Cousins make £200,000 in less than TWO years – ‘Wish we had done it sooner!’

Entrepreneur Holly Tucker recalls ‘risking it all’

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Maya Harunna, 35, and Taeya Abdel-Majeed, 35, founded No Guilt Bakes in November 2019 after a gruelling six months of experiments and recipe creation, but as their first entrepreneurial venture, the pair were ‘fully bootstrapped’. Despite being inundated by a full-time career and studies, they were determined to create a ‘diet’ range of food without the ‘diet’ taste, a success embodied by their explosion of growth during the 2020 lockdowns.

“In the beginning we had to be far more selective about what we chose to spend our money on as we were fully bootstrapped.

“We spent a little bit of money on a new mixer and then we had to depend on revenue to slowly grow our reach using social media and paid ads,” the founding pair said.

The pair have known each other since birth and always felt the pull to entrepreneurial business, but could never quite decide just what to do with it, until the idea spawned for No Guilt Bakes.

“We officially launched No Guilt Bakes in November 2019, but prior to that, we had spent six months baking and testing recipes on our keto and non-keto friends to make sure that the flavours and texture were exactly like we wanted,” they commented.

“It was important to us to create a product that people could enjoy and that didn’t taste like a ‘diet’ product.

Launching at what seemed to be a pristine economic time, No Guilt Bakes set up a physical stall at a food market in East London.

“Unfortunately, the pandemic hit, and not only did sales drop drastically, but we had to re-evaluate our future.”

This has been a struggle for many entrepreneurs as they considered what is necessary for their business to continue through the pandemic and whether that was something they could actually provide.

They added: “Overnight we had to adapt our strategy, and our focus shifted to online.”

This key pivot saw No Guilt Bakes grow by 600 percent in only the first year of business, and this trend does not seem to be stopping for the food-loving founders.

“We have learnt many lessons along the way, and one thing we would do differently is to not always believe the hype.

“We worked alongside a number of providers, from packaging designers to marketing agencies, who promised results that they couldn’t deliver. For a small business, this could have proved to be a costly mistake,” they noted.

“Being a bootstrap company, we have had to have a very hands-on approach and so platforms like Google Garage have enabled us to learn skills in marketing and advertising; helping us to grow the business in the midst of a pandemic.

They added that their sudden, dramatic rise in popularity was due to people investing more in their health and wellbeing: “People were trying to nail down healthier habits, cut down sugar or lose weight and were looking for tasty, sweet, less-processed alternatives.

“When we launched there weren’t many great-tasting keto options that you didn’t take months to be delivered.

“Our focus on online business also supported this as everyone turned to ecommerce to fill the gap made by our inability to connect with people. Gifts were bought and sent, and people were certainly open to trying new things.

The pair added that having social media platforms and groups such as Foodhub was instrumental in their success by helping them to connect with likeminded customers and fellow entrepreneurs.

“We would like to see the business go from our kitchen to everyone else’s.”

“We started online but we’d like to grow beyond interacting with our customers online to in-store and in person.  We were recently accepted onto the PSALT Accelerator scheme, which is supported by major retailers including Tesco, Sainsbury’s, Waitrose and Ocado, and so we are hoping to use everything we learn from the retailers to make sure the products are ready to be in stores very soon,” they added excitedly.

The pair concluded with some sound words of advice for other budding entrepreneurs:In the words of Nike – ‘Just Do It’. We had both wanted to set up businesses but had delayed it for a variety of reasons. Now we only wish we had done it sooner.”
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