Shaper: Camilla Stephens

Show aired on 11th March 2017

Transcript

Elliot Moss
Good morning this is Jazz Shapers with me Elliot Moss, thank you very much for joining me. Jazz Shapers is the place where you can hear the very best of the people shaping the world of jazz, blues and soul and right alongside them we bring in someone who is shaping the world of business and we call them Business Shapers. My Business Shaper today I am very pleased to say is Camilla Stephens; she is the co-founder and owner of Higgedy and Higgedy if you don’t know and I am sure that you do because they have made fifty million pies already, is the great pie company, a brilliant British success and I am looking at some amazing packaging which will soon be on shelves in Waitrose and many other wonderful places. You will be hearing lots about how she has built this business from scratch and it is now turning over twenty million pounds. Lots coming up from Camilla. In addition to hearing from her you will be hearing from our programme partners at Mishcon de Reya some words of advice for your business and then we have got some brilliant music from the shapers of jazz, blues and sole, T-Bone Walker is in there, Stevie Wonder is in there and so is this new one, it’s from Eric Bibb.

This is Jazz Shapers as I said earlier and Camilla Stephens is my Business Shaper today and she is the co-founder of Higgedy and they make pies and lots of them and they are tasty too. Apparently though, and this is the truth coming out and welcome and thank you very much for joining me. I can’t believe I haven’t had one of your pies.

Camilla Stephens
Well you won’t get away with that today as there is lots here in the studio.

Elliot Moss
I can’t wait, eventually I will get my teeth into them. Thank you so much for joining me. Tell me about your love affair with food. I want to come to Higgedy in a minute but this goes back a long way.

Camilla Stephens
Yes.

Elliot Moss
Because I believe that you were half way through your A levels and you said ‘I am not going to do this I am going to study cooking’?

Camilla Stephens
Yes I did. I never really got on at school I think that’s probably a theme quite often found with entrepreneurs. I just couldn’t kind of find my grove so I left half way through A levels and went to Leiths in London and did their Diploma in food and wine. I still look back on it as one of the best years of my life. It was a brilliant place to be inspired and to begin to learn and it was from there that that love of food continued to grow. I mean I have got a pile of cookbooks by my bed today, I love cooking. I wouldn’t really call myself a chef, I am a cook and I’ve cooked for years and years. I went from Leiths to Good Housekeeping Magazine and that was just an incredible time because it was, I call it the Pesto Sun Dried Tomato years, it was a time when as the sort of end of the 80s, early 90s and it was the time when the supermarkets were beginning to stock ingredients you might have found on holiday so pesto, or fromage frais. Something that you might have discovered had you been on holiday in France but then suddenly it was appearing in the supermarkets and I got to write about it and create recipes around these great ingredients and it was again something that just fed for me that love of food.

Elliot Moss
And where did that love of food come from do you think? People do drop out of A levels and you are right, many people I interview who have started their own business did not as you said, get on very well at school, it didn’t agree with them. But where did the food come from? Is it a family thing or was it just a Camilla thing?

Camilla Stephens
I think it was just a Camilla thing really. Although and I think my mum wouldn’t mind me saying this but she didn’t especially enjoy cooking and there is a real sort of relentlessness about preparing meals for the family and I think I just got involved and I did, I really loved it and it was a Camilla thing really.

Elliot Moss
And the Camilla thing also then became a commercial thing because before Higgedy was created in 2003…

Camilla Stephens
Yes.

Elliot Moss
…you ended up working as an employee at Seattle Coffee Company which was a precursor if you don’t know to Starbucks.

Camilla Stephens
Yes.

Elliot Moss
But you managed to get yourself invested in it, you managed to get options.

Camilla Stephens
Yes.

Elliot Moss
Just very briefly how did you go from being this employee with some experience of the world of food to someone a bit more important in that business?

Camilla Stephens
Well I, after Good Housekeeping, I went to go and live in Seattle and it’s an incredibly inspiring city. You know there’s Microsoft, there’s Boeing, there’s Amazon and…

Elliot Moss
It’s a great city.

