Spotlight on - Fraser MacLellan
At Spotlight, we got the opportunity to talk to Founder of The East London Cheese Board / Froth & Rind, Fraser MacLellan.
I wanted to be my own boss and food and drink is something that I’ve always been passionate about, so it was quite a logical step. I had a lot of learning to do about cheese, and even coffee, beer, etc. When you run a business such as this, your customers look to you for recommendations and advice so it’s important to know as much as you can.
I’m relatively new to this industry. For years I worked in Digital Media for a large company, which I enjoyed, but the time came for me to try something new. Myself and my then business partner decided to form a cheese business, initially working at markets, popups and the like. We soon reached capacity and decided that opening a shop was the next logical step. We felt that a cheese shop on its own was too risky, so we added craft beer and also a coffee shop, with the menu being very cheese focused, like toasties and cheese boards. This is Froth & Rind which is our premises in Walthamstow Village and is going really well. Having premises also allowed us to branch into online so we launched The East London Cheese Board online.
The current situation with COVID-19 has probably been the biggest challenge so far, although setting up a retail business and coffee shop with zero experience was also a bit of a challenge. There have been numerous small setbacks along the way but you just need to face them and do the best you can. If any, can you tell us more about how you overcame those setbacks?
Like I say, facing up to them and tackling them head-on is the best way to deal with them. That way you don’t spend time worrying and stressing about what you should do.
We are a Living Wage Accredited business which I feel is very important. Everyone deserves a fair day's pay for their hard work. We’re also working hard at making our business more sustainable by reducing waste, eliminating single-use where possible and switching to products that have less of an environmental impact.
My parents always pushed on me the need to work hard, study, do the best that I could, and I think that has just stuck with me as I’ve seen the benefits of that philosophy.
Life lessons and advice
That the above philosophy is true. It’s very rare that success comes without hard work. The more you know about the business you’re in the more in control you are.
Being flexible is very important. You may have a clear idea of what you want but it’s not always what your customers want so you have to be able to and willing to adapt.
Be organised. Admin is boring but it is important and makes things easier long term, keep proper records and accounts from the start. I’ve seen businesses not do this and really struggle further down the line. Work hard. I know I keep saying this but in my opinion, it’s so important.
Remember to delegate. You can’t do everything yourself and some members of the team will be better at some things than you are. Make the most of that and free up the time for things you’re good at. Your business will grow and your team will appreciate it too.
To anyone looking to start a business, I would say just go for it! It’s hard work and the buck stops with you but when things go well and you see your business grow and the positive effect it has on people, it’s so rewarding.
Leadership can be both rewarding and testing but if you get it right then it gets more and more rewarding. Not many people are born leaders and it’s a learning curve like everything else. You’ll have to deal with tricky situations, tricky people, but as your experience grows you’ll learn to hire the right people, how to manage those people and the testing situations will get less and less.
Highs and lows
The best part of my job is tasting cheese and beer! Actually no, as fun as that is, meeting new customers and getting to know regular customers is great. I’ve never been the most outgoing person and this job has made me have to come out of my shell a little more and I quite like it. Tasting cheese and beer is really good too though.
The worst is definitely the complaints. With the best will in the world there’ll be situations where people aren’t happy and they’ll complain. When it’s your own business it’s hard not to take it personally. I’ve had situations where I feel I’ve done everything right and bent over backwards for the customer but it’s not been enough. You just need to take those situations on the chin.
Be flexible and take everything day by day. We adapted as we went, creating new and different products both for local deliveries and national deliveries. We merged the business models slightly, which also worked well for us and expanded our product range a little too.
We’re still learning and adapting. We’ve opened again after lockdown and of course, things are different than they were before but we’re making it work and adjusting to anything that doesn’t.
To anyone struggling, speak with like-minded businesses and see what they’re doing and if they can offer any help or advice. Give the team the tools they need to work effectively from home.