A business day derailed by constantly refreshing emails


A business day derailed constantly refreshing emails

Lessons from food entrepreneur and chef, Fiona Wallis


London based food entrepreneur, Fiona Wallis, quit a highly successful career in banking and invested in a six month chef course to pursue her deep passion for food. Fiona and I go way back which is why, when she started her food enterprise - Rye Hill Kitchen, BorisHenry dove at the opportunity to work with her emerging brand.

all images copyright Rye Hill Kitchen

Mistakes are the greatest teachers. Which royal f*%k up has taught you the most valuable business lesson and what did you learn?

Rye Hill Kitchen is pretty new and thankfully there hasn't been anything major as yet although having to gut, descale and fillet all the fish while trying to prepare a four course meal for a client because I didn't think it was professional to let an actual fishmonger to do it springs to mind! With my private clients the biggest risk of mistakes comes from not balancing what I'd like to achieve with a meal and what is possible given kitchen and time limitations as well as the changing requests of a client (sometimes only a short time before a meal!). On the product side, my biggest mistakes so far have probably come from not asking for help and thinking I have to do it all by myself as if that makes a sale or supplier contract more legitimate! That and leaving production to the last minute which creates totally unnecessary stress and pressure on me and the business (see weaknesses below!).

Which of your weaknesses is your biggest challenge in business and how do you overcome it?

My weaknesses have always been a combined fear of making mistakes, rejection and failure and that stalwart procrastination which unfortunately love spending time in each other's company! As Rye Hill Kitchen grows I'm having to confront both of these head on. I will always leave something to the absolute last minute before I have to commit to it, be it pushing the button on a big order of supplies (or anything that involves spending capital) to approaching potential partners and stockists but that's not an option if I'm to keep up with balancing both the catering and product sides of the business. I'm having to live permanently in a place where my perception of what perfection is changes daily as well as analysing what does and doesn't work almost clinically and not taking it as a mark against me or what I'm trying to do with the company. It can be as simple as a mental note never to serve a certain client something again to changing the way I present and market a product to make it more accessible because in its current guise it just doesn't work. It's been really interesting to me to challenge myself with what I view as a success and understanding that while one week that might be selling out at a market while another it could be shortening production times or simply getting enough product packaged to get to the market in the first place! As the business grows there's less room for error, especially on the product side, so if i'm to meet my deadlines I'm not able to procrastinate any more which means I have to push through the fear as well! It's a challenge and I can't say it gets any easier but I am certainly more comfortable operating in this uncomfortable space!

What perceptions have you had to work hard at changing in your industry?

My products are both low-carb and vegan and, while I generally follow a low-carb diet I'm not so strict that I can't be tempted with a sweet treat or excellent slice of sourdough and I'm definitely not a vegan. While Rye Hill Kitchen started from not being able to find low-carb products in stores, I don't want to alienate anyone and at the basis of all my product development is something that is delicious and flavourful. That they happen to meet the requirements of those making certain dietary choices is an added bonus. It's the same with my catering - just because a client makes dietary decisions either by choice or necessity such as allergy or budget shouldn't preclude them from enjoying nutritious, soul-warming food. I fully believe that good food does way more than simply fuel our bodies and can be restorative on so many levels and that's what Rye Hill Kitchen stands for.

Was there a time when you had to turn down an opportunity - even though it seemed amazing - because it didn't fit with your business vision?

Not yet thankfully! Being really new, I've found myself saying yes to everything and trusting that my training a bloody-mindedness will help me figure it all out!

What are the things you avoid that you know can completely derail your business day?

Instagram, constantly refreshing my emails, admin work that distracts from the big stuff. That and staying up too late the night before because I 'don't have to be in the office by 9'. It takes real discipline to take a seat at the desk every day, and that wasn't a factor I had to consider when I was working for someone else. Holding myself accountable is still something I'm learning about - I find rewarding myself with chocolate does wonders for my self-discipline!

Find and follow Fiona’s Rye Hill Kitchen:

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Claire Keet