How Christmas Came Early
#Adie Callaghan and Jason Plevey have run Appetite for Adventure (A4A) for 11 years. This is a well-established event catering business specialising in working with charities supporting participants on their fundraising challenges. However, within 48 hours at the end of March, A4A lost the entire 2020 event season. This was Adie and Jason's main business, although it operated primarily over the summer with their much smaller, sister business, New Forest Hamper Company functioning as a ‘stopgap’ in winter - a Christmas hamper business running from October to December.
Adie recalls: "While A4A imploded around our ears, out of nowhere hamper orders started trickling through at the beginning of April, rising very quickly to an average of 40-50 hampers per week. We were taken by surprise!
"As we make our own range, The Appetite Kitchen, Jason set about making large stocks of those product lines while I called round all our suppliers to see who was still operating. There was an incredible camaraderie. We are fortunate to have some wonderful partners who knew about the A4A situation and rallied to help.
"Hamper orders kept on coming. By May we’d pretty much doubled our April total – which was already a huge increase! Jason was working from 3am through to 8pm everyday just so we could meet demand. We quarantined product coming in, set up risk assessments and checklists for each hamper in line with the amazing advice supplied by Ruth [of Simply Safer] via Hampshire Fare.
"As well as the delights of home schooling two young children, I was working all hours doing the admin. Processing the orders is a manual process as we didn’t have E-Commerce set up on the website – that was due to be a 2021 project! I was coordinating everything with our suppliers, trying to keep inventory levels stocked, and also booking the couriers. Thankfully we’d set up an account with DPD Local last October who have been an absolute lifeline to our business, as the other way the hamper business changed was in terms of demographics. Historically the business has been very ‘local’, however this was completely tipped on its head. I estimate that 98% of our orders are courier orders dispatched all over the UK. This change was rapid and has affected our entire business model and processes.
"After securing a Discretionary Grant for the business, we are now working on an E-Commerce solution and other updates to the website that will enable us to be far more efficient and scale-up the business. It means we can also look at creating jobs, as we have realised we can’t possibly sustain this work level going forward on our own! We feel there are huge opportunities for the business and we have various ideas for new partnerships and new business channels.
"August will see the transformation of the massive A4A storage area previously used for catering equipment and kit for trips to a professional hamper packing area. We are also talking to new suppliers which is very exciting as there are so many amazing Hampshire goodies out there.
"With no immediate sight of A4A being able to operate again in 2020, we have decided to place our strategic focus on growing the Hamper Company, which in turn supports so many other local producers and suppliers. We have been incredibly humbled by the support from some of our suppliers, who have themselves been operating under really tough restrictions, but who have rallied to support us. Without them we simply couldn’t have achieved the order fulfilment that we have over these last three to four months.
"We have also been very touched by our many new customers who have discovered us and who have come back with repeat orders. We have received amazing feedback and we have covered an array of occasions from anniversaries and birthdays to bereavements, missed hen weekends and missed weddings, simple we miss yous and thank yous… Some of the gift tag messages have been heart-rending and a real reminder of what is important in life."
We've more inspiring lockdown stories such as this one about how another Grate Catering recreated itself from festivals to takeaway tacos. Read more HERE.