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“My co-founder and I were constantly at loggerheads”
By Kate Bassett
Lisa Scott, the founder of Gourmet Gadgetry overcame conflicts, cash-flow problems and stock delays to find a recipe for success.
I’ve been a foodie for as long as I can remember. When I was little, I’d spend Saturday many afternoons baking cakes and concocting recipes. My father is a chef and runs his own catering business; I guess that’s where I get my entrepreneurial streak from.
I ran my own lifestyle and beauty PR agency for six years. One of my clients was Giles & Posner, best known for its chocolate fountains and quirky food appliances. Part of me itched to design the products myself. I kept thinking, I could do that – and I could do it better. When the company went into administration in 2011, the FD and I decided to start our own fun-food gadgets brand, Gourmet Gadgetry. The fact that I was three months pregnant didn’t put me off.
We each invested R360 000 and spent the first 12 months visiting factories in China, researching and testing products, setting up a warehouse in Kent and visiting retailers. I’d be up in the middle of the night writing instruction manuals whilst breastfeeding my new-born. By chance, I bumped into the electrical buyer for Selfridges at the International Home and Housewares Show
in Chicago, showed him our products and clinched our first big deal; our range of cupcake, cake-pop and waffle makers hit the shelves in December 2012.
Firebox, John Lewis, Lakeland and Harrods soon followed and the business snowballed. By the end of 2013, we were selling around 4 000 products a month, employing six people and turned over R11.7-million.
But then cracks started to appear. We had cash-flow problems; orders were piling in but there was never enough money for new stock, and retailers were getting twitchy over the delays. We made a loss of R720 000 but couldn’t explain why. My co-founder and I were constantly at loggerheads and the atmosphere was terrible. Friends would congratulate me on our amazing business; I appeared on Management’s 35 Women under 35 list but, in truth, I felt like a failure. If Gourmet Gadgetry continued to haemorrhage cash, it wouldn’t survive another year.
We brought in an independent accountant who confirmed our suspicions; the books were a complete mess. I had it out with my co-founder and he agreed to walk away.
Late last year, Eion Lyons and Linda Zhang – the husband-and-wife team behind Kent-based logistics firm Absolute Shipping – invested R7.2-million in Gourmet Gadgetry and joined the board, bringing structure and discipline to the business. Now everyone has access to monthly management accounts. We now have a range of 14 products and we’ve just signed a deal with Waitrose. Turnover will hit R18-million this year and, crucially, we’ll be in the black. We’re on the up but I’ve learned the hard way. I nearly lost the business.