Camilla Stephens
…it’s just an incredibly inspiring place and I think there that was the kind of beginning of me really thinking I think I want to be involved in business but I also probably want to own my own business at some point and I think again there, there was that kind of you can try anything kind of culture so I went from my time in Seattle, I came back to the UK and I had heard about Seattle Coffee Company that had literally just started their first store and I approached the young couple, an American couple, who had started the business and said ‘hi I am Camilla’.

Elliot Moss
I am here can I get involved?

Camilla Stephens
Yeah and they were great entrepreneurs because they said ‘well we don’t have very much money’ which is actually quite a good thing to say because you then harness loyalty and people would go a long way and I got involved by being a Barista and learning how to make cups of coffee but my desire was to really see the food part of the business be significant in the coffee company.

Elliot Moss
And we are going to hold it right there and find out how significant that food became because it does begin the journey towards the lovely Higgedy…

Camilla Stephens
Yes.

Elliot Moss
…stay with me for much more from my fantastic Business Shaper today, that’s Camilla Stephens the co-founder of Higgedy. Time for some more music right now, this is Madeleine Peyroux with Hello Babe.

That was Hello Babe from the wonderful Madeleine Peyroux. My wonderful Business Shaper today is Camilla Stephens and she is the co-founder of Higgedy, they make amazing pies and quite a lot of them too, three hundred thousand a week apparently. If we believe your own PR. Do we believe that? We probably do. You look pretty believable. So you talked about this, you said to me and I like your phrase, you can try anything and I know you are known to be that kind of person that says you know, anything is possible give it a go. You approached these entrepreneurs the Seattle Coffee Company. That does well. You start at the bottom as it were.

Camilla Stephens
Yes.

Elliot Moss
You then get the Starbucks thing happens, it takes over Seattle and all that.

Camilla Stephens
Yeah.

Elliot Moss
You stay at Starbucks for a while. At what point do you start going ‘do you know what I want to do my own thing’?

Camilla Stephens
It was, we had grown the Seattle Coffee Company brand, Starbucks bought us. We then had to re-brand all of the Seattle Coffee Company stores Starbucks and that was a good training ground actually for me to understand quite a lot about brand and brand positioning and it was in sort of 2001 when we had got to about three hundred Starbucks Stores in the UK and I realised that my role was becoming much more I suppose commercial and again this love of food and cooking was kind of taking over and so I left because I wanted to get closer to the food and I ended up working in bakeries and more in food manufacturing and that was a really, it was great to get close, close to the food again and not be so much involved in retail. In 2003 the opportunity came to start Higgedy.

Elliot Moss
How did come to you?

Camilla Stephens
Well I had seen great brands emerge at that time, they were sort of top tier so whether it was kettle chips or Green & Blacks or Innocent and the pie aisle in the supermarket to me was blokey…

Elliot Moss
A very barren place.

Camilla Stephens
…and it was barren yes. It was beige food.

Elliot Moss
I was going to say it was, it was beige, it was like looking at margarine and saying it’s a bit yellow. But it was very beige.

Camilla Stephens
Yeah it was beige food and I just thought this is not an aisle that I would shop and it needs rejuvenating and so in 2003 I put some money in a pot with a few others and we began making pies but literally I began cooking pies in my kitchen at home until we got our first customer.

Elliot Moss
Stay with me for much more about where that money came from because it is a brilliant story about her grandpa invested in the radio world as well as how things that start in the kitchen really can lead to big business. That’s Camilla Stephens my Business Shaper. Latest travel in a couple of minutes and before that some words of wisdom from our programme partners at Mishcon de Reya for your business.

