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Home, Food & Business: Talking with Mandy 2 - support and advice

As part of research for this project I have been speaking with people in London about food and home. In the series ‘Home, Food & Business’ I have been focusing on those who have developed a career around food that reminds them of home and who predominantly have ‘home’ in multiple places.

As part of our conversation at Roti King with Mandy we naturally turned to swapping stories, giving tips of how to survive in London… such as frying blachan after sunset! Safiah told us that she had to eat durian, hanging her head out the window so it wouldn’t make the whole flat smell, and we all agreed that tamarind is the magic ingredient.

These stories lead on the topic of knowledge sharing - what advice Mandy got that helped her in the beginning, how has her business developed and how other’s have influenced her.

The amazing thing about Mandy is her openness, her desire to always improve and develop means that she is wanting to hear feedback and will take on board what people say and be responsive to her customer’s thoughts. This is a tricky thing to juggle as in business (and indeed in life) you can never please everybody, but the concept of going into a venture with an open mind really brought home to me how important it is to not ‘settle’ - an idea or venture is only good if it keeps developing.

Mandy said something along the lines of ‘opportunity comes from anywhere’ and I really liked this - keep your eyes, ears and mind open to all opportunities.

I don’t want to keep paraphrasing Mandy, therefore here are her answers to my questions about her business and those that have helped her.

What has been the best advice you have given, in relation to your business?

Follow the 80/20 rule. I now always look for maximum gain out of the least effort possible - whether this is in terms of processes/efficiencies, product offering, events I choose to trade at.

Who have been your mentors (from family, friends, or business relationships)? Wilkes and Colin

How is support important and what sort of support is important (you mentioned who supportive your family were)?

Support is tremendously important. My family are a constant rock and keep my feet firmly rooted to the ground. My dad frequently does stock runs for me and helps me with my bookkeeping. I use my parents' garage for storage and use their garden for my night time fry-offs of shrimp paste.

I also really value feedback from my peers, friends, customers. I see feedback as a form of support as it allows me to improve and grow.

How have been some of the people that have advised and supported you, and how did those relations come about?

One of the great things about chatting to Mandy was listening to the range of people who have helped her, and how different relationships have added different things.

So I would say that the people who have helped me are as follows:

Wilkes McDermid, a prolific food blogger whose passion was supporting street food and the people behind it. Wilkes was there on my very first trading day and from then on, he gave me endless advice, encouragement and support. I think it helped that he believed in my product as it was truly unique. He introduced me to other traders, market organisers, other food bloggers. Through him I developed a deep understanding of the playing field and was able to make a mark on the scene.

When I was first starting the business, I befriended on Instagram Colin Tu, of Salvation in Noodles and who previously had a street food business Big Dirty Burger. He is now a most trusted adviser and I bounce ideas off him constantly. I have been known to pull a shift FOH for Colin at his restaurants to return the favour!

Bridin Allen, who I used to work with in my previous life as a lawyer. Bridin joined the food & drink community around 6 months before I did and really spurred me on with my business. I have her to thank for pushing me to join Twitter and for highlighting the importance of social media. She introduced me to Wilkes, and the rest as they say, is history.

Rosie Kizintas, my right hand woman who allows me to be in two places at once. She manages my South Bank stall for me whilst I am looking after the Soho site and is a superwoman whom I trust implicitly. Wilkes introduced me to Rosie as he thought that we would work well together, and indeed we do!

The food community is a powerful network to be part of. I am lucky to have the support of many food bloggers such as Kar Shing @annixontong, Felicia @the_cheeksterX and Tim @Clerkenwell_Boy. Having respected chefs to turn to for advice is also a fantastic resource and privilege - like the mighty Sugen of Roti King.

My fellow traders are a godsend who provide knowledge, advice and support. Like Paul at Donostia Social Club who I have shadowed in the kitchen in order to learn tricks of the trade, and whose brain I pick frequently. Nisha and Nishma at Grill My Cheese have helped me out of many a tight spot, like lending me their griddle for months at a time and even jumping on on the stall. Mark The Ribman and Guarav and Sandia at Horn OK Please who have been kind enough to share with me nuggets of gold from their longer experience of being market traders.

A massive support is Katy Riddle. She is a phenomenal networker and PR extraordinaire. Katy has introduced me to so many key contacts, like Rebecca Brindle of the South Bank Centre where I now trade. She's always thinking of others, how people can work together, business opportunities. Selfless and the hardest worker I know!

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