Samantha Wallace has gone from a fast paced cooperate lifestyle, working with MD's and CEO's to selling honey on one of London's most well-known markets and though the change is dramatic, she hasn't looked back.
Samantha specialised in Internal Communications, helping with employee engagement, company strategy and occasionally redundancy programmes. As fate, or luck as Samantha may say, would have it she was made redundant - however she was asked to accept deferred redundancy which gave her another 12-18 months of employment whilst she considered her options.
"My partner, Stefano, is Italian and has always worked in food since he's been in London doing everything from being a fishmonger to a driver for specialist and gourmet food companies.
"The time I was made redundant, Stefano's company was moving out of London to Kent so that the owner could expand the business - Stefano decided to hand in his notice, he wanted to start his own business, having had his own business in Italy, and as he's passionate and knowledgeable about food he wanted it to be in that area.
"He suggested we go into business together. Whilst I had no idea whether we'd be successful in any way, I love food. I knew I had around 12 months of work left, and was burnt out and seriously considering changing the type of industry I worked in.
"So through sheer chance we began to develop a business idea together."
The Borough Market was well known to Samantha and Stefano, having worked in and around the area and they had many friends who were already traders there - it was through these connections and their already accessible knowledge of the area that they decided to begin their business venture on the market.
When it came to picking the product however, the decision didn't come as easily.
"Stefano suggested selling honey as he had grown up with lovely honeys from his home region of Piedmont, Italy.
"I was not a big honey fan, certainly not the super market ones, but I did love Greek honeys which I got from trips to visit family in Athens.
"I was skeptical and completely ignorant of the market for honey, whether people were interested in it or not and even just how many varieties you can find! A trip to Stefano's family and a chance meeting with some bee keepers who were keeping some hives on Stefanos' fathers land, changed all that."
With Samantha sold on the product, now came the work to find the fabulous honeys that they sell today. Samantha and Stefano clued up on the honey making process and the different flavours available, and searched for small independent bee keepers and began to develop their business and name 'From Field and Flower'.
They tested their products in small, local and neighbourhood markets - getting a feel for the demand of their goods as well as taking customer feedback on what was liked and not liked to improve their business.
As Samantha was still working she was able to fund their business, making compromises where needed and being careful on where they invested so as not to waste what funds they had. She used the funds for things such as graphic design, label printing, first orders and materials for their pitch.
But even with the care and consideration they have made it hasn't always been plain sailing.
"The first year was pretty intense, working full time in a big corporate with long hours and a lot of accountability and juggling developing a new business was not ideal.
"Working at weekends at markets, testing out people's reactions to our products and trying to ensure the new business gave us some income - cash flow was difficult to begin with, as was finding the right suppliers and the right type of market.
"I think we just persevered, we had a hunch we were onto something and we were excited by how creative the experience of beginning a new business was."
Having envisaged one day trading on the Borough Market, From Field and Flower were accepted to trade - Borough Market is popular with the public and traders so it was no by no means a small feat to get to this stage. There is a rigorous application process however they had done their research, their business was strong and it was one that the operator wanted on their market.
Since then From Field and Flower has continued to develop using social media and taking card payments.
"We are mainly a face to face business but we use Twitter, Facebook and Instagram too. We're building up a small following and we try to use these channels daily.
"We are also developing online shopping where people can order for delivery which is especially good for customers not local to Borough Market.
"I use social media in my personal life to check in on my favourite brands and products and I think engaging in conversations about our products and how they've been used is fun for our followers! People have also come to see us as a direct result of a tweet they've seen.
"In regards to card payments we have started taking these relatively recently. Because the Borough is a big site and a popular destination, a lot of customers assume you take cards and going to get cash and come back can be a pain - we found we were losing out on impulse purchases because of it."
As for trading on a market as a new start up, Samantha and Stefano would definitely recommend it. Trading is not just a job but it has become something they love to do.
"I enjoy the look of intense pleasure on people's faces after they've tried a honey and fallen in love with it! I love knowing people are getting something that they will enjoy.
"Behind the scenes our fellow traders also make market trading a great thing to do. Every trader we have met has been warm, friendly and totally supportive, be that of your products or in more practical ways like helping you repair a table, or lending you an extension lead when yours has broken at the worst possible time!"
When asked what advice she would give to a new start up Samantha stated:
"I would recommend market trading, however I would say do your research first. Understand the type of customer, what other types of stall there are and what the footfall is so you know what your chances of success are.
"Be clear on what you are selling and what people should expect from it - test it out with friends and family and make them be honest."
Want to speak with Samantha?
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