Noticing that London had no pop-up food stalls offering sustainable and accessible seafood, Miranda Roberts and Stefan Buschbeck established Shrimpy back in 2013.
Leaving behind full-time jobs with comfortable salaries, the couple admitted that starting their venture with just £1,000 in savings felt like “jumping off a cliff”.
However, two and a half years on and Shrimpy now operates from its flagship base in Camden as well as three other locations on a weekly basis, becoming a staple of Londoners’ lunchtime diets.
Business Advice met Roberts and Buschbeck to learn more about their startup journey.
(1) Where did the idea for Shrimpy come from and how did you get started?
Shrimpy has been trading across London’s markets for three years. We’d been looking into the street food scene and realised that there wasn’t very much seafood on offer, and decided to focus on shrimp as it’s more popular than other seafood and also quite versatile.
We took culinary inspiration from New England shrimp rolls, fish and chips and German Fischbrötchen. Starting in Camden Lock, we soon expanded to Broadway Market, St Katherine’s Docks, Devonshire Square, Highgate, Primrose and several festivals.
(2) What does a typical day look like for you?
We often have three market stalls running every day so organisation is key. We wake up, go to Billingsgate to collect the shrimp and samphire we need for the day, drop off the food and equipment to each location, set up the stalls, serve lunch and then pack down and pick up from each location. When I get home I catch up on emails and paperwork if there’s time.
(3) What attributes are necessary in your business?
Determination and a positive outlook. There are many pitfalls running a small business like ours, so you need to have that drive and belief in what you do to keep going.
(4) How many employees do you have, and what do you look for when you are recruiting?
Both of us are full-time directors and we currently have two full-time staff. When recruiting new team members, we’ve looked for energy, enthusiasm and of course a love of shrimp.
(5) Why should people take notice of your brand?
We’re a mix between the traditional fish and chip shops and burger stands. Whilst those are our main competitors, our food is healthier, tastier and more innovative. We’ve created something new, so sometimes people are scared to try it, but once they do they keep coming back for more. We’re keeping seafood fresh and exciting.
(6) What have been your biggest challenges and how did you overcome them?
Cashflow at the very beginning: couldn’t get it right. However, once we became busier it became much easier, and having reliable accounting software helped us see where the money was going. The weather in the UK doesn’t help us sometimes too but what can I do about that?
(7) What have been your greatest successes to date?
We do Camp Bestival and Bestival with the Feast Collective, so scaling the business up to be able to cope with larger numbers and longer days has been a huge learning curve, but we managed it.
(8) How do you navigate social media? Does it help you engage with your customer base?
We’re on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook. It’s an amazing way to speak to our existing customers and also hopefully connect with new ones too. As a street food trader, we’re constantly popping up in different areas of London – without social media no one would be able to find us.
(9) What is your vision for the future?
We’re currently looking for business premises in London. We want a base where we can expand our menu and build a home for our loyal shrimpsters. Whilst we’re waiting for that to go through, we’ll still be doing more and more markets across London.
(10) What advice do you have for fellow micro business owners?
Focus on one thing and do it really well, it provides you with a focus and means that your product will be consistently good, if you try to do several ideas at once at the start, you’ll spread yourself too thin and do none of them well.
Also, speak to fellow business owners whenever you can, ask each other questions, it’s amazing what you can learn from the people around you. Communicating will also make you feel better if you’re struggling with a problem – you’ll probably find everyone else is too.
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