We're shining a spotlight on some of our amazing women-owned vendors in the run-up to International Women's Day. First up is Justyna Nowicka, founder of Kidbay Parties!
At City Pantry, we meet lots of inspiring women who own and run the food businesses that you love. This month we're shining a light on these women and their achievements in the lead up to International Women's Day on Monday 8th March. First up is Justyna Nowicka, founder of Kidbay Parties!
Tell us a little bit about Kidbay.
Kidbay came about as a result of a passion for cooking and entertaining. Initially it was a hobby, a way to express my long lasting (at least 5 years) dream about having a food business, but within a few months it became a full time job.
Initially I focused on children’s catering - having two little boys myself I knew that there is a lot to desire from the quality of food consumed at kids parties. Quickly enough parents also wanted to have something of a great quality and visually pleasing to nibble on. And that is how within a few months of starting up, I started moving from children’s catering only into a wider adult audience and finally into a corporate space.
The adult focus and corporate partnerships came into full force during our everlasting lockdown.
Have you always worked in the food and drinks industry?
In a nutshell: no. But I have coordinated, cooked for, arranged, and attended countless smaller and larger events. Starting from family events - and there are many of us, so each event is for at least 30-50 people! -, through to corporate office parties over the 10 years of managing a team, with some good old waitering during uni times, and even time as an air hostess! So, food and service has always been very close to me.
How has COVID-19 affected your business?
Hugely! There are so many positives that came as a result, but unfortunately some negatives as well, and I am certain that I am not alone in that. We did experience some larger party cancellations (we all did), and as a result issued refunds to the clients in full. But what I was able to do is to adjust, fast.
Within the first week of the lockdown in March 2020, I started offering fresh fruit and vegetable boxes for the local community as well as Sunday roasts. In the first week we had 10 boxes and 16 roasts delivered. Over the next couple of weeks it grew to around 50 a week and by the end of April I was single-handedly delivering over 150 fruit and veg boxes per week! The relationships I was able to build with members of the local community as a result are fantastic!
What have your experiences been like as a female business owner in this industry?
I think it is predominantly a female-led industry. At least that has so far been my experience within London. I have worked with many women who run their own catering businesses and I loved it! They know what they are doing, they are assertive, they are extremely well organised and they are very much determined to deliver the best. We are all constantly innovating! With the lockdown hitting us so many times over the last year it was an absolute necessity to innovate to stay afloat. And we all found a way.
Why is it important to celebrate International Women’s Day?
You know what, I think it is much more of a tradition than the requirement. I come from a family of five children, where I am the only woman (plus my mum). And I always felt equal, with equal opportunities and abilities. I am lucky to have many male friends and again, never felt deprived in any way.
But I understand that it is not always like that. There are still areas where women are being valued less just because of a simple fact that they are women and that is not cool. If you are managing a team, a company, a project, if you are an actress, model or teacher - anyone really - there is absolutely no reason to underpay or undervalue any person due to their gender identity, whether they are male, female, or non-binary. And if International Women’s Day can keep highlighting this issue, then we should continue celebrating it!
What advice would you give to women who want to start a career in the food and drinks industry or set up their own business?
Just Do It!!! I had a friend who said she has been dreaming about her own food business, but she was scared. She didn’t have money to start, her boyfriend was apprehensive. I told her that she doesn’t need any money to start! Just guts to make the first social post, just start talking about it. You will need money when you have your first orders but then you will have been paid already! That’s what deposits are for at the beginning.
The company setup processes and the food industry regulations are actually very easy to follow. And there are so many of us around to reach out to for advice. I did that: I called a friend of mine who is an Iraqi chef now to help me through. And I did the same for a lady who started cooking from home in the last year. If you know how to cook, that is what you need to start the business. The rest will follow.
Would you like to order some delicious food and drinks boxes for your remote teams from Kidbay? Click the button below to see what's on the menu! 😍