You are listening to Jazz Shapers with me Elliot Moss every Saturday I talk to someone who is doing something special, they have gone and decided, set up their own business and they are doing great things and they are building those businesses and sometimes you hear their stories and you go ‘well that sounds easy’ but of course it isn’t. My Business Shaper today is Camilla Stephens and we have glossed over a few years of her life and neatly brought us to the point where Camilla is in the kitchen and she is making pies and those pies are the first, the first orders for Higgedy and Camilla, this business now, it is twenty million pounds plus. I think you’ve got, I don’t know how many, over two hundred and fifty people…

Camilla Stephens
Yeah.

Elliot Moss
…working for you. I mentioned earlier three hundred thousand pies a week. Right back then they are in your kitchen, you are trying to build a business. I believe that you and your husband then sold your houses to go and finance this business…

Camilla Stephens
Yes.

Elliot Moss
…plus a bit of money from your grandpa.

Camilla Stephens
Yes.

Elliot Moss
Just what did that feel like in terms of really putting you know, putting things up like that?

Camilla Stephens
Well I think that when you have a very clear vision and you are really committed to it, it feels like a no brainer and it wasn’t. All the family members around us were thinking we were completely mad but we did take some advice and we actually spoke to somebody who said you can put your eggs in one basket, all your eggs in one basket and guard it with your life and that’s what we decided to do. We believed there was a future for Higgedy and we were wholly committed, we were all in and that meant that literally did mean blood, sweat and tears. You know I would be packing pies at 2.00am to get them on to a vehicle to get them out to local farm shops and deli’s but we started small, we started with not that much experience although we, James and I, both bought something completely different to the business in terms of skill sets and yeah we’ve over the period of thirteen years of owning Higgedy, we’ve sold our homes and continued to reinvest and that’s the same today. We are in the same position today.

Elliot Moss
So basically about a year ago you sold your homes again?

Camilla Stephens
Again. Yes.

Elliot Moss
Which is extraordinary, a business this size and you’ve held the ownership of it and you are as you said, guarding it with your life. But it comes back to something very simple, you said which is ‘I thought there was an opportunity to revitalise this aisle’, this aisle of beige as you called it.

Camilla Stephens
Yes.

Elliot Moss
And I am looking right now at the new packaging and if you haven’t seen it you will, these are available right now right?

Camilla Stephens
They are, yes.

Elliot Moss
Okay, there’s great colour and you’ve kind of got this focus on the Higgedy name which is a really interesting name as well. How do you stay true to that instinct that you had back in 2003 that there was an opportunity to rejuvenate?

Camilla Stephens
Well when we first launched the brand in 2006, so for the first three years of Higgedy’s life we sold pies and quiches to local deli’s and farm shops and there was no branded product sitting on the supermarket shelves and at the end of 2006 we launched them, this new look for us at the time on to the supermarket shelves and there was a little ‘get in touch’ line on the back of pack and it was then once we had launched them that we began to get emails, letters, poems, recipes and communication from our customers who were telling us how much they loved what we were making and that was the beginning of really understanding and thinking there is something here, we are doing something and we are also attracting somebody who wouldn’t necessarily walk down the pie aisle and quite often, we were deliberately feminine as well so we wanted to get those mums that were shopping and that wouldn’t have normally picked up a pie to come and try and out of that we’ve, it’s steered us in terms of our product development as well. We now make a lot of quiches and a lot of vegetarian lines as we see people’s sort of eating habits change as well.

Elliot Moss
Stay with me for more from Camilla Stephens my Business Shaper and co-founder of Higgedy. Time for some more music, one of my favourites, Stevie Wonder and one of my favourites of his, Living For The City.

That was Living For The City and Stevie Wonder. Camilla Stephens is my Business Shaper today. She is the owner of the Higgedy business and we were talking about how it’s become… this opportunity was there, it retains it femininity but pies are you know, quite masculine things as well aren’t they.

Camilla Stephens
Yes.

Elliot Moss
You, and people rave about food now, I think this country has changed hasn’t it. When I was a child you know, the advent of McDonalds was noteworthy in the news, it no longer is and people didn’t really know their food. It is not just London and it has been… there’s been a bit of an artisan renaissance. You are part of that. I am assuming that wasn’t, I mean it was intentional for you but have you seen it blossoming around you? And if so, why is it that we have got better at making great food?

