Committed to the Business and Each Other: An Interview with Sara@StJohn’s
Being in business with a partner or family member can work brilliantly, but it can also be extremely challenging. Family and couple businesses is an area I specialise in, and I’m fascinated how the relationship dynamics can make or break a business.
In my Committed to the Business and Each Other series, I speak to a range of couples and families in business to find out what they feel is the secret to their success.
Today I’m speaking to Sara Danesin and David Medio, a husband and wife team from York. You may know Sara from her time as a MasterChef finalist in 2011. After her success on the show, Sara and her husband David set up a foodie business consisting of a supper club, cookery classes and consultancy.
I approached Sara and David to take part in Committed to the Business and Each Other after I attended one of their supper club events. I was so impressed at what a good team they made: Sara delivered a delicious dinner and David was an excellent host and story-teller. If you’re thinking about attending one of their events, I highly recommend it!
Elevator pitch time! Please tell us about your business.
After Sara was a finalist in MasterChef in 2011, David took advantage of a career break from his work as a Marine Scientist to help her set up a food based business. It was quite a change from Sara’s role as deputy sister in ITU at York Hospital! The business included a Supper Club based at their home a stone’s throw away from York Minster, tailor made cookery classes at home, teaching at a number of cookery schools across the UK and being an Ambassador for AGA, as well as developing recipes for a broad range of businesses in the UK and abroad. The Supper Club has hosted more than 4500 people in less than 4 years.
The business is a partnership whereby David deals with most of the business development aspects, accounting and administration, and Sara delivers the goods!
Thinking right back to the beginning, what prompted you to go into business with your partner/family member?
We had 900 requests for dinner at the Supper Club the day after MasterChef ended: there was no real choice but to develop a ‘home based’ venture. Hiring a professional to develop such a business would have been expensive and perhaps would never quite have achieved the same level of effectiveness in cost-benefits nor would it have provided the same level of ‘cosy-ness’. In addition, a home based business meant no overheads: crucial for any start up.
Did you consider how your relationship would be affected by being in business together?
Not really. We just did it. Sara wanted a change and David had a paid break from work. It was an opportunity that could not be missed.
What kind of business planning did you do?
David did some financial planning to see what break even points were needed to make the business feasible. I guess we were very fortunate in that the Supper Club, which was enough to support the family, had on average a one year waiting list.
Would you say that you and your partner have similar strengths or different ones?
Completely different ones. David is a planner, organised and thinks ahead. Sara delivers top quality food which at the end of the day is crucial. She is also a fantastic teacher when it comes to food: an inspiration to many.
What has been the biggest challenge to you for working together?
Spending long periods of time together during the day! This is a first given David has always worked away a lot.
What do you consider your biggest achievement so far?
Establishing a business that could go on forever with little, if any, overheads, and something that can develop new ideas and last indefinitely. But most importantly, a business that is extremely varied for Sara.
Has working together changed your relationship outside of the business?
Yes possibly. There has been a lot of tit for tat; and a realisation that one needs separate spaces and time-outs.
Have you made use of any outside resources to support you? If so, were they helpful?
Very few. Only occasionally have we hired staff for large events.
What advice would you give to other couples/families who are thinking of starting a business?
Make very robust business plans.
Always look beyond in terms of business development. Never assume business will be static: there is always something that disappears overnight and you must have options up your sleeve.
Do consider how your relationship might be affected.
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