Who are you and what you do?
I am Karen Green, managing director of Cream & Country, the quintessentially British luxury ice cream brand.
I have worked in the food industry for over 30 years, first as a buyer, then as a commercial director for a number of food companies [selling everything] from Christmas puddings to sushi.
For the last two years, I have been mentoring food SMEs and start-ups, helping them to grow their businesses through really understanding their brand and how to maximize sales through the right routes to market.
I am the author of the best-selling book “Recipe for success – the ingredients of a profitable food business” and judge of the prestigious Great Taste Awards.
Cream & Country is an amazing opportunity for me to take this fabulous range of quirky ice cream recipes such as English cream tea and New Forest gateau and get them into people’s hands, whether that be on pub menus, at festivals or eating at home in front of the TV. I also love that we are supporting British soldiers through our donations to Royal Chelsea Hospital for whom we have developed a brand-new flavour, Scarlet Ripple, to support their Scarlet Appeal.
What’s your view of the UK economy right now?
The UK economy continues to be tough right now with Brexit on everyone’s lips.
The key issues for the pub trade are, of course, inflationary pressures and finding the right people.
There has been massive price rises in key food and drink commodities and this will only worsen.
I think that the general public are nervous and, therefore, being cautious with their money and less likely to treat themselves.
How do you think things will change in the coming months?
Theresa May said there would be an end to austerity and I hope that is true and for the consumers’ confidence to be restored.
Once a Brexit deal is agreed in March 2019, I am hoping we can settle down and get back to normal.
What’s the best advice you can give to someone starting out in business?
The best advice I can give is surround yourself with amazing, inspiring people.
No one is an island, and no one has all the knowledge to make a success of things.
When you first start out in business, you don’t have a lot of money and that needs to go on the assets of the business, but there are plenty of networking events, Government-sponsored mentoring and other ways to keep growing and learning available.
What’s the biggest mistake you’ve ever made?
I went to a Paul Mckenna “Change your life in seven days” course and was inspired to retrain as a personal trainer and bought a local independent health club in Nottingham. I raised the funds with personal loans secured against my house.
I ran it for three years and then in 2009, as the recession bit, it went bust taking me with it!
How did you learn from it?
The key learnings for me were about the importance of location – it was in a local town between Nottingham and Derby and the majority of people were happier in the pub than a gym. The more affluent potential customers who were less than a mile away would not come into that area.
Plus of course, don’t invest all your own money in a business jeopardising your home and family’s financial well being
In your opinion, what’s wrong with the pub trade?
The pub trade has changed so much over the years and is still going through a natural reduction to meet the new trends.
One of the key challenges is that people are going out less – no need to go to the cinema because we can get films on our computer, no need to go to restaurants because we can have someone deliver restaurant-quality food to our house or even cheaper from the supermarket. And there’s no need to go to the pub to socialise because we do it via social media.
How can we fix it?
To fix this, pubs need to adapt to these changing trends and offer a reason to go out.
Events seem to work well where I am, whether that is a pub quiz, a wine tasting or special food nights.
Stretching the day is also important, so offering breakfast, lunch and dinner, but making the meals affordable, as there are so many options to divert the customer away from the pub.
Learning how to harness the power of social media is really important.
As people are so transitory it is no longer easy to rely on being the “local”. The pub trade needs to engage better with people and make them realise the pub is a community hub.
And in these days of Brexit, building on traditional British pub values and offering great British brands such as Cream & Country ice cream is obviously essential!