Nobody told us the biggest problem with our start-up

People say that learning from your mistakes is crucial for start-ups. (Admittedly, such wisdom is true in any situation). Unfortunately though, I no longer have the money or the means to put right the biggest problem we had with Lashbrook Lassis.

Each business sector has its own specific challenges. For us, it was the dreaded ‘shelf life’. Because we started making our lassis in the kitchen and sold them directly at market, the idea of a ‘shelf life’ was never really an issue.

In the first few years of Lashbrook Lassis, we met with numerous helpful and accommodating mentors who explained the general principles of business, though none of them pointed out our biggest flaw – our ‘short shelf life’. We only realised how big the problem was until it was too late.

It’s not like we didn’t try and find out about this problem. We paid £5,000 (which we did receive a grant for) to a local university to help with commercialising out kitchen-based product. I would have thought at this point at least that that’d say how our short shelf life would become the demise of our business. But they didn’t. Instead, they tweaked our production process slightly which only extended our shelf life by about 14 days.

What they should have done was completely overhaul our business and explain that we needed a product that could sit in ambient conditions (our lassis had to be chilled) and would last a year. It was only after 3 years when we started dealing with our manufacturers in Wales that they began trying to do their best to extend our shelf life further. But with a chilled, fresh product such as ours, it was a case of damage limitation and we could only manage a 40-day shelf life. Within the chilled beverage sector, this is perfectly acceptable, though you need a logistics operation on a par with Coca-Cola (Innocent smoothies) or PepsiCo (Naked smoothies) to actually make the whole thing work; which we didn’t have, and unsurprisingly it didn’t work.

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