Linda Lewis Kitchens (LLK) had a barnstorming 2016, the 10th year of trading for the Oldham based importer of Italian catering equipment. And according to MD, Linda Lewis, this can all be attributed to her participation in the Goldman Sachs 10,000 Small Businesses UK programme, which she completed last September.
“This was key to the changes to the changes we’ve recently made at LLK,” she said. “Goldman Sachs sponsored attendees as it has realised that SMEs are the way to grow the economy – by giving us the tools that we need to grow the business, that will have the desired knock-on effect.”
The 12 week course was partly residential, involving Leeds, Aston and Oxford Universities, with the remainder comprising webinars, working with mentors or in small groups. “Everyone on the course came out of it with a business plan, but it was an immense amount of pressure trying to run the business at the same time,” said Lewis. “However, it made you look at the financial side and the culture of your business, as well as where you could expand into new markets and move existing products into the markets you’re already dealing with.”
Lewis identified that the key problem for LLK was working from a cramped 4,800ft2 premises, while also using someone else’s demonstration kitchen. She had been looking for alternatives for 18 months, but couldn’t find a premises nearby with around an extra 1,000ft2 she felt the company required.
Initially the First Choice Group’s Cannock headquarters housed LLK’s Cuppone electric pizza oven for demonstration, but once the supplier expanded into providing its own wood burning and gas living flame ovens in the latter half of last year, it was more pressing that it should exhibit them on its own site. This range introduction meant that LLK didn’t lose out on the popular market for wood-fired pizza ovens.
Subsequently, Lewis saw an advert for a massive 13,200ft2 building in Oldham, coincidentally the former headquarters of the pizza oven supplier she worked for 20 years ago: Fields & Pimblett. “I thought there was no way that I could have these premises as they were too big,” recalled Lewis. “But then I considered what we could do to make it work for us. I went back to my business plan and realised that the market is changing and that we could expand our second hand market. We could use any of our stock damaged in transit, and on my course I met a contact that rips equipment out schools and colleges, so I knew I could work with her to supply that. To further build up our second hand stock I thought it would be a good idea to offer a rip out service ourselves too.
“Plus we do a lot of installation work for dealers, so I felt we could use the extra space to house equipment while refurbishments are carried out. We’d then probably have the first preference of fitting the kit back again. Adding our equipment rental service, putting all these concepts together meant it would be affordable for us to move into that building.”