July and August are the months of ‘down time’ in the average year of the cookery school. Time to get organised, time to think about Christmas – although this year I had to wait until I literally stopped melting before I could even utter the word!
As I sit writing this in the exact same spot (Branca restaurant in Jericho!) where the tiny acorn of an idea was brought to life nearly 4 years ago now I have started to reflect on the journey so far.
As with all businesses each year is a learning curve. Strangely the early years had less extreme curves – probably because it took a year to get going and actually have enough people to run classes. Then as the numbers grow so did my confidence! Without properly thinking things through I took a jump and rented a space (albeit temporarily) in Jericho. As we know that was not a good business decision – no business plan, no savings and it seems the biggest drawback for my customers – no parking!!
So back to Warborough I went and a year and bit down the line business is good, very good. Lots of returning happy clients, a growing proportion of the business is vouchers not just for Christmas but also for birthdays, retirements and wedding presents and, now, BIG plans for another permanent cookery school building waiting in the wings.
As I wondered around Oxford this morning and viewed the empty shops, growing homeless problem, generally shabby look of the place and the ever-growing traffic problems – I have to say that at the moment there is no way that I would ever operate from Oxford city centre. It is so sad as when I arrived here 30 years ago the centre was a thriving city with the Covered Market full to the now crumbling rafters. The new Westgate might placate some but the effects are hitting most other businesses hard. How much more traffic can our medieval city take before someone makes a sane decision about how to ease its straining infrastructure?
So I am interested to find out from you how you feel as a Jericho Kitchen customer (or even potential one!) – are some of the deciding factors about your booking any of the following? Maybe because you can arrive without sitting in traffic, park easily and generally be in a relaxed, spacious, rural setting and not sit in traffic, pay for parking and have to battle with the ever growing crowds of visitors and their selfish sorry selfie sticks?!
Maybe I am wrong but I think keeping my business out of Oxford is the only way to keep it alive and keep it growing. So hopefully this is the start of a conversation with you all to find out what you think. I am genuinely interested in having multiple opinions about this. You might be a business owner in Oxford and not experience any of the above or maybe you might be a business who has moved out of Oxford too because of crippling rents, for example.
Although the ultimate aim is to grow my business, I would love to try and find a solution to the growing problems experienced by so many of us trying to grow businesses within these ancient city walls!
Reflection over – lets start the conversation!