Camilla Stephens
Well I think that the customer is demanding of that, is looking for really good quality and they are prepared to pay for really good quality as well. I think that it has become a much more of a leisure thing, it is not just kind of a functional thing. You know, you go to a farmer’s market sometimes just for fun to try a new cheese and so at Higgedy we are making what we think are great tasting pies, quiches and sausage rolls and lifting and bringing energy and modernising and refreshing this category.

Elliot Moss
Now the counter point to your love of food is of course that this business is very successful and continues to be successful, very fast… it’s a fast growth business. It has been recognised by many people. How have you adapted to that role in addition to cherishing and nurturing the passion that you have for the food? I am assuming obviously you are going to talk about great people around you and all that but you personally, how have you, how do you manage to split your time between product design and hold on a minute, we’re running a business?

Camilla Stephens
Yeah, I have had to be quite decisive about where I want to add value because I only have a certain number of hours in the day and…

Elliot Moss
Seventy four hours.

Camilla Stephens
But I am very, very lucky because there’s my husband James and our very good friend Mark and we run the business together and so we can split it up, we know what each of us are good at and where we want to add value and so I have taken much more of this focussed role on creating new recipes, listening to our customers, what do they want to see and what’s going to work, what’s going to solve problems for them when they’ve kind of got to get one child to Brownies and another to swimming and how do they put a great tasting meal that they can trust on the table so I’ve, I have streamlined my role and it is much more around the development and I am lucky because I get to cherry-pick the bits that I like.

Elliot Moss
I was going to say you know, you’ve got the perfect job. Well done for stopping your A levels.

Camilla Stephens
Yeah.

Elliot Moss
Final chat coming up with Camilla plus we will be playing track from T-Bone Walker. That’s after the latest traffic and travel.

A Cold Cold Feeling with T-Bone Walker, I hope that’s not what you are feeling right now because we’ve got a lovely warm person here who makes nice things which taste nice and make you feel good, it’s Camilla Stephens. She has been with me as my Business Shaper, founder owner of Higgedy making those lovely pies. You have a very, I mean it’s a pretty big group of people working for you…

Camilla Stephens
Yes.

Elliot Moss
…but it feels like and you talk about your husband, you talk about your friend Mark. It feels quite familial to me, just the way you talk about it.

Camilla Stephens
Yes.

Elliot Moss
Obviously I am not in the business. How… do they feel the same? That group of people? Do they feel like part of this family and if so, how have you managed to retain that?

Camilla Stephens
Well we have done quite a bit of work. I mean at the beginning it is quite easy, you have a small group of people and they are just quite loyal and everybody is on the same page and you all sit round the same sort of desk and you hear each other’s conversations and as you get bigger it gets harder but we have done quite a big piece of work recently about our values and why we make pies and quiches and what does it mean and what’s important to us and we did that as a business whole so it was quite a lengthy process but it was so that everybody is involved in that process and can agree with our values so… and we spend quite a lot of time doing various different sort of activities so that people feel included and they are part of the journey and it does, those that visit us down at Shoreham By Sea do often say, it does feel like a sort of big family here and we do have Higgedy babies, there are relationships, people have got together on the night shift and the day shift and we’ve got, it’s one big family.

Elliot Moss
Just one big hot house of love.

Camilla Stephens
Yeah.

Elliot Moss
But you look incredibly, you feel incredibly approachable to me so I imagine that works for people in the business. Is your husband much… is he angry and mean or are you all just really nice people? And if you are, when you have to make tough decisions about people, how do you go about that?

Camilla Stephens
It is often some very difficult decisions in business and we spend quite a lot of time saying no to things and it is that thing, keep the main thing the main thing and keep focussed on exactly what we want to do which is making delicious pies and quiches but that often means that you have to be tough and it’s usually one of us that’s maybe we are a slight sort of three headed monster at times but we try not to be.

