One Box Meals: Six learnings after one year in business
One Box Meals is the UK’s first Caribbean meal kit delivery service, bringing delicious recipes to doorsteps across the country. Sisters Dionne, Candice and Carleen started One Box Meals in lockdown and have now been in business for over a year, juggling day jobs and raising small children with establishing a new business.
We caught up with the sisters to find out what lessons they’ve learned after a full-on but very rewarding year in business.
- Be kind to yourself and step back when you need to
Starting a new business while looking after small children and continuing a day job has been intense and stressful at times; it requires both persistence and resilience, but the effort is worth it. Carleen says:
“Be kind to yourself and have patience. It’s important to understand that success doesn’t happen overnight. It can get very difficult when you’re juggling so many things and you may even feel like you want to throw in the towel. But then you get those rewarding moments like seeing your first order, and it’s like ‘Oh my gosh, our baby’s come to life!’ In the end, you will get paid back for all the time and effort you put in.”
Her sister Dionne agrees: “Sometimes you feel like you’re on autopilot and it’s all go. I think we were approaching burnout, especially when we had to start home schooling because of the pandemic. For example, we were still posting on social media every day and it was starting to kill our passion and become a chore. But we took a step back, redefined our roles and posted less often. It made a big difference.”
- Create boundaries between work and family time
When working together with your close family, often from a chosen home location, the line between work and family life can get blurred. Dionne comments:
“It’s important to set clear boundaries. We normally go to our parents’ on a Sunday and Dad will ask ‘How’s the business going?’ We have to say that we don’t want to talk about it because today is family time. We don’t want to end up discussing our shipping provider over lunch!”
- Organise your meetings
A key lesson learned in the first year has been making sure when meetings are organised, the group record and agree follow up actions and task owners, otherwise tasks can slip. Dionne says:
“We’re sisters, we’re always communicating. The business literally started from a FaceTime conversation! Initially we found that our business meetings could be a crossover with a chinwag! We’d have some exciting ideas and the creativity would flow, but then we didn’t actually define who was doing what, so things didn’t end up being done.”
Candice adds: “Meetings need structure. If you’re working with family or friends, put your business hat on for that meeting, focus on the plan and the key actions to follow up and then confirm them in an email or WhatsApp message.”
- Experiment with new ideas and learn as you go
A key takeaway from the first year has been to learn as you go and be open to new ideas. For example, the sisters found many customers were hesitant to commit to their monthly subscription model at first, so they introduced one-off orders which have allowed new customers to sample the One Box Meals experience. They also experimented with themed boxes for special days during the year – a very popular move that came with some unexpected challenges.
Candice says: “When we launched our Valentine’s Day box, we didn’t expect to get the traction that we did. Dionne’s living room was just stacked up with boxes and paper bags! We also found there was an issue with the system dates which meant everybody was told they were receiving their boxes on the 15th. We had to manically re-enter data on the system, reprint all the stickers at the last minute and respond to a flood of emails. So, that was definitely a lesson learned!”
Dionne adds: “We have to keep evolving. We’re a meal kit company, so we’re always thinking of different recipes for vegan customers, for example. We’re trialling those with some of our vegan friends.”
- Find the right support your business needs
Over the first year of trading, One Box Meals has started to grow. As the business evolves, the sisters have started to rely on a wider network of partners.
Dionne says: “At the start, we thought we could do most things ourselves, but as the business has started to grow, we’ve had to go outside of our triangle and get help to support our expansion. It’s as if the business is moving from being a baby to the toddler stage, and it’s now onto solid food! Our network of friends and family have been amazing.”
Candice adds: “We’ve also relied on the support from partners like O2 and other suppliers. That’s been really important.”
- Find your niche
When we ask if they have any advice for anybody who is thinking about starting a business but might be wavering, the sisters are adamant that would-be entrepreneurs should give it a try.
Carleen comments: “People are sometimes afraid of doing something because it’s already out there in the market. But it’s a question of finding your niche and working out what you can bring to an idea. Do your market research, and then just run with it! Nothing ventured, nothing gained!”
Last year we put One Box Meals to the test. Watch Dionne, Candice and Carleen complete an O2 challenge, while sharing their experience of O2’s flexible business contracts. You can check out their delicious meal kits here. And you can read more about how they’ve used social media to expand their customer base.
Are you a small business looking to grow? Take a look at how we can help your business flex and get the most out of your digital tools.