This month Graham Miller of Media Vu talks to a Milton Keynes businessman with an inspiring story to tell. The pandemic forced James Fagg (Sales Director) and the team at Jasper’s Catering, to carry out a complete rethink of their business model and they had to act fast. James pays tribute to Tim Lee of Collaborate MK for the invaluable part that networking has played in assisting with creating new business opportunities.
What impact has the pandemic and successive lockdowns had on the fortunes of Jasper’s Catering?
Things were pretty scary. We were serving the local business sector – many of them large corporates – when suddenly, within hours of the first lockdown being announced, our customer base plummeted from nearly 200 customers down to four. We realised pretty quickly that to survive, we needed to adapt and completely rethink our business model, and we had to act quickly. It was a pretty dreadful time for everyone in the business.
So, where did you find the solution?
We completely changed our focus and switched all our efforts overnight away from businesses and towards supplying the general public. We recognised that there was a gap in the market for people struggling to get groceries. Here was our opportunity to find a new direction for our business while supporting the community with an essential service. We were very much creating a brand-new business as we went along. That was the nerveracking part – working from day to day, hour by hour, without the benefit of previous data to help us plan. One thing that really motivated us was our staff. Being a family business, we have always been about people. One of our principal motivations was to keep our staff in work. The other was to do our best to support families and communities. We used social media to spread the word about our new service, and it seemed to do the trick.
It sounds as though you had to learn to adapt pretty quickly.
Fortunately, flexibility has always been one of our strengths. We’re lucky enough to have people in our team from different walks of life and with different sector experiences. Time was definitely of the essence. Within two days, we were reaching out to people on social media and communicating the benefits of our new service. In a few months, we’d completed nearly a thousand orders for our new local customers, which was fantastic. We’ve always worked hard to be involved with the local community, so it was lovely that when times were tough, the community supported us too.
I gather networking has played its part in your turnaround
Networking had always been a gap in my marketing knowledge. But I’d known Tim Lee of Collaborate MK for a while and had heard about the early success of Collaborate MK. Tim and I had a ‘discovery call’ during which he took the time to find out about the challenges I was facing. Through his six-week networking consultancy service, Tim supported me with plenty of advice. This consisted of a bespoke consultancy plan, covering everything from client generation through relationship building, creating networks, face-to-face networking and LinkedIn best practice.
Tim’s approach was great. With his background in retail and networking, he brings so much to the table. He has an amazing network of connections, and the regular Collaborate MK networking meetings on Zoom have been invaluable.
That’s some story – really inspiring. So, how’s the future looking?
The future is very bright. With the easing of restrictions, our traditional corporate clients are starting to get back in touch, and we still have our new-found clients from the local community. We feel most fortunate to have found a new string to our bow, now supplying locally and nationwide. Also, I’ve learned about the countless benefits of networking with Collaborate MK.