“A supper club is what I describe as an experience-based business that you can run from your home or in your local town. There are an almost infinite number of different types of experience businesses that you could run”
– Sam, on the abundance of experience-based business opportunity

It is really easy to start a business from your home. In this episode we delve into Emma’s home business.

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00:25 – What is a supper club?
01:00 – Easing customer’s nerves
02:31 – Building towards a restaurant
03:41 – Sam’s thoughts on businesses you can start from your bedroom
05:05 – The legitimacy of supper clubs
07:00 – Why was Emma nervous about starting a supper club
07:35 – Discussing imposter syndrome
08:16 – What qualifications do you have to make gin?
09:11 – Emma meeting a cocktail blogger
11:24 – Low barriers to entry in many different fields
12:14 – Different reasons people go to supper clubs
13:52 – Would Emma recommend starting a supper club?
15:35 – Emma’s shout out


SAM: Hello and welcome back to another episode of The Lazy Entrepreneur, I’m your host Sam Priestly and today we’re going to be talking with my lovely wife, Emma, about her home business Emma’s Nomad Kitchen which is a supper club which she runs from our home. What is a supper club, a supper club is a dinner party where people pay to come so it’s like having a restaurant from your home. So every couple of weeks you will invite eight strangers or you’ll sell tickets to eight strangers who will then have a three course meal plus canapes and a welcome drink and tea and coffee and stuff like that. So paint a picture for us, what is it like going to one of your supper clubs?

EMMA: Yeah so yeah typically you won’t know who’s going and you definitely won’t know what the menu is, and I think people tend to be quite nervous as they come in the door so I always welcome them with a drink and canape and we always sit upstairs in the living room which has got a giant sofa which is quite comfortable. I like to think people can get to know each other and then we come downstairs and sit down at the dining table and then I start with a starter and finish with truffles and tea and coffee. People expect a social, so they expect to meet new people, they expect to try different food and have a good time. It’s fun.

SAM: And people don’t normally expect you to eat with them.

EMMA: No. No, which I do because part of it for me is as I said getting that instant feedback, that gratification but also meeting new people. Finding people to go for coffee with, go for brunch with on the weekends, whatever.

SAM: Yeah, and it is a business, it’s something that makes you money. You have about a 50% margin so you make about 150 pounds a go and you do it every couple of weeks, so it’s not a big business but there is a little one and it has all the makings of something that could then grow or change or adapt into something else.

EMMA: Yeah and it’s a good platform to test ideas.

SAM: Exactly yeah.

EMMA: Whether that’s verbally or on the plate or a drink or whatever.

SAM: Yes so if you wanted to start a restaurant, this is a nice way to start, rather than going the full stretch and opening one, you can start by having it in your home with just eight guests. Then you can start hosting it in other venues outside your home, or you can have more guests. You can certainly build it up, you can do from once a fortnight, once a week, and then eventually once you know it’s going to work out, you can then move to that step of getting a big loan and and finding a location and turning it into a proper restaurant.

EMMA: Yeah and also you can use it as a bit of a consumer research, so you could use it to launch a product, so for example, our gin. We could have used supper clubs initially to test out different versions of our flavour and get an idea of customer feedback, do they like the product, do they like the branding.

SAM: Yeah, or if you were serving a source that people liked.

EMMA: Yeah exactly.

SAM: Start bottling that and selling it. And that’s something if you did decide to start doing that, it’s something you could then do from your own home, so you could start making a sauce yourself, putting it in pots and then selling it. You can then find a factory who could then take your recipe and make it in mass and build it up all slowly, kind of bootstrapping it. I think I can sometimes be a bit rude about businesses that you start from your bedroom. Especially when you’re doing a lot of the work yourself, because there’s not much scalability there.

EMMA: Yeah.

SAM: So let’s say you’ve got a t-shirt business, what you do is design some t-shirts and you screen print it and you put it on and then get an order and you go down the post box and you post it. But I’ve only read about those because people don’t often think ahead at the beginning and they put themselves into a corner where they can’t afford to not do what’ll work themselves.

EMMA: Yes they can’t scale up easily.

SAM: They can’t scale up. Whereas if in fact it was the other way around and they were just testing something else, but then with the pricing that you have in your mind, this could turn into something better, I’m a really big fan of it. And actually, the reason I want to talk about this is not because I want people to start supper club but because doing these sort of businesses from your home is probably much, much easier than what most people think.

EMMA: Oh yeah.

