me & tubby tom's
I've always been a fatty, I love food and my life revolves around it. When I'm not cooking at work or at home, I'm watching food shows, I'm collecting and reading endless cook books, listening to podcasts about it, talking to other foodies, writing and sharing recipes and salivating over ideas for the business.
I also love branding stuff, although I have limited skills in design. All i know is that I love skulls, matte black and white dots on everything.
Tubby Tom's is the perfect combination of all of my passions. I spend all day working with amazing food, creating sauces and seasonings and selling them to awesome, like-minded people.
STARTING THE BUSINESS
It all started with a single batch of BBQ sauce i'd made in the summer of 2014. My friends loved it and joked about how I should sell it and brand it as 'Tubby Tom's'. I thought it was pretty funny and it seemed like a great idea, so I made some more, drew up some sketchy labels and took it down to our local farm shop.
Surprisingly it started selling really well, so well that the local council heard about it and got in touch to highlight that our sauce labels needed to adhere to criteria to be sold to the public. That was the moment I decided to give it a go and take it a bit more seriously: this was the first step into becoming an actual business.
That summer I roped my friends & family to help me with a catering gig for Barn on the Farm festival. I had to cater for all of the bands and staff as well as serve my own 'Tubby Tom's Chicken, Chips & BBQ sauce' to the public. We made lots of curries and lots of BBQ chicken. I even got some shirts printed for the crew and branded everything ' tubby tom's'. It makes me laugh to think about it now, we had THE BEST time and my crew were amazing. I remember having most of my crew and three italian blokes from the pizza stall stay at our tiny cottage on the farm, the sofas were full and we had camp beds and mattresses on the floor for everyone with one tiny broken toilet to use between us. good mems.
Looking back I probably bit off more than I could chew with the larger catering gigs, we smashed it hard but I was ready to learn more about the food industry.
The little jars of BBQ sauce were selling away nicely at the farm shop, I'd recently got married to the love of my life and when the opportunity came along to get some chef training in Cardiff I decided to take it and we moved away.
After 9 months of dough making, pot washing and lots of corn starch we decided to move back to Gloucester. We found a little flat to rent and I'd got a job making and then selling jam in a local jam factory in Stroud (Kitchen Garden). The guys there were awesome, I stayed for 2 years, learned loads and they kindly let me use their huge jam pans on the weekends to make my sauces.
The weekends I didn't spend cooking the sauce, i'd be out at farmers markets selling it. My friends and family often got roped in (common theme here) to help me do the big cooks. They also helped me with the market stalls sometimes too, they're the best. Thanks guys, couldn't have done it with out you.
In the meantime, the sauce sales were building. In the evenings I would contact more and more shops and restaurants. We got listed in Harvey Nichols, I nearly died with excitement. I remember the day the buyer said she'd take an order and I welled up, nearly cried! I nearly cried again when I saw it on the shelves in the flesh, was so awesome.
This was a great achievement for Tubby's and gave us exposure across the country.
It got to the stage where I was starting to burn out, I couldn't juggle the running of the business with working full time anymore and it just kept getting busier so I decided to bite the bullet and quit my day job.
Unfortunately this meant I could no longer rent the big production kitchen from my employers so I had to move all production back to my little flat.
It was crazy, I had all of my spices, ingredients and bottles in the spare room and lounge of the flat. All of the boxes (three pallets worth) were crammed in our bedroom (and in my mates loft), piled floor to ceiling either side and at the foot of the bed. It was insane, the flat stank of spices too, luckily my neighbours were chill..
My mate Hetty makes incredible brownies. She'd started renting a kitchen in a local industrial estate and kindly said I could rent and use the space when she wasn't in there. This worked really well for us and enabled me to make larger batches again and store more ingredients. My mum had also recently quit her job, so was on hand to help out more regularly.
We eventually found our own unit, it was perfect timing as we were getting even busier and were struggling to make enough sauce even with mums help. In 2018 we moved in and built a production kitchen from scratch. We lay the flooring, built the walls and structure, plastic cladded everything and built our own mezzanine. My dad did the plumbing, my mates did the electrics and helped with all aspects of the build and my mum is just awesome at DIY and smashed it out with me. We finally had our very own hot sauce temple, where we could cook for as long as we needed and store all of the ingredients we needed.
Having our own space was life changing, it enabled us to run the business properly. I could pay myself and now pay my mum for all her help. She's now employed full time by the business which is awesome.
We now make a huge range of handmade sauces and seasonings, something for every occassion. We supply over 85 outlets and have even started exporting to Latvia, France and the Netherlands.