After struggling to get a job for 2 years after graduating from university, I finally got a job as a medical sales representative working in the spinal industry. New car, new phone & laptop all paid for! I was buzzing! Alongside this was the promise of earning good bonuses which meant that I could potentially earn 50-60K per annum. Now 50-60k a year may not sound much but to a kid who hasn’t worked for 3 years and is fresh out of university that’s a lot of dosh!…but wait! Let me take you back a little to the summer of 2010.

In the summer of 2010 I was adamant that I was going to start my own business and thus invested some little money I had saved during my time at university, (yes, you read that correctly..I saved money whilst at Uni!), in to a pizza shop. This is where I came across cookie dough whilst putting together the dessert menu for this business. Long story-short, the cookie dough outsold the pizzas and the idea for a cookie dough supplying business was born.

Ready to launch the company and excited with the prospect of success and what happens?…I get a job offer. Looking back in hindsight I should never have taken the medical rep job…but if I use that principle I should never have gone to Uni either! But I did and it only certified the notion that I needed to start my own business. That was my destiny and I must seek it.

Back to the “DREAM JOB”-I wasn’t happy. I often thought of what made me happy and each time I would visualise me running my own business. So I quit the dream job and began working for a local charity that greatly underpaid me. Why? It wasn’t all about the money…I needed time! Time that would enable me to plan and test my business idea and this I couldn’t do due to the hectic time schedule of being a medical rep.  After a year and half of working in the charity field, I left in 2015 to go build my dream.

In less than a year, I raised my initial business funding of £25,000 which enabled me to find a suitable manufacturing premises, kit it out with the relevant machinery and beta-test the manufacturing process. I spent lean which meant that I still had a few thousand pounds as cash flow in my account. Knowing that I needed more I went and sought investment.

I entered a “dragons den” styled business accelerator that promised capital investment for food and drink start-up’s called the Grocery Accelerator. This was 100 odd companies from which 40 were selected and then this was cut down to 24 businesses and then a further reduction to 16 businesses. This was done via a round by round selection by the Grocery Accelerator group and the final 16 businesses had a pitch-off from which 6 businesses were then selected for investment. I got picked and was one of those 6! They had just agreed to give me £80,000!!

I was gassed to say the least… the struggles of doing something I hated and now I had what I needed to start a business.

All those trips back and forth to London… I remember one month I did 8-10 trips from Birmingham to London on the train and would catch the off peak train just to save money on the extortionate train fee’s because I couldn’t afford them. That meant catching the 5.50am train to London from Birmingham so that I can get to London for 7.30am and then sit outside the offices until 9am (praying it don’t rain but come on, this is England?!).

Naturally there were a few hick-up’s with due diligence and I ended up waiting almost a year before I received the funds but I got them and roll on 3 years later we are UK’s only bespoke cookie dough manufacturer supplying all over the country.

Ammar Saleem  

(Sweet Joe’s)

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