Innovation, hard graft and self-belief put Welsh business on the road to success.
It has taken Lucy Watson and Ben Pratt nearly a decade of hard work, innovation and self-belief to reverse the fortunes of their organic food business.
When they bought the business in 2011, known at the time as The Organic Fresh Food Company, it was a going concern...just. The Ceredigion-based company was sinking fast and needed new investment and fresh energy if it was to survive.
They began the long, slow process of turning the business around. They massively expanded the range of fruits and vegetables shoppers could buy, local producers were more heavily promoted, a bakery was added and online delivery was introduced. Last year, they rebranded to Watson and Pratt’s, placing their own names on the company banner.
“During the first year, we went for the easy wins,” says Lucy. “We changed our stationery and petrol suppliers, we chased up payments from customers and put a halt to unnecessary packaging. Then we made sure we were offering a more comprehensive range of goods, not just fruit and vegetables but also groceries, carefully sourced cheese and cured meats, alcohol and fresh bread from our bakery. We like to say we’re an ingredients-based store. We also sell the products that supermarkets offer, like floor cleaner and toothpaste.”
They wrote “vision plans” and adopted a “Give it a year” approach to every new idea or product. “Committing to the long-term vision is so important to us,” she says. “We constantly ask ourselves: ‘Does this get us closer to greatness?’ It’s a principle which makes every day hurdles so much easier to overcome.”
Other key principles for the couple, who recently celebrated the birth of their second child, are sustainability, animal welfare and, of course, organics.
Lucy says: “We’ve always been motivated by the direct link to the producer and provenance and that’s what keeps us going when we find ourselves swamped by the administration of running a business. Lampeter has a long heritage of organic producers and we’re delighted to be able to showcase them.”
Ben says their sales breakdown is now 55% wholesale fruit and vegetables and 45% direct to public sales through the shop and home delivery. He adds: “We are always on the look-out for innovative new products. Lucy says ready meals for “lazy suppers” and quick lunches, pies, pasties and free-range pork are top of her list for gaps she’d like to fill. Welsh produce is always a best seller, she says, and invites prospective suppliers to contact her with samples for her team to trial. If they like a product, they will to commit to it, she says. “We’ll always give it a year.”
Lucy saw the importance of long term thinking during her previous career with Neal’s Yard Dairy in London. The couple met during this time (Ben was working at Borough Market). They moved to west Wales “on a whim as it looked pretty” Lucy says, and soon bought the Lampeter business.
The couple say continued success depends on “constantly innovating”. Lucy admits: “Retail is tough at the moment and we’re finding we need to keep introducing new products and ideas in order to stay where we are.”
Today, they employ 33 members of staff and they supply customers across Wales. “We’ve worked hard to build a strong reputation and hopefully the word is getting out there. It’s important we continue to retain our ridiculous sense of self belief.”
Find out more at: www.watsonandpratts.co.uk.