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LEARNING CURVE | Brave venture during Covid pays off for chef

Gqeberha mom uses years of experience in food industry to manage sales, promotional functions for clients

Qualified chef, Claire Miles Wedderburn, started her business Thyme Trading during the Covid-19 pandemic
NEW VENTURE: Qualified chef, Claire Miles Wedderburn, started her business Thyme Trading during the Covid-19 pandemic

Gqeberha resident Claire Miles Wedderburn is a qualified chef who started her business during the Covid-19 pandemic. 

She has created a small business called Thyme Trading, using her extensive knowledge and experience as a chef in the business world to manage the sales and promotional functions for various manufacturers and suppliers in the hospitality, manufacturing and retail industry.

The mom of two finds her work stimulating and enjoys the various challenges in the industry.

Please share some background on yourself and how the business was started.

I started my career studying to be a chef and worked extensively within fine dinning kitchens all over SA, London and back here in Port Elizabeth (Gqeberha) — it was an easy transition from the kitchen to business, as I understand what products the chefs would want to work with in the kitchen.

Local importers and manufacturers needed a representative in the industry to introduce their products to the end users and demo how they work and that’s where Thyme Trading comes in.

We manage the sales and promotional functions for various manufacturers and suppliers in the hospitality,  manufacturing and retail industries.

What is the name of your business?

Thyme Trading — Food Solutions for the Industrial, food service and Retail Industry.

How old is your business?

Just about 18 months.

What is your core service?

Sales and marketing to industrial, food service and retail companies.

What makes your business unique?

As a chef, I have an understanding what the chefs, caterers or manufacturers would want to work with and then we source and supply according to their requirements.

How did you manage your business during the pandemic?

We scaled down on expenses and focused on businesses that were needing our services — hospitals, prisons and specialised retail.

If someone wanted to copy your business model, how would they start?

Perhaps identify products the industry struggles to source, look for an importer and/or manufacturer and offer it to the end users at a markup. Alternatively, align yourself with innovative manufacturers and offer to promote their products in the industry.

What are some of the biggest inhibitors your business faced before getting off the ground?

My fear of taking the step on my own.

Do you have any tips for budding entrepreneurs or new business owners?

Do not be afraid to try. Identify a need in the market you are passionate about and work from there. Align yourself with like-minded people who you enjoy working with.

What are some of your biggest challenges in day-to-day business operations and your particular industry?

The current challenge has to be the availability of food products and the importing of goods from foreign countries.

Our global shipping business is in a mess since Covid started. Containers take extended periods to get to SA. Our local ports are also poorly managed and often delay the process even more.

The war in the Ukraine has hugely hampered imports of grains and seeds. We have seen the cost of good increase sharply due to a shortage in the market.

What is the best advice anyone gave you on success?

Be aware of what your competitors are doing, but don’t obsess about their business — maintain focus on your own goals.

How do you measure or define success in your business?

Repeat sales is always a sign of a product accepted in the market place.

What are some of the best practices that have made your business successful?

We strive to always offer the right product to our clients,  products of the highest quality at the correct pricing.

What kind of advertising do you do?

Adverts and product information on social media, promotional leaflets, end user promotions, product demonstrations.  

What is your target market?

Hospitality, catering and a bit of retail/deli-type stores.

What have some of your highlights been in running your business?

Challenging myself to achieve targets. Meeting new people. Learning more about various types of food manufacturing.

How important are social media and an online presence for your business?

Very limited.

How many people do you employ?

None at the moment!

Do you have any plans for expanding the business, and how would you go about this?

Hopefully in time I will be able to expand and employ additional staff.

What is the biggest lesson you’ve learnt from your business journey so far?

People are what make a business — customers, manufacturers and suppliers. Without them you don’t have a business.

What have been the greatest challenges and advantages of running your business in a city like Gqeberha?

Transport to our region from other main centres can be challenging and very costly.

What do you say are the three key traits of a successful entrepreneur?

Determination, hard work and passion.



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