SAM: I think a supper club is a good one because it is serving food and so I think people think there’s loads of laws around it, like you need to have a certain type of kitchen, you need to be in an industrial place.

EMMA: And loads of people ask as well.

SAM: Most people ask and I think this idea that it’s a little bit illegal and people come.

EMMA: They think oh this is right?

SAM: This is a bootleg restaurant. Well actually that’s not the case, like you have, you know your five-star food hygiene rating. You’ve been inspected by the council, didn’t cost you anything. You just sign up online, you have to do like a one-day course.

EMMA: Which I could have done online but I chose to do it at a council building so I can meet people.

SAM: Yeah! We’ve got a blog post on exactly how you know all the legal steps you need which you can read on in the show notes or on sampriestley.com.

EMMA: And that is pretty much it it’s not much more.

SAM: It’s really straightforward. It gets more complicated if you’re selling alcohol, but apart from that it is quite straightforward.

EMMA: And that’s what you need that’s all you need for that.

SAM: There we go I’ve got it written down here. You must register your supper club with the local council. You should leave at least have 28 days before starting. Once registered, you’ll be inspected by the Food Standards Agency, and then by law you also need that anyone handling food for the supper club must be adequately trained.

EMA: Yeah.

SAM: And that can mean a bunch of things, but generally you can go into a food hygiene course so Emma did a level two course. You can take the course online and do the exam online, and it cost twenty five quid. And that’s it, it costs all the legal requirements at a total cost of 25 pounds to running a food-related business from your home. That’s pretty simple right? You don’t need to create a business, you can do it as self-employed as a sole trader, you don’t even need to declare your earnings unless you’re earning above a certain amount. It’s one of the gig economy things that’s quite easy to get going. Now let’s say we were making sauces, packaging it up and selling them. Yeah there’s probably a few more things you could go do with that, but it’s not going to be that complicated. It’s gonna be you know fairly straightforward and it’s something you can do. So you were quite nervous about doing a supper club werent you?

EMMA: Yeah very nervous.

SAM: Why was what?

EMMA: Because people were paying for my food and I haven’t had any training in terms of, I’m not a professional chef. I’m a home cook so I was really nervous that my food wasn’t good enough and people wouldn’t want to pay because I am putting myself out there.

SAM: Yeah well you heard impostor syndrome, which is the term for thinking you’re a fraud, that you shouldn’t be doing this, that you need to be a professional in order to serve, to have a restaurant .

EMMA: Yeah I suppose really it was I didn’t think I was good enough. I didn’t think I was faking it.

SAM: Well that that’s why I mean by imposter, you don’t think you’re good enough yet to do this. You don’t think you’re a professional. You put everyone else on a pedestal, and people get that in everything. People get it in sport, where even though they’re world champion, they still think they’re not that good and they’ll be called out one day. For instance the gin, when we started the gin business, people said, well what right do you have to make gin?

EMMA: Yeah.

SAM: What qualifications do you have to make gin? We don’t have any qualifications, just a love a gin and a lot of experimentation and research and self learning. Likewise, with your supper club, what qualifications do you have in order to be a chef? You don’t, but you do have passion and research.

EMMA: Lots of practice.

SAM: All that kind of stuff, and the truth is you’re not starting a restaurant, you’re starting a supper club which is a one day every now and again, you don’t have that many guests, you’re not trying to compete with the michelin starred restaurant in central London. It’s a completely different thing.

EMMA: I think it’s really interesting this whole thing of like being a professional and having the qualifications. I met someone recently who’s a is a cocktail blogger so she creates cocktails, she’s got big following on Instagram and we met for a drink and she was explaining what her previous history was and one of the roles she had was, well her kind of main role was a big kind of advertising marketing role in London, and after that she became a life coach and she went from kind of a professional background to something that was a bit more of a softer skill, so she did all these courses and paid loads of money, and she was a life coach and then she said, and then I decided I wanted to focus on drinks and now I’m doing the cocktail blog. I said, “oh so did you do any qualifications in mixology or catering or anything like that?” She said, “no of course not.” I said so what was the difference, so I thought that was really interesting, she didn’t have an answer. I don’t think anyone had ever called her out on that and called her out is a bit of a mean term for it because obviously I don’t think she needs to, she’s great at her job. But I think that whole thing, if you need to have this whole bank of qualifications and rules to be able to do something professionally. As in, get paid for it.

