A Year In Business!

I made it!

The Little Ice Cream Shop is officially one year old after celebrating its first birthday on Wednesday 16th of August 2017. I haven’t blogged in a while (mainly because I haven’t had time nor anything interesting happening in my life to blog about) but I thought that this milestone was a perfect opportunity to let you all know some of the experiences and lessons I’ve learnt in a year of business.

My close friends and family already know that I set the shop up in order to move to London to pursue my career and training as an actor. Owning an ice cream shop was never in the life plan and The Little Ice Cream Shop wouldn’t be here if I didn’t want to act. It’s been an amazing experience and overall I’ve loved every minute of it.

Positivity

Stay positive- I cannot stress this enough. Keeping positive is the hardest but most important thing you can do in business. Positivity turned my ideas into a running business; if I thought it would never work, my shop wouldn’t be open. Not only do you need to be positive that in the initial set up it’s going to work, you need to remain positive once it’s set up and running. Running a cafe can be utterly soul destroying when 3 people walk through the door all day but you have to remember that on other days you’ll be complaining at how busy it is. Fortunately for me, ice cream is incredibly seasonal and I’m in a prime tourist location so I know for 5 months of the year we will have queues out the door but in the other months, it’ll be crap. That’s business but staying positive is key to success (and keeping sane).

This year I’ve learnt how negative and horrible other people can be about what you’re doing. Some people can’t keep their comments to themselves. I’ve heard it all this year: “you won’t make any money”, “it won’t work”, “it’s such a simple business idea, anyone can do it”, “you’ve got to sell a lot of ice cream to afford that rent”. Fuck those people. Honestly fuck them all- that’s my top advice. Remove all negative people from your life, it’ll really help. Also don’t listen to negative people, they usually haven’t achieved much themselves and find comfort in trying to bring others down to their level- you don’t need their bitterness and negativity.

Difficult customers

Oh my god, the customer isn’t always right. Sometimes the customer is a complete knob and I strongly advise my staff to ‘take no shit’. Learning how to deal with those difficult customers has been so hard for me as I’m quite hot-headed and I let things get to me easily.

Here are a couple of knobheads I have encountered this year…

  • One lady changed her baby’s nappy in the middle of the shop in secret, left the shop but also left the dirty poopy nappy in the middle of the table for me to tidy up – lovely.
  • Someone stole one of our teapots
  • One lady asked for a cup of hot water (I presumed it was to take a tablet or something- very reasonable), I left her in the shop for a moment. The next minute I turned around, she’s got a box of PG Tips and milk out making herself a brew! THEN I notice her munching on a packet of variety biscuits! I kindly asked her to leave.
  • Someone left us dog poop on the table
  • A lady once ordered a salted caramel ice cream, ate it all then came back in and asked for a refund because it was ‘too salty’.
  • One lady once called me ‘passive aggressive’ on Trip Advisor

It actually shocked me this year how some customers would treat my female staff. I understand that they’re young, but over the year I’ve found that the lads were treated with a lot more respect than the girls. I’ve found that women especially have sometimes been incredibly rude and impatient with the girls and I’ve experienced it first hand too.

I was once talking to a customer at the cash desk for two minutes whilst Al continued to serve and a lady said “I guess you’re not serving then” and walked out the door. Would she have done that if Eden or Frazer were working? Probably not. There have been lots of incidents where women have spoken down to me or just forgotten their basic manners but I don’t let it get to me anymore.

Usually I don’t mind it when people make comments to me like “does your boss allow you to eat the ice cream” or “you’re eating your boss’s profits” because I guess it’s rare for a 20 year old to own a business but it really offends me when people disrespect me because they think I just work there. Which is wrong, you shouldn’t disrespect someone whether they’re the owner or whether they just work there. However, these difficult customers are rare. Out of 100 customers, usually only 1 of them is a knob. We have a lot of lovely customers who we love to serve and I’m very grateful for them.

Trip Advisor

Everyone hates Trip Advisor. I cried when I got my first negative Trip Advisor review because I knew it was a lie- seriously, it was quite hard for me. Mainly because the lady who gave us a negative review clearly didn’t know that I owned that business and that I wasn’t just ‘the girl’. She was clearly out to get me in trouble with my boss… Joke’s on you!

I’ve learnt to pass over the professional replies to Eden as I’m not very good at keeping my cool. It’s embarrassing to see companies/individuals reply argumentatively… “Passive aggressive? I’ll show you passive aggressive love” would have been my reply- not very professional. Keeping a positive and professional image for the company online is incredibly important to me so ensuring that negative reviews or complaints are done in the correct way is vital.

Shit Happens…

On a HOT August Bank Holiday, the ice cream display freezer broke. Yeah it really did after a week of trade. That £2,000 machine is now in the tip and the £1,000 worth of ice cream that melted because of this has probably reached the sea by now. I now do NOT buy expensive second hand equipment. Don’t do it to yourself.

The wall has collapsed, coffee machine has exploded coffee & water everywhere twice, the wheel fell off the car on the way to work and I was an idiot and turned the freezer down to -25 for bank holiday weekend (sorry Katie!) Shit happens but you’ve just got to park it, move on and laugh about it.

Staff & Payroll

Finding the right staff is very hard. I’m fortunate enough to have a couple of absolute gems in the team. Unfortunately I’ve had some negative experiences with staff stealing from me in the past. Until this point, I think I was too trusting, I didn’t think anyone could ever steal money from a shop.

I’m not going to lie, the government don’t make it easy to employ staff. There isn’t much helpful information on the government website about payroll, National Insurance or Tax. My best advice would be to get an accountant and ask them which is what I did. I use Quickbooks payroll software as it is easy to use and quite cheap. For me, paying staff weekly is a lot easier than monthly as you can pay their NI, tax and employers NI as you go. If you pay them monthly, you have to pay the HMRC stuff by a certain date (very confusing and a lot of effort). If anyone would like a quick explanation on payroll stuff, just send me a message.

Would I do anything different if I were to go back? 

Yes. There are a lot of things that I would have done differently. The main thing I would have changed would have been my attitude and confidence in myself about my own abilities. I was a little bit scared of being in charge; it’s a lot of pressure if you fuck up, there isn’t anyone to blame apart from yourself. Retrospectively, I should have taken a lot more time off work because it’s not healthy to work 7 days a week.

Although I would have liked things to have gone smoother, I’m glad that things have gone wrong as they’ve all been a huge learning curve for me and the team.

Running a business has had its ups and downs. There have been times where I have wanted to sell it for a fiver and there have been times when I’ve wanted to open a chain of ice cream shops all over The Lakes. I have a serious love/hate relationship with my shop.

Currently, I have plans to open another business separate to ice cream for the next season but nothing has been confirmed yet- very exciting. I’m glad I decided to open my own business instead of go to uni or work for someone else because I’ve learnt skills that you can’t gain unless you experience them first hand.

I’m very excited to see what next year brings. The next challenge is running the shop from London!

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