Women Entrepreneurs… The How’s, What’s, Why’s and Who’s that made it happen

We find out how Sarah-Jane Baxter, founder of TooFood, made it happen

TooFood was set up by Sarah-Jane Baxter in 2010. Previously a buyer at Ralph Lauren, Sarah’s vision to combine her skills honed there with her love for food inspired her to create a gourmet food company; importing the most equisite European foods. Every item has been personally selected from her extensive travels across Europe. TooFood has put a modern touch to the finest artisan produced foods with it’s young and enticing brand. Her products include olive oils, balsamic vinegar, pasta, sauces, chocolates, panettone and more.  The range is currently available through the TooFood website, as well as being stocked through notonthehighstreet.com and select delicatessens across London and the South-East.

Why did you want to start your own business?
TooFood was inspired by my great love of food and travel, combined with a growing frustration of working tirelessly for another company, and making such a small impact. I set about with the sole objective of sourcing the absolute finest foods possible and what better place to start my search, than Italy?

What challenges did you come up against?
Initially the biggest hurdle in setting up TooFood was trying to convince myself that in the long run it would be worth giving up on my flat, my job, and at times my life to move back in with my parents and start a business up on very little funding. Learning to deal with and understand all the official legals, and seemingly endless paperwork, is undoubtably the most mundane and perhaps challenging part of a business start up and it feels like there is little help available to ease this. Still now tax returns are a total mystery to me!

How did you overcome these?
A strong belief in the quality of my products and in the strength of the TooFood brand was paramount in the first, most challenging 6-8 months of its life. The thought of giving up on products which I was so passionate about and a business I knew that had great potential kept me going. Help from others who have started up their own business was also hugely important at this time; even if just to keep me sane when I felt like I had been on my own too much.

What is the most exciting thing about running your own business?
The payment for all those hours of hard work comes in the rush of adrenaline I get every time I deliver an order to a new customer; in the excitement of seeing my own branded products on shelves in stores and in seeing the enjoyment people get from the food I have provided.

Is it successful?
People constantly told me when starting out that a new business is never profitable in the first two years of its life, so as soon as the business went into profit, for me I judged this as my first success. But along the way it is about marking the small achievements and learning from the inevitable mistakes. In the first 6 months of working for myself I learnt more than in the 4 years of being employed in the West End. With this knowledge it becomes easier to see in which direction you should be taking the business to make it more marketable.

Would you recommend other women out there start something of their own?
Setting up your own business is certainly not for everyone; it does test your character at times. However, if you love your business idea and have a real passion for the concept or product behind it, it can the most fulfilling job in the world. You really can make it what you want; it can become your life or, as I have seen with a number of women, you can fit it into your life. There is a great flexibility in running your own business, which is one of the major perks.

What would you say are the benefits?
The biggest benefit of working for myself, for me is greater job satisfaction. It is all very well succeeding in your chosen profession, but when you are working for yourself every success is magnified, so everything matters that much more. There is such a massive sense of achievement when things go well.

And the cons?
What struck me when starting up TooFood was how much I missed the everyday human interaction you get from an office environment. It has definitely felt very lonely at times, especially as I do not have a business partner to bounce ideas off. I had become so used to working in a big team and was surprised by how much I missed people, and the everyday office prattle.

What advice would you give to someone contemplating setting up their own thing?
It is not enough to be unsatisfied in your job and to think that doing something on your own would be the easier option, as you quickly learn this is not the case. The first thing I would do is to make a list of all the pros and cons of starting to work for yourself. Speak to other people your age who have done so. You need to work out if this way of life would suit you before you embark on it. However great your business idea is, if you are miserable doing it, it will not succeed.