The confidence to cook: Bal spices up the local takeaway scene.
The pandemic has been the spark for many people to take the plunge and start their own businesses. Bal Kaur found herself cooking more and more during lockdown, and after a disappointing Indian takeaway experience, her family and friends helped convince her to turn her passion for Punjabi food into a new venture.
“Finding genuine Punjabi takeaway food around here is rare,” explains Bal, who is relatively new to the Bristol area. “Most Indian takeaways offer a Bangladeshi-style menu. Punjabi flavours are distinctly different, and I felt there was a real opportunity to offer my authentic homemade recipes. It’s important to me that all my food is cooked fresh on the day it’s eaten – I don’t pre-prepare or reheat dishes.”
Testing products and seeking advice
Bal started out by testing her recipes with local groups and clubs. The feedback was great, but she still faced some big challenges. The main ones were around finance – not just paying for things like a new website, but also gaining the skills to plan and manage the costs of all the ingredients involved. Recruitment was key, too: keeping up with takeaway orders while also running busy pub curry nights was too much for one person: she needed help but didn’t know where to start, as she had never employed anyone before.
Luckily, Bal heard about the free business support available through South Gloucestershire Business Support Service from a family member. She signed up for a series of online workshops that equipped her with some of the essential skills she needed, and also had a one-to-one support meeting with Emma, one of Cool Ventures’ friendly business support specialists.
“The support I received from Cool Ventures was really, really good,” says Bal. “I gained so much important knowledge on issues like business insurance and HR. Emma helped me put together an action plan, and was always available when I had questions or concerns.”
The online workshops Bal attended included sessions on Facebook and Instagram for business, how to win customers, and how to write a business plan and apply for funding. She had struggled a bit with Instagram for example, but with Emma’s help and what she learnt from the workshop, she was able to advertise her business more effectively online.
“I found starting my own business scary, but all the advice and support I received from Cool Ventures, then attending networking events and speaking to people, has helped build my confidence.” Bal Kaur, The Punjabi Inn
Going forward, Bal has exciting plans. The Punjabi Inn has had amazing customer feedback, and her ambition now is to open her own pub. Bal’s advice to fellow business startups is,
“Get all the help available from people like Cool Ventures. It’s not just about funding: different courses really help and give you the confidence to run your business.”