AT THE HEART OF THE BUSINESS

Who makes Sarah’s Creative Kitchen Limited tick each day? 

You know their names, or maybe you don’t, but behind the scenes there are so many people that help to bring you your goodies to the doorstep to be enjoyed each time. 

So I have decided they are the heart of the business, and I want to introduce you to them all, and give you a little bit of information about what their role is within the business, how long they have worked for me, and how I know them…. 

Katie – I am starting with the member of staff who is still with me from the very start, she was one of the first recruits, along with Lauren (who has left us now to have a baby).  Katie started right back in early 2017.  She popped along to my house to have a chat about doing a few hours here and there to help and now clocks up around 25 hours a week if not more some weeks.  Katie has been through every change we have made, and I really wouldn’t be here without her continued support, even through lock down you would find Katie coming in all hours of the night to work and do her hours around her family. 

So what does Katie do… the list is quite long, she helps top your chocolate, gets the mould’s ready for insertions, tops the chocolate and wraps and labels, she also boxes up orders, replies to the odd email here and there, she will often call customers as well to talk through any changes required, washes up, and recently has started to assist in the Eatery with baking, which she says she really enjoys.

You will also find Katie front of house at the shop, supporting us all to keep the shop open.

How do I know Katie?  Well she is basically a cousin to me, she’s marrying my blood cousin, but we have all said she is as good as family now, wouldn’t swap her for the world.

Sarah – she also joined me right at the start, and I never forget how I managed to talk her into joining our team, we popped out for cake and tea, and again like Katie she offered a few hours when needed…. the rest is history.  Sarah works between 12 – 16 hrs each week, sometimes more at seasonal times. 

Sarah’s role is very similar to Katie (above), helping to prepare the chocolate goodies, from topping, wrapping, labelling and now eatery goodies from start to finish, she is our wonder star cleaning expert as well, and loves getting into the chillers to clean them each week, and she quite tiny so could actually squeeze herself in. 

How do I know Sarah?  Now myself and Sarah go back many many years, in fact to when I was about 18 years old I think, the stories she could tell you all, although I am never shy in coming forward.  We have been away on many girlie adventures and I’ve lost count on the drunken nights out in Southend!

Natalie A – Natalie joined us back in 2018, I was after her joining me from the start of the business, but just couldn’t afford her ha-ha.  I have worked with Natalie in the past in the city, so I knew what to expect really, didn’t even have to interview her.  It took a couple of years to get her to come over, mainly with her changing jobs, and not really enjoying the travelling, and we finally secured her. 

Natalie is our office manager, and second in command while I am away from the business.  She looks after all the email correspondence, packaging orders up, helping to make, looking after the wages side, paying bills, dealing with HMRC and Inland Revenue with VAT returns and NI payments. 

She also looks after the training side to ensure all staff have the tools and training they require within both businesses.  She takes care of ordering stock up and doing the weekly run out for emergency supplies.  You will also find Natalie at the Eatery at the front of house, serving and ensuring everything is in place.  Natalie works 35 hours a week, if not with us. 

How do I know Natalie A? Another family member, she is my actual cousin (our mum’s are sisters) I used to look after Natalie lots as a young baby and child, and we always had a great relationship.  She has worked with me from such a young age, even helping me out in other ways when at school with delivering newsletters, she has always been a hard worker.  Natalie will be going on Maternity leave early 2021 to have her first baby, and will be greatly missed within the team.

Izzy – She joined us back in 2018, during that freak snow storm we had around Feb/March time.  Lots of the staff had to stay off work due to school closures.  Izzy was still in six form at the time, but her school was closed, so her mum Michelle (who also works with us from time to time still) brought her in to help us out. It was a crazy busy month with Easter, and she has stayed with us since. She is a real asset to the team.  She started doing night shifts, then ended up being full time doing 35 hrs + a week. 

Izzy is our star baker, many of the products you try out at the Eatery are baked by Izzy.  I will come up with ideas and she then puts them into real food.  She used to assist me making chocolate all the time, but has had to take a step back at this time to focus on the shop making.  She will still help to pump the chocolate into the mould’s ready for the others to top.

