Today we have Alison from Menus4Mums with us. Can you tell us a little bit about your business please?
Certainly, the website is www.menus4mums.co.uk and what we do is help busy parents put tasty dinners on the table for their families and at the same time save time and money in the kitchen. Members subscribe for 4 weeks at a time at a cost of just £6.95 and they can access carefully prepared meal plans for the current week and also for the following week so they can get their shopping in. What we do is we base the meals loosely around supermarket bargains in UK stores, so if one of the supermarkets has chicken breasts on, we try and perhaps incorporate a recipe that would use those chicken breasts. Members also get the recipe cards and a really handy shopping list that’s broken down in to supermarket aisles so that they can just print it out and take it to the supermarket or maybe do it online.
Wow! So basically it’s all up to date week to week then then according to what’s on offer so that’s fantastic.
We also have a page on our website which lists some of, from our point of view, the top bargains in the UK supermarkets and that’s open to everybody and also anybody can come and download a free one week sample mealplan from our site just by signing up to our monthly newsletter.
Oh, so if someone is not sure and thinks it might be a good idea they can actually trial it out, that’s useful to know.
Exactly, yes, because we want people to be happy too.
Now obviously this is what you do now. Can I ask what was your background before you started Menus4mums?
Certainly, well my background was quite different I have to say. I worked for about 20 years in the Diplomatic Service for the UK Government and so I went on some overseas postings in places like Tokyo and Berlin but more recently I was working after having children in London and to be honest it’s a very difficult career to have and mix with small children. That is why I decided to take some special unpaid leave and I wanted to use the opportunity to set up my own business which is something I had always wanted to do.
Ah, so you took a Sabbatical from work to give this a try and you have ended up doing it.
Yes, that’s right, exactly.
Oh, a very sensible way to do it I think. Do you find it quite hard to get motivated?
No, I would say that I am a fairly motivated person, and because I really enjoy cooking and meal planning, something I have been doing for quite a long while with my own family and it’s something I quite enjoy, I don’t find it a problem motivating myself. I have to say it might be a problem if I really didn’t enjoy it but as I do it is no problem at all.
That is really good to know. I must admit I have interviewed quite a few people for this and everyone thoroughly enjoys what they have chosen to do and that’s just as important I think.
Now, there is a misconception sometimes that starting a business can be or is expensive. In some cases it is and in some it isn’t. Can you tell me if you had high set up costs, what your costs were like?
The costs were pretty modest really, because it’s an internet based business and I don’t have stock which could be something that would cost a lot. All in all my initial start up costs were about £2300-£2400 and quite a big portion of that was actually setting up my website. I could have done it more cheaply, but as I view it really as my shop I really wanted to get something professionally done that would give a good impression to people and would be genuinely helpful to them. I thought it was worth spending a bit more money on that, but there are lots of ways where you can shave costs off on some of the other things and think I can get this cheaper option now and I might be able to upgrade a bit later on when I am a bit more on my feet.
Yes, definitely, but you are saying that in your case the website was your biggest investment really.
Yes, definitely and I think that everyone who has seen it really likes it. I think that for me it was well worth getting it professionally designed by someone who I felt really understood what I was trying to do. I could have done it myself, but I don’t really think it would have been anywhere near as good.
Sure, sounds very familiar hence the laughter there on my part. So, anyway you mentioned that you don’t find it hard to get motivated but have you found with having a family it is a juggle sometimes?
I think it is probably a juggle for most people who work and have families to be honest. What I tend to do, I am lucky now in that I decided to only launch the business once my youngest had started school and that is a lot easier than when they are at nursery or at home with you all the time because, at least I have about 5.5 to 6 child free hours in the day when I can try and do the vast bulk of my work. I try not to do it when the kids come home from school because they are tired, I am getting a bit tired and trying to do anything work related doesn’t really work. I try and do it in the school hours or exceptionally sometimes in the evenings.
It sounds like you have found a really good balance.
Yes, I hope so.
Ok, at the beginning you briefly mentioned your website. Would you tell us it again for the listeners.
Yes, definitely. It’s www.menus4mums.co.uk and anyone can go on there and see what some of the best bargains are in UK supermarkets and they can also download our free one week meal plan.
OK. Now obviously we are called What’s Good to Do so it wouldn’t be right before letting you go and finishing this interview to not ask you what you like doing to relax and unwind.
Well, I like gardening. I like cooking. I have got an allotment that I share with a friend and that is a really nice place to go to and just generally unwind and let your thoughts wander. I also like going out with the family maybe to a Theme Park or maybe getting the tube into London or something like that and just looking around some museums or going along the South Bank or something like that.
Great, some interesting ideas there. So anyway thank you Alison for coming to talk to us today. I am sure the listeners will find it very informative.
Thank you Debbie for inviting me on. Thank you very much.