Interview with a career change mum – Jane Gordon

Ruth Kudzi17

Today I interview Jane Gordon, she has over 30 years in food and retail under her expanding belt, from working weekends in local shops through her teenage years, to large corporations such as John Lewis Partnership, Premier Foods and Safeway, and latterly with smaller award winning start-ups like Moorish (Humous and Dips) and Man Meat Fire (BBQ Sauces and catering). All amazing. And all unique in their own way.

Having earned her stripes in Retail Inc, she is flying solo offering her knowledge and time to those who need her as their Girl Friday. One day at a time.

1.     What gave you the idea to start up your business?

My business idea was something that evolved over time. There were a few things happening in my current role and I knew that the longevity of it was in question so I set about thinking what my next move might be. After a few days/weeks/months planning and thinking and strategising, FMCGenie was born. I saw a niche that pulled on my many years of experience in food businesses big and small, that could provide support for food and drink business to grow without the need of employing a team. And what kind of recruit would they want anyway? Sales? Marketing? Finance? FMCGenie bridges that gap until their business is thriving, and can support the financial commitment of an extra person or team. Unlike others that mentor or tell you how to run your business, I support on a practical level. It's like it was the most natural thing in the world, and why had I not thought of it earlier!

2.     What did you do to prepare to start up your business?

Without sounding pretentious, I think my whole career has been preparing me for this, but I was oblivious to it. But once the idea came into my head, I talked to a few trusted industry confidants and asked if they thought there would be a demand for what I have to offer. And when people started to snap my hand off, I saw this as a good sign! Having launched my own business in the past, I knew what needed to be done; bank account, website, networking etc., so it all came quite naturally.

3.     Which aspects of your business did you need help with? Where did you get that help?

From the outset, I knew I'd need help with my books. I love numbers and I have a penchant for a sexy spreadsheet but I am paranoid about getting taxes and important law stuff wrong. I truly believe that you play to your strengths, so I sub this bit out and get a good night’s sleep. I also didn't realise that I'd need a mentor in the early days, but it became apparent quite fast that I need someone to bounce ideas off and who can guide me in my future endeavours. His help over the first 6 months has been invaluable.

4. Describe what your business does and who you target it at / your ideal client

I have 30+ years’ experience uniquely in retail, working across Multiples and Convenience (John Lewis, Safeway, Musgrave, Spar) PLUS Managing food businesses large and small (Manor Bakeries/Mr.Kipling, Moorish Smoked Humous, MAN MEAT FIRE).

Last Autumn FMCGenie was launched; dedicated to supporting small brands as they transition in to GREAT brands. My mission is to provide affordable and easily accessible support over this time.

Entrepreneurs launching a new food business, often on a shoe string, have to spin many different plates at any one time, causing stress, confusion and potentially resulting in business failure. FMCGenie offers support and hands-on help when they need it, from marketing, to selling into retailers, with confidence, industry knowledge and ability to put plans into action and beyond.

I am the swiss army knife of retail and FMCGenie helps entrepreneurs achieve outstanding results from the outset and to hit the ground running.

5.     What is the most rewarding thing about having your own business?

To see a client with just an idea, make informed and confident decisions, to establish and grow their business and start getting sustainable and growing sales. Often, they just need a hand to hold to take those first steps, or indeed larger businesses just need support to get them to the next level. I get a real buzz from being part of it.

6.     What has been the biggest challenge?

For me and my business, I have a brain full of exciting ideas. My challenge is to consolidate those ideas into a viable businesses proposition. I have done that so far with FMCGenie by funnelling my need to support and channelling my knowledge for the greater good. But then I get inspired again and need reining in!

7.     If you could go back and give yourself some advice what would it be?

To not undervalue myself. In my desire to get the ball rolling my day rate was set, so I'm told, too low. I have over time increased this to what I think is now a fair price, but I do find talking money for my time very awkward. But I'm learning!

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