How do I know Izzy?  I knew her mum before I knew Izzy, I have known Michelle her mum since I was around 4 years old.  The first time I met Izzy though was when she started with us. 

Paul (aka Daddy) – Well what can I say, Dad retired from his work last year (2019) and I kept saying to him would he come and help us out from time to time, and what is meant to be once a week, does often turn into 3-5 times, which my mum does often comment on saying don’t wear him out. 

Dad is like jack of all trades, he can temper the chocolate, maintain the machines and all equipment, pipe the chocolate, top and package (slowest member here, but we love him), he can certainly eat all our vegan products we make, and runs around doing errands, shopping, trips to the factory to collect supplies, deliveries to our trade customer, and so so much more.  Him and Michael (my husband) pretty much built up both premises for me to use. He also helps out with collecting Alfie for us from school when busy.

How do I know Paul?  My Dad, the man I have looked up to all my life and I love that I can finally work with him by my side.  he doesn’t like my swearing, but I said that is part of running your own businesses, you have to let off steam ha-ha. 

Natalie O – The only member of the team that is hidden away up North, and remotely works for us, and what a fantastic asset as well, I personally couldn’t do without her, and she makes is possible for me to switch off from parts of the business at times. 

Natalie looks after our Facebook pages, and also writes many of our articles for our newsletters, with the help of me adding bits, which then normally ends up being the part with errors (ha ha, sorry Natalie). She looks after our conflict resolution as well, which is minimal, but each week I use a good hour of my time with her to offload, and she has become a very good friend as well to me and my family.

Natalie works 10 hours a week for us.  Whilst she looks after the Facebook pages (all three) she does consult with me over replies etc, and I feel like she is another model of me, just with a Northern accent, and that is what I wanted to achieve, that customers feel like they are still receiving the same care and attention with replies to what I can offer.  With so much time spent on social media, it was an area of the business I had to bring in help with so I can carry on running Instagram on my own, and occasionally help from the girls on my phone.

How do I know her?  Long story short, I put up a post on my Instagram page, she replied and her reply made me check out her profile, I sat and cried most of the night, as I read posts about her precious baby, Otis born sleeping. We started messaging and that is pretty much the story, she offered to do some post wording for me on Facebook and it reached thousands and I then asked her to work with us, within 2 weeks of speaking she was on our team. 

Michael (my husband) – Well he really just fell into it like myself, he doesn’t get paid, but he does get annoying calls, texts and phone calls from me most days asking to fix something IT related.

He supported me to set up all of the shops and websites we use, although he isn’t trained in website and shop building, I think he does a great job.  He also looks after all the compliance for the financial side of the shop, like the data protection side of payments. I cannot really say hours worked, as some weeks I might not bother him, then other weeks it might be 2-10 hrs behind the computer – all unpaid of course. He is our IT support.

How do I know Michael?  I met Michael on a dating site, plenty of fish (hmmm had a lot to answer for), we started talking in July 2010, had our first date literally a week after first connection, and the rest is history, married in 2012, and had Alfie in 2015.

Daniel – I have added Daniel as many of you do not even know that he exists, but in all honesty he is a very important, behind the scenes member of our team. Daniel is our cleaner, and what a cleaner at that!

He used to come to our factory every Friday and spend 3-4 hours carrying out a deep clean. Ensuring all the making area’s were ready to start again each Monday.

We look after the day to day stuff, and Daniel the deep cleaning side, like pulling all equipment out, getting on the floor underneath shelf units, cleaning the toilets.  He is now going between both premises, and is so important to us.  He has his own successful business, mainly cleaning housing blocks, and industrial properties.  Daniel works around 4 hours a week for us.

How do I know Daniel?  I was introduced to him when we moved into the factory in Southend, back in 2017.  Another business in our little block gave me his number as he looked after their cleaning, which I knew he had to be good as they are medical instruments to be used in hospitals, so I knew then that he was our man. 

Michelle – now what can I say…. I have added her in here, as she still pops back to help us out.  Michelle used to work with me at the factory, but after some quiet periods of work for us, we had to reduce hours down, and she needed something more secure, so off she went to train as a Personal Trainer, and now runs her own sessions and has a great client base, me included (when time allows), plus she works for a gym local to us as well. 