SAM: Yeah and I think it’s that part, they get paid for isn’t it. Well she’s a cocktail blogger and it’s a hobby.

EMMA: Oh no she gets paid quite, she gets sponsored by brands all the time, it is a very good income for her.

SAM: Well now she does but when she started, she was just a hobbyist cocktail blogger. And the proof is in she got popular, we call it the early amateurization of industries. Or the democratization of industries, where a lot of the gatekeepers of these things are disappearing and now anyone can kind of go and do it, and then the ones who survive are the ones who are good rather than the ones with all the qualifications.

EMMA: Which is great, it’s all about how good you are, your new ideas and how creative you are.

SAM: Yeah the downside of it is we get it with all these authors and books and the rise of self-publishing is that there’s no quality check, so it could be that someone who can only cook a ready meal, like if I start the supper club, it’d be terrible, but there’s no one telling me I can’t do it. So I could start a supper club and it would be rubbish and I get loads of bad reviews. The barrier to entry is really low, but that means anyone can do it, so that’s one downside but a plus side is that people who are truly passionate about it like you can end up doing it, and it kind of side steps all the nonsense about, you know what school you went to, whether you’re a man or a woman, what color you are, like it’s all totally down to you.

EMMA: Yeah.

SAM: Which I think is great. Why not just go and do it, why not just try something out. Supper club is a thing but there’s no reason why you can’t do other things from your home. We could do gin tasting, we could do yoga, we could do anything.

EMMA: Brazilian jiu-jitsu.

SAM: Like there’s any huge scope for the type of things we could run. I was thinking like the perfect supper club is a mixture of social interaction, you’re going in it to meet people, the food, it’s good food and also an experience. They are often themed in some way. Something you get that you wouldn’t get elsewhere. Well you can fit some of those things in, take the food out and just experience a social and you can do all sorts of things. Do like dance classes.

EMMA: A tour of Tunbridge Wells, I can do like a a bar crawl that people paid for. Yeah there is…

SAM: And in fact the supper club is one of the harder ones to do because of the food hygiene stuff around it. I think people worry a little bit about their legal liability, what happens if someone gets hurt in my business and I get sued. You can understand why people ask, because especially if you read the news or you plugged a bit into like American culture, and that concept of like sueing people.

EMMA: Yeah and especially at the moment within the food and drink industry about allergens so like for example, what’s happened with Pratt.

SAM: They said it was allergen free and it wasn’t.

EMMA: Yeah and people are voting with their feet, they’re not going to Pratt because of it. I think that particularly in food could really put people off.

SAM: Yeah, you almost don’t want to get into it in case something bad happens. But you know there are insurances you can get for that, and these are really unlikely things to happen anyway. I get that that is a worry but it’s the same worry you have when starting any business. But it’s at a lesser scale because it’s from your home, because it’s small scale. So would you recommend starting a supper club?

EMMA: Yeah absolutely love it I love the creative side of it, so I like picking the menus, I like posting pictures on social media and getting comments, I like the instant feedback, people trying the food and saying they really like it and wanting the recipes which I give them at the end. And I like the social side of it so meeting people I would never normally meet, particularly for us because we both work from home, we don’t have a big pool of people, new people we’re meeting all the time. So it’s great and it’s people from all different ages from like late 20s to 80s. I think it just makes for a really interesting evening and no two are alike. I love the variety of it and not just because I do a different menu every time, but the people, the mix of people were always different. Yeah I love it. Recommend it to anyone.

SAM: Cool, well thank you for that. A supper club is what I describe as an experience-based business that you can run from your home or in your local town. There are an almost infinite number of different types of experience businesses that you could run, a supper club being just one of them and one that we have experience with, and it’s really easy to set up, you could make a bit of money, it’s a good place to trial ideas for businesses you might want them on a scale and grow to something else. It’s a good thing to do if you’re just looking to earn a bit of extra income while at the same time meeting people from the local area or being a bit social. And, yeah the best thing is I think is it’s really easy to set up. Anything else to add?

EMMA: I’d like to do a shout out to my friend Mae who I would love her to set up a supper club. She’s planning to do a Maldivian supper club in London. I’m really trying to encourage her to do her first paid one, we went to a test one a couple of months ago and the food was amazing, so yeah big shout out to her and lots of encouragement!

SAM: Awesome sounds good. Well thanks for listening and if you have any feedback you can reach me at hello@sampriestley.com. And the supper club is called Emma’s Nomad Kitchen you can find it on Facebook. Good-bye!