Elliot Moss
You take turns.

Camilla Stephens
Yeah.

Elliot Moss
Listen it’s been really lovely talking to you and it’s clear that obviously you are enjoying yourself and that you have found the thing that you want to do in life and that is then it’s not like work is it which I can see from your smiley eyes and on that thought about doing stuff with your team, I believe that’s really underpinning your song choice. What is your song choice?

Camilla Stephens
Well I have chosen Birdland by Weather Report and that’s because we do every year a, what we call the big Higgedy picnic and we take the whole team, it’s the only time when we properly stop making in our big kitchen and everybody is invited to come and celebrate. We have an outdoor little sort of Autumn Festival and you can bring grannies, aunties, uncles, family, children and we party and this just seems apt.

Elliot Moss
Brilliant, Camilla thank you so much, here it is just for you.

That was Weather Report with Birdland, the song choice of my Business Shaper today Camilla Stephens; I loved her you can do anything attitude, I loved her passion for cooking and the fact that she stuck to her guns all this time and I loved the fact that she has put her money and her husband’s and her partner’s money where their mouth is. They have continued to invest wholeheartedly in their business. Great stuff. Do join me again same time, same place, next Saturday 9.00am sharp for Jazz Shapers here on Jazz FM. Meanwhile stay with us, coming up next it’s Nigel Williams.

Camilla Stephens
Camilla Stephens founded Higgidy in 2003 after being inspired by companies liked Innocent and Green & Blacks, and driven by the desire to share her home-cooked pies with everybody.

A career in food was much more tempting than school for Camilla, who left  halfway through her A-levels to attend Leiths, London’s leading cooking school. There, Camilla spent the next few years working with their catering company, developing delicious new recipes and perfecting her cookery skills. Skills that she later took to Justin de Blank delicatessen and Good Housekeeping magazine. After three years of food writing and editing, Camilla went travelling in America for six months, where she fell in love with coffee. Once back in the UK, Camilla took an opportunity to work with leading coffee brand, Seattle Coffee Company, developing its food range. When Seattle Coffee was taken over by Starbucks, Camilla’s expertise was recognised and she was asked to stay and develop Starbucks’ food range.

In 2001 Camilla went freelance and two years later, inspired by her family’s love of her home baking, she set up Higgidy, making handmade pies near her home in West Sussex. Her home-cooking philosophy and her use of kitchen cupboard ingredients is at the heart of the Higgidy kitchen and of all the recipes she creates. In 2013 Camilla wrote the Higgidy Cookbook sharing over 100 easy recipes for pies, quiches, tarts and puddings to make at home for family and friends.

Camilla won the 2010 Everywoman Entrepreneur Award, and was named Entrepreneur of the Year in 2010 at the Sussex Business Awards.

Higgidy has won many awards including Regional winner for the south in the HSBC Business Thinking Awards 2011/12, the People and Performance Award in the Real Business/CBI Growing Business Awards 2010.

Listen live at 9am Saturday.

Follow Higgidy on Twitter @higgidy.

I never really got on at school. I think that’s probably a theme quite often found with entrepreneurs.

I went to Leiths in London and did their Diploma in food and wine. I still look back on it as one of the best years of my life. It was a brilliant place to be inspired and to begin to learn.

…the pie aisle in the supermarket to me was blokey. It was beige food.

I went from Leiths to Good Housekeeping Magazine and that was just an incredible time…I call it the Pesto Sun Dried Tomato years.

We believed there was a future for Higgedy and we were wholly committed, we were all in and that literally did mean blood, sweat and tears.

…we began to get emails, letters, poems, recipes and communication from our customers who were telling us how much they loved what we were making.

As you get bigger it gets harder but we have done quite a big piece of work recently about our values and why we make pies and quiches and what does it mean and what’s important to us.

It does feel like a sort of big family here and we do have Higgedy babies, there are relationships, people have got together on the night shift and the day shift…

I have got a pile of cookbooks by my bed today, I love cooking.