Small business: Puddings and financial sacrifice

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Julia Crownshaw (left) and Christie McCarthy, founders of the Dollop Pudding food business. Photo / Natalie Slade
Julia Crownshaw (left) and Christie McCarthy, founders of the Dollop Pudding food business. Photo / Natalie Slade

Christie McCarthy and Julia Crownshaw, co-founders of Dollop Puddings, handmade desserts, on the financial sacrifices they have made since their launch in 2009.

The financial plan

It is fair to say that from a financial perspective, we had a very steep learning curve when we launched Dollop. We had a very well thought-through plan to keep start-up costs to an absolute minimum but beyond that, the words 'cashflow' and 'working capital' were very foreign to us.

Well, we learnt very quickly what they meant. What they meant was that the start-up capital we had sunk into the business was only the tip of the iceberg. We soon realised owning our dream homes was going to be some time away, our corporate salaries were going to take a battering and overseas vacations were all but a distant memory from our OE's.

The reality of starting your own business, coupled with having very high expectations of yourself and ambitious growth targets, is that you put absolutely everything you have into the business - finance, time, energy and mental strength. This can be incredibly taxing and it is sometimes hard not to put your 'grass is greener' tinted lenses on but at the same time it is unbelievably exhilarating and extremely satisfying.

Mortgage what mortgage?

We both invested all of our life savings into Dollop so the kiwi dream of owning your own home will just have to wait a few years. At times this is a tough position to be in, with all of our friends settling down to nice homes but that will hopefully come with time and we wouldn't trade anything for all the experiences we've had in the past two years.

Financing the launch

Unfortunately neither of us are trust fund babies so we launched the business through our own blood, sweat and tears (aka working hard in our corporate jobs and saving every penny we could)!. We also outsourced everything we possibly could for our start-up phase to minimise the capital required on the things that would have make the difference between our comparatively modest launch budget and a seven figure launch sum. So we leased space in a bakery by the hour to produce our products rather than buying our own premises or taking on a lease.

The scary part

Leaving our full time jobs was a big 'gulp' moment. Probably the biggest at the time though it has since been surpassed many times! We were both working full time when we launched the business as well as making puddings until 2am on weeknights, not to mention the weekends.

This was in order to keep our overheads and working capital requirements to an absolute minimum. We slowly moved to part-time (we were very fortunate to have very supportive employers) and then eventually full time when the business could support us, albeit at below market rate for our respective roles.

Financial advice

We have had a business mentor, David Granger since day one. David has a fantastic breadth of experience in FMCG and small business. He has been a huge benefit to us in regards to financial advice, strategic guidance and governance.

What's in a name? The name you are going to give your business and your products is crucially important. Chances are, you'll be explaining how you went about the naming process to customers and staff for years to come. Tell us how you went about coming up with your company name and how this relates to the name of your products. Email me, Gill South, at the link below:

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