This week we catch up with Chris Player who runs Player Bakes. TechRound talks to him about what it’s like starting a business, how he got started, and what his top tips for other would be food-entrepreneurs.
TechRound (TR) – What’s your name and what does your company do?
Chris Player (CP) – My name’s Chris Player. My company is Player Bakes—a sourdough baker based in London. I do weekly orders to offices and run run classes. I’ve started supplying cafes and restaurants and catering for a few events.
TR – What is the favorite part of being a baker?
CP – My mission is to help people fall in love with bread again. Sourdough is on trend right now, but this way of baking has been around for thousands of years. I want people to fall in love with breads and for me to be the agent of an emotional change. When they taste it, they feel that emotion as well as actually I’m sort of coming into contact with the emotional connection with bread during classes. I really encourage the storytelling. Let’s say someone has a memory of the first time that they realised bread can be made or the best loaf they’ve ever tasted—I want to replicate that.
My mission statement is to get to the bottom of that emotional connection with flavour or with something that you make with your own hands.
TR – When did your sourdough journey start?
CP – The memory that started my interest in sourdough was when I was about 11, that’s when I made my first loaf with my mum. We made it in the shape of a bunny rabbit. I really got in to baking at university although I wasn’t particularly consistent with it (being a student). The first time I made a great loaf was when my parents were coming to meet my girlfriend and I made lunch and a few loafs I got from the Jamie Oliver website. It was the first time I really saw it working
Before the interview you told me about trying new things – why is that important as an entrepreneur?
I have always liked trying new things. A few years back I wanted to try something completely out of the blue. I found a rollerblading marathon in Berlin and just decided to go for it. I’d never even been on a pair of rollerblades before. I even got my Dad to join me.
As a result, my brother, he looked at that and he was kind of jealous and wanted to learn a new skill too. So he started doing woodcarving and by the time we got to Christmas I got a bit competitive with him again and hadn’t done anything since the rollerblading marathon and he was still doing his woodcarving, and I didn’t have anything, I was just kind of looking through a things that I could do and I decided I wanted to do something with my hands. This is when I started baking again.
I set myself a target of 100 loaves to bake in the year.
TR – And then were you selling any of these loaves at this point?
CP – One or two at this point, not many. In the September of 2016. I started bringing them in to work and selling them to colleagues. On new years eve I actually made loaves 99 and 100, so hit my target by about 15 minutes.
TR – Did you start building up a following at this point? Those first 100 fans are so crucial to spread the word.
CP – One thing that I learned from the Tim Ferriss podcast is actually the first thousand fans is a marketing strategy and finding people that can buy into your story is key. I decided to take my loaves directly to market to find those fans. And actually, the first time I completely sold out of all my loaves – which I was very happy about.
And also, the community was key becuase it can be lonely being a sole-trader baker! You really need to find that community to help support you.
TR – How did you set your original targets for your business?
CP – I set the bar incredibly low to start so that I knew I would hit it. My target was selling one loaf at the first stall. And I did that before the market even opened – that was great. Setting the target low forced me to just get started, and that forward momentum is crucial.
Starting is the first step. I know it sounds obvious but you just have to get going don’t you.
Exactly – I’ve spoken with a lot of people who said, you know, I want to get this thing started and my response is “well why don’t you just do it”. Everyone is worried about failure and it holds lots of people back.
TR – Who has helped you on your journey so far?
CP – Lots of people so far. What I’ve found is that people are so willing to help, and share knowledge, you just have to ask. The worst thing that happens is that they don’t respond, and if that happens, so what!
TR – What’s it actually like being an entrepreneur?
CP – I mentioned at the beginning I’ve got four different sales channels and I’m only one person and I haven’t really slept properly since, um, since last Thursday because I’ve just been waking up baking, delivering and repeating. I’m definitely not getting any sympathy from entrepreneurs as you need to see what works. It’s not sustainable but sometimes it has to be done.
TR – Have you raised any money for this business?
CP – I like the challenge of getting as far as possible by self funding. I would love to build this business without outside funding,even if it means that it will be slower growth.
TR – What is your final parting wisdom for our readers?
CP – At many points in this journey so far I didn’t think things were going to work, and I think that’s natural. To counter this I started writing lists of worst case scenarios, and really thinking “is this going to happen”. And in most cases the scenarios weren’t too bad, or irreversable, and I was getting stuck in my own head.
It was good to have an awareness of this, it’s called a pre-mortem, but if you spend too long thinking about it you won’t get anything done.
TR – Where can our readers find out more?
I am running courses to teach people about how to make their own sourdough – you can find a full list of my courses here.