She used to do a very similar role to Sarah (above), but she was quite strong with me to make changes to some areas of the business, which I never like changes, but one big movement she made me do was the daily postal pick ups, and we have never looked back since.

How do I know her?  I have know Michelle since I was 4 yrs old, and she used to boss me and her younger sister around, but I have forgiven her now.  Michelle is Izzy’s mum as well.

Sam – Now many of you may recognise this lovely lady straight away! Its the wonderful Sam Pearson from Instagram.

Sam joined us late in 2020, and what a crazy few months she has had so far, nothing like throwing a new member of staff into the pot during the two busiest seasonal periods.

How do I know Sam? I have known Sam since the start of my online shop! She was one of the three original bloggers that I worked with at the very start, Sam has also been a customer all the way through our crazy four years.

I am so thankful to social media platforms for bringing amazing people, who then become friends into my world. I never really had intentions on taking on another member of staff so close to Christmas, but it kind of just happened. Sam had been made redundant during the pandemic and she was applying to work with a friend of mine, and the minute I knew she was looking for work I offered some hours to her, ha ha, literally the quickest interview ever!

Sam does a similar role to Sarah and Katie, she works 14 hours a week with us, and the hours fit in really well around her little boy, which I totally understand its so hard to find a position that allows for school drop offs in the morning. She has said that she loves the job and the girls she works with and I must say she has just fitted in so well with us all, like fate made that message happen to then have her join us.

I hope she will be with us a long time, and will slowly take on more responsibility over the next year.

Katie – yes we love to have repeat names here. Katie is our newest member of staff, helping us out for 5 hours each week, although I am trying my best to increase her hours, but she has two other jobs already… this girl is a workaholic, and such a special friend to me.

Katie helps top the chocolate, package, washing up, cleaning, labelling, basically anything I throw at her, but her best job is topping our cookies, shes with me the day they are freshly baked, so gets to support me on that side of the business. She is literally the nicest person on this planet! everyone I know that meets her says the same as well, and her life was thrown into total turmoil last year, after losing her husband just five days before her baby daughter was born, and throughout everything she remains with the biggest smile and largest heart ever.

How I know Katie? I’m trying to think of the year, but I want to say around 2008, she dated one of my cousins for a short period of time, and I am so grateful to have her as a friend still. She has supported us from afar, with ordering goodies to be delivered when she moved away and then when returning to our home county, she then ordered lots of goodies to be delivered all throughout lockdown from both stores. Katie joined us with another off the cuff text message, like Sam, we were just talking about life and the next thing she is coming in to help us out in our hour of need, and we are keeping her now ha ha.

Me (Sarah) – well here we are, the creator and owner of both of my businesses.  For those that do not know me, I am 46 yrs old, mum to Alfie (5) and Wife to Michael.  I started my business as something very different, it was all targeted around running healthy cookery demos at my home in Southend.  I had attended Weight Watchers for 1 year and lost 68lbs following the birth of Alfie.  I discovered I loved sharing my recipes of fake away cooking and missed the social aspect of my job in the city whilst on maternity leave for a year.  So I combined the two loves and away I went. 

Whilst losing my weight I really craved sweet treats and started to make my discs for myself and over time more and more people started to take an interest and even placing little orders with me.  I decided I would trial out running a farmers market stall, and the night before I am at home making so much chocolate and Michael was helping me to package it ready and the rest really is history.  Cookery demos went on the back burner and chocolate making took priority.  After several successful markets I ventured into selling online and Michael created my first shop late 2016 and we launch it December 2016, and here we are now, with over 108K followers, making over 5000 packs of chocolate every day, and moved from my home kitchen to the factory and then expanding to a second premises in 2019.  

I mainly do all the chocolate making, I look after all of our Instagram pages, and support Izzy with making and baking goods for the shop.  I also look after the chocolate making classes as well, I especially love the adult ones, as I get to have a drink.. 

I work in the region of 50-75 hrs each week, this involves physical making and behind the social media pages at night and weekends. 

I wont bore you too much, but if you want to know more, just ask me!