industry working first for Tesco and Boots as a buyer and then as commercial director with companies as diverse as Turkeys, Christmas puddings and Sushi. Most recently I have been working behind the scenes with a number of clients through my business Food Mentor, but now am enjoying the hands-on experience of running a food business!
Where did you meet your business partner?
I was introduced to the CEO through an interesting route. When my book “Recipe for success” launched, I was asked to do a podcast with BD Dalton about my business. When he heard of Cream & Country, he introduced us and the rest is history!
What’s your biggest hindsight moment?
I specialise in helping food businesses to grow their sales often through retailers as that is my experience. Very quickly with Cream & Country, I realised that we were not going to get listings so easily in this very busy market which is a bit *hush hush* at the moment but am sure I will be able to announce our plans at a future TableCrowd Event!
What will the next year bring?
We are focused on Summer 2019 building our credibility attending quintessentially British events such as Royal Ascot, Royal Windsor horse show and Taste of London. We are also supporting Royal Hospital Chelsea with the launch of Scarlett Ripple, which will be sold through their shop and café and for each pot sold, we will donate 5p to their appeal. And hopefully loads more sales – with a big percentage of our business focused on export!
Give us one piece of advice for someone starting out in your sector?
It’s so hard to give just one piece of advice in this industry – I think one that is controversial but I believe is to grow slowly. Exponential growth might be sexy and what investors are looking for, but in reality, if you really get to know your business, your consumers and establish your systems then you have a better chance of survival in the long run. Think of the oak tree that grows slowly but produces a much more durable wood than its faster cousin, the pine tree!
I have seen a couple of businesses get listings in supermarkets too early. Their systems were not set up to cope so they either didn’t have the operational ability to supply in full and on time or they didn’t have enough customer traction to enable those listings to fly off the shelves. The move to a supermarket can sometimes double your sales overnight which can be fantastic but can also provide new challenges such as logistics challenges and cash flow problems as the settlement terms bite and there is no cash coming from that source for one or two months.
Convince someone to use your product in under 50 words!
What’s not to love about ice cream?! Seriously though, at Cream & Country, we are total believers in “a little of what you fancy does you good”. We use milk, sugar and fresh fruits to make a delicious creamy ice cream that has surprising swirls of flavour and texture.
What’s your favourite business in your sector – not including Cream & Country!
I have to talk about another business I have been involved with – Ice Kitchen! They have been going for about 5 years and have the best ice lollies in the business. Made from whole fruit and with really great visual appearance, they often outsell Walls when the freezers are side by side, in the same outlets. They have built their business gradually from the ground up with independent and are about to launch into their first major supermarket. They are also available on Ocado so check them out!
Tell us about your TableCrowd experiences.
I have absolutely loved TableCrowd – I have heard some fascinating speakers such as John Stapleton and Milena from Sainsbury’s and met some great people. It is great to network as each event is themed so it makes it easy to meet the types of people I want to work with or whom I can help. The networking is really well facilitated by the hosts who all do a great job of introducing people so that no one feels awkward. The two-course changeover is also a great idea so you get to meet double the people. It’s a really great concept and best of all, it’s not too expensive – definitely worth buying three dinners in one go!
So what’s your favourite London restaurant?
Part of my time, I live in the South of France, and I absolutely love L’Escargot – they have been trading for a long time and serve traditional French food – the snails are amazing! It would be great to hold a TableCrowd event there as they have a few quirky rooms for hire which are just full of character.
You can connect with Karen through TableCrowd – or meet her at one of our upcoming dinners: