Regan Anderton, founder of family firm The Cooking Shed, ran a cookery session on Facebook Live – and the world was watching.
In the four years since The Cooking Shed was started in the back garden of husband and wife team Regan and Robert Anderton’s house in Kent, the business has carved out a niche in the fast-growing cookery class market, where it has been a hit with adults and children alike.
Alongside this, there have been private dining events and supper nights, but then coronavirus struck and the face-to-face nature of the Andertons’ work spelled potential disaster. “We are location-based, and everything had to change to create some sort of income,” said Regan. “So I started to do some live cook-alongs.”
These were broadcast – for free – on Facebook to test the water, and were an instant hit. One demonstration was watched by more than 8,000 people. “The Facebook Live videos were initially done to help the people who would normally come along to our after-school cookery classes each week,” explained Regan, “but we also had a mass of interest from people who weren’t our customers as well.”
Among them was one of the world’s biggest tech companies, who asked Regan to host a live lunchtime session with one of their teams. “All of the team members logged on and they all cooked a tomato soup and some bread rolls together,” said Regan, “and then they sat down and ate it. We probably wouldn’t have ever got on the radar of a company that big before all this.”
Existing orders being met
The Andertons are working flat-out to make good on existing bookings, too: a face-to-face class for Mencap Young Carers, for example, is rapidly being re-designed so that participants can take part at home, and numerous other clients are being offered a similar service.
More could follow, hopes Regan. “Obviously, a lot of children are now being tutored at home and parents are desperately looking for things to keep them entertained,” she said. “I’m hoping we can start to do more kids’ classes in secure, closed, online groups.”
On top of this, Regan has been working with the Women’s Institute on a voluntary basis. A significant number the organisation’s members are in their 70s and are facing up to several months of self-isolation. “The WI wanted to find a way to deliver some of the activities that they would normally do, so we did a couple of online classes the other night and it was brilliant exposure for us,” said Regan. “A lot of the local women might want to come to some Cooking Shed classes when this is all over.”
The power of good communications
Regan’s new business goals are assisted, in part, by good comms: she has a well-maintained email list which she has been making the most of, and Twitter, Facebook Live and Instagram are all playing a key part, too. These channels, she says, are a great way for businesses to get their message across.
“I think what businesses should be doing right now is to think how they can deliver engagement to their customers,” Regan said. “They should use what’s happening as a time to try and inspire people.”
Don’t think, ‘Profit first,’ she says. “It’s got to come back to how you can help people. If you can do that, then the money side of it will hopefully follow,” she said.
Top three coronavirus tips from Regan
- Don’t do it alone
Consider how you can collaborate with other businesses to support each other and obtain a wider reach.
- Call your accountant
Things have changed dramatically, so speak with them to see what support you’re entitled to now.
- Use social media wisely
Try and stay positive in your posts. By all means ask your customers for support, but they’re seeing enough doom and gloom at the moment, so be a space that they want to escape to.