Stacey O’Gorman, co-founder of The Meringue Girls, had a passion for food from a young age. School, on the other hand, completely failed to capture her imagination until she enrolled in culinary school and just like that, her fate was sealed.
Like many kiwi kids, she left New Zealand after completing her course with the intention of chefing and tasting her way around the world. As it turns out her plans took an unexpected twist while she was chefing in London. She met a kindred spirit in the kitchen and they decided to enter a TV competition called Cooks to Market where would-be food entrepreneurs compete to see who can package and sell the most of their homemade fare at Convent Garden Market. “The timing was perfect, we both had nothing to lose, shared the same carefree, ‘give it go’ spirit and both thought, it could even push us up towards something bigger”.
Their idea (meringues), their packaging, their product and their personality won them the competition and out of that victory blossomed The Meringue Girls. The rest you could say is history, but we won’t because that would gloss over the secrets to their success starting with timing.
When it comes launching a new concept to market, timing really is everything, and Stacey and Alex had done their homework. Firstly they had tapped into a major market trend – street food was going off in London. Secondly they had come up with a unique idea for a sweet treat. While everyone was doing waffles or cupcakes they offered something quite different – the humble meringue, made with amazing ingredients, amazing colours and lots of love.
They also made the most of every connection and opportunity that came their way. For example; working alongside, and becoming friendly with Jamie Oliver’s food photographer led to him taking some shots for their website. He then posted one of the photos on Instagram, with his 40,000 or so followers. Publishers soon started approaching them from that small but significant helping hand. Another was the host of the Cooks to Market TV show who took an instant liking to the girls and invited them to all her food events. The profile of The Meringue Girls, amidst a very crowded London market, got a huge boost from these connections.
And have there been any bumps along the way? Of course, but the one that stands out like a beacon is when they got approached to franchise their company in the United Arab Emirates. “At the time neither of us had any financial or business planning experience so we went into these meetings very blind and naïve. It was such a fail, we were in way too deep.” But as with all great stumbles you learn so much more from them than your successes. “Good luck, hard work, press coverage and momentum had got us to where we were at, but we needed to put in the hard yards to take it to the next level”. Those hard yards included upskilling on the commercial side of business, getting a business plan, a mentor and starting to get some experts to help them”
Stacey’s Top Tips for Starting Out
Get a great partner – Neither Alex nor Stacey would probably have gone for it on the own, and today they continue to be a tight knit unit and a great sounding board for each other.
Learn by Doing. Richard Branson once said “you don’t learn to walk by following the rules. You learn by doing and falling over” and that’s been the experience of The Meringue Girls. “A lot of people go in with a plan and a business model but it didn’t happen that way for us, we would have never begun.”
Get Help when you are out of your depth – “don’t rely on yourself to handle everything – get in specialist skills when you are out of your depth.
Make your passion your business – “If you are passionate about your business it will all come together.”
To find about more about The Meringue Girls – https://meringuegirls.co.uk/
You can read more about Stacey, and others like her, in Annah’s latest book – Flourish – available NOW at https://www.annahstretton.co.nz/products/flourish