For the past three years I’ve been running a company called Malone & Co., which provides training for chefs as well as running a variety of cookery classes. We do everything from teaching the basics in Primary Schools to teaching The Afghan Society to bake cakes. I also do events all over London, including pop-up supper clubs and education clubs and events on healthy living.
Prior to setting up Malone & Co., I was a chef for 20 years, during which time I travelled the world trying to get experience.
Malone & Co. is now operating a café in North London and has been open for just over 18 months. The business is growing well and though it is early days for the café, things are improving and judging from the online statements by customers, things can only get better.
My interests are in providing a quality service to people, and I just happened to be good at cooking! I’ve always really enjoyed engaging with people and I love to see people enjoy my products, so once I realised I was good at cooking, being a chef was a natural fit for me.
My main reasons for being in the industry are still the same, however, at this stage in my career I’m very focused on the training element of the industry and the new generation joining the industry. We have also seen a marked increase in adults looking for a career change after changes in circumstances such as redundancies.
One of the biggest challenges in running your own business is staying relevant. So you have to keep up with changes in the market and pick up on what the new trends are. Staying relevant and having a presence on social media, for example, is so important to how successful your business is.
You’ve also got to keep yourself interested, because if you’re interested then people will be automatically drawn to that enthusiasm and interested in what you’re producing.
Very simply, keeping my business going! Anyone can start a business, but keeping it going for several years, and keeping it profitable, feels like a real achievement. It shows you’ve been able to keep your staff as well as your customers happy, and that can be a difficult job so it feels great to know that you’ve achieved that.
The pool of qualified people in the industry is getting smaller as I find that many younger people find it hard to commit long term to something that will bring benefit to them down the line.
A master’s brings method to your madness. It shows you a lot of things you don’t know, but it also cements the things that you do know.
You often find that when you’re running your own business, a lot of the decisions you make are based on instinct and just feeling that that’s the right direction to go in. So far I seem to have been doing all the right things, but I never could have explained why before and the course gave that to me. It made me understand the importance of marketing, and what is effective as well as what’s not. It really helped me hone my skills and give substance to my instincts.
Recognising where innovation can come into what you do and then helping you introduce that into your business is another key thing the course has shown me. You find out how even the smallest things, like grating cheese effectively, can make a real difference to your business over time.
How to write a good business plan! I thought I was good at that before the course but I’ve learned a lot. I was putting totally unnecessary things in there before, or creating one too short but now I know what to put in and what not to.
Now when I write one you can see whether the business plan is going to work or not, that’s what a business plan should do. And you can write longer or shorter ones depending on who your audience is, i.e. bankers, investors and crowdfunding.
I’ve really enjoyed the comradery and learning to work with different people whose views and ideas are different to mine. During the course I worked with men and women from Japan to the United Arab Emirates and I keep in touch with them all in one way or another. It’s been great to hear their points of view and learn about how they’re going to take the ideas we’ve learnt back to their countries.
If I could take anything with me after I leave Middlesex it would be the Enterprise Development Hub (EDH). You can bring bring ideas to EDH and they’ll give you very honest, constructive feedback which I have found hugely useful.
I have also been able to build some great networks on the course. I now run a market stall in Brixton that sells Venezuelan food at the weekend with a fellow alumnus that I met on the course, and I also support and mentor another classmate who is launching a fashion line.
Go for it! If you’re serious about it, you should absolutely do it. But only do it if you’re going to use it. If not it’s going to be a waste of your time and money.
Master’s degrees are too good and too intense to not make use of afterwards. It would be like buying a pair of designer shoes and not wearing them, it just doesn’t make sense. I think if you’re going to do a masters, that’s great but use it. A master’s shines a spotlight on any career, so you have nothing to lose and so much you can gain.