Angela De Souza met with no-nonsense, straight-talking, businesswoman Lizzie Smith at COOK Cheltenham about her incredible drama free business success story. COOK offer remarkable frozen ready meals, prepared by their own chefs and delivered to your door via a nationwide delivery service. COOK shops are located across England, Scotland and Wales and Lizzie was one of the very first people to buy into the COOK franchise.
What did you do before you bought COOK?
I owned a Workplace Management company based in London which provided Analytics, Strategy and Change Management Services to multinational companies throughout the UK. This was my first business which I built from the ground up, on good old fashion values and principles. I reached a point when I was managing fifty staff members and moving Heathrow over to terminal 5. I had really big named clients and a fast-paced, no-nonsense corporate lifestyle.
Wow, so very different to what you are doing now, why did you buy COOK?
I have a child with special needs and it was becoming impossible for me to continue with the hours and travel required to run my company so I sold it and took a few months out before we set up COOK Cheltenham. I had always wanted to own a business that was part of the community in which I lived and so when COOK started franchising it instantly felt like the perfect fit for us.
Tell us about one of your scariest moments in this venture.
I do nothing without extensive planning and preparation as businesses fail when they are not thought through in minute detail. I am not a risk-taker, and I realise that this sounds arrogant, but I had no scary moments as I had my new business venture planned appropriately.
You say careful planning has been vital to your ongoing success; what techniques would you suggest others could use to maximise their potential?
Research is key. I spent months researching the area, footfall and general feel of the community before I took on the lease for my shop. Location is the other key factor. If I set up my shop in a different location I would not have enjoyed the success that we are enjoying today.
Tell us about your greatest success and failure on your journey so far.
Without doubt, we could never have envisioned the wonderful relationships we would develop with our customers. We have made the most amazing friends, one of whom even planned our wedding last year and has become a very dear friend of ours now. We take such joy from hearing people say that our café feels like a second home.
What is key to your working relationship with Sarah?
Sarah is the engine of the business and I steer it. Lizzie says this as Sarah walks past and smiles, then continues to scurry around clearing tables and taking care of the everyday running of the business. We work really well together and have very different roles in the business which makes it work.
What are your dreams for the future of your business?
My dream for our shop has always been, and will continue to be, for it to be the centre of the community and a place where people know your name, remember your stories, give you first class.
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