Hi everyone! As always I hope you are all safe and well and although the weather leaves a lot to be desired. Since moving here in 1989 I’ve come to accept the unpredictability of the British weather and have learnt that any plans for al-fresco dining or any outdoor activities are usually made with my fingers crossed!
In fact I still vividly recall one summer Gerrard and I excitedly went into Argos (pre-online days) and purchased a set of outdoor dining furniture complete with parasol. On the journey home our conversation centred around friends we were going to invite, feasts that would be devoured, wine flowing freely, all centred around said furniture.
Whilst some of our fantasies did come true, the majority of time was spent indoors with sad faces watching our beloved furniture getting drenched in the pouring rain! However this week's blog isn’t a moan fest about the weather but sharing some exciting times ahead.
When we won the UK Quality Food Award in 2018 for our peanut and sambal sauce, it was really a major turning point for Gerrad and I.
Up till then even though we’d received a positive response from everyone who tried it, we never really believed that it would ever lead to recognition from the industry experts or indeed that we stood a chance competing against some of the giants in the field.
The elation and happiness we felt at that moment when our product was announced was indescribable and a memory created that will be etched in our minds forever.
Being a firm believer of ‘everything happens for a reason’, suddenly it was abundantly clear that this was the path we were to follow and we were exactly where we were meant to be. The win opened a door and we commenced work with a food development company (FBDC) and have now reached the manufacturing stage.
So far it all appears to be like a simple plain sailing process however the reality was quite a different story and the major obstacle that prevented us from reaching this stage was of course, you guessed it, the big M (Money)!
Seeking investment was a mammoth task and for those of you who’ve been in this position, you can imagine the toll that it can take on every aspect of your life. It became all engulfing and there were many times I wondered whether it was worth the stress, the worry, and the sacrifice. I remember sitting in the garden with a coffee one morning the day after yet another potential investor had decided they were not going to proceed and contemplated calling it a day on the business. I asked myself, ‘would it be so bad to end it all right here and right now’?
After all, I daresay I am not the first and certainly won’t be the last to have their dreams shattered right? I mean, in the general scheme of things perhaps I should just sit back, count my blessings, and be grateful for the life I already have?
Then suddenly in that one moment my motto that ‘everything happens for a reason’ came flooding back and I recalled all the events that led us to winning the award.
For a start our submission was late. The organiser kindly extended the deadline just so we could deliver our products on time and after two very late nights of intense work, Gerrard and I set off at 6 am to the drop off venue.
Then came the realisation (when we arrived home) that I had not included the requested number of jars which could affect the judging as was stated very clearly in the rules. At this point I was certain that we wouldn’t stand a chance to be shortlisted for the next step, and winning well, in my dreams!
After picking myself off the floor when we were on the finals list, all hopes were dashed when we got to the ceremony and saw the other names that were in our category. I mean, these were well established companies that were household names and what chance did our small kitchen in the back end of nowhere stand?!
Resigning ourselves to the fact that we were going home empty handed, Gerrard and I decided that we would just enjoy the lavish evening at the beautiful Grovesnor House Hotel and have a whale of a time. After all, how often would we get the opportunity to get dressed up (we clean up quite well actually!), and be spoilt with an unlimited supply of champagne in such opulent surroundings.
No matter what happened it would be a night to remember, and it certainly was when we left with not just one, but two awards. I clutched the two beautiful black boxes that housed the glass trophies so tight against my chest in the taxi home as if my life depended on it.
Recounting these memories I knew that I couldn’t throw the towel in. It seemed people enjoyed our authentic malaysian food, as we couldn’t deprive the public of our award winning peanut or sambal sauce! The pity party was over and the quest to find the big M would continue. It was the right decision as we somehow managed to scrape the funds required.
I use the word ‘scrape’ as that’s the most accurate description. Somehow by god’s grace the big M appeared without the assistance of investors and the positive aspect was we owned the business a hundred percent without having to share with anyone. The negative though which continues to loom is the possible risk of losing it all. But you know, I’m tired of being afraid and another new motto I’m subscribing to is ‘go big or go home’! This new found bravery even prompted me take a step further by retiring from nursing to focus solely on building the business which is probably the boldest move I’ve ever made in all my life.
Aren’t you a tad worried I hear you ask and the answer is a resounding yes! Should we fail, amongst other financial implications the most vital one is that our children would be left without an inheritance. But like so many other blessings that god has bestowed upon us, the best by far are our amazing children.
We had our usual ‘family meeting’ which always conjures images of the knights of the round table before making a final decision. Sasha instantly responded ‘mummy, do you really want to go through life not knowing what could have been’? Ethan who by nature is fearless (in a good way), agreed that we should ‘just go for it’ without procrastination.
They also shared the same sentiment that they could pave their own way in life and forge a future without expecting any assistance from us which made my eyes just fill with tears. In a culture where some children rely on bank of mum and dad, here we are facing two incredible young people with such admirable qualities. Gerrard and I will never be parents of the year but we must have done something good somewhere.
And so here we are today with still a long journey ahead, fraught I’m sure with yet more obstacles, trials, and tribulations on the horizon. In my 50’s I should really be winding down, looking forward to retiring, or even taking up knitting (never!), not throwing caution to the wind, and dancing half naked in the rain (kidding). But you know we only have one life and sometimes a leap of faith is essential to feel alive, to feel free, and to feel courageous. Dancing half naked in the rain purely optional!
No matter what the end result, I know with every ounce of being that I tried.
All my love, Mariae xxx
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