Interview with Oh Gee, Pie!
What’s your name and where do you come from?
Whitney: My name is Whitney, one half of Oh Gee, Pie! and I am originally from Austin, Texas (yeehaw?)
Nicole: My name is Nicole (depending on where we meet, I’ve also been know to introduce myself as Nic, Nikki, Nicole Danielle or Page – I like to switch it up!) – Originally from Syracuse, New York (Go CUSE! )
How did you spot a space in the market for your product or service?
Whitney: We had both felt that with the growing popularity of American food that there was one thing missing: sweet pies. Thus, we felt we needed to fix this and that’s how OGP came to be.
Nicole: Exactly! Whitney and I had both moved here to study for a year, in that time we quickly sorted out those go-to spots with a stateside influence when we needed a taste of home – We noticed these establishments nailed it with the savoury but fell short on the sweet side of things – there was one crucial bit of Classic Americana missing from their menus- PIE!
How long did you think about your business before bringing it to life?
Whitney: It was very quick. We threw together our first business plan in under a month and presented our idea to the University for visa sponsorship. This was all in just under three months. Unfortunately I had to go back to the US and wait due to my visa, but when I moved back to London last March OGP really got up and running very very quickly. We competed in the Big Idea Challenge (which we won), completed a few private orders, and had our first wholesale clients by the end of June/beginning of July.
Nicole: Not long at all… less than a month – we were under pressure with a short timeline to get things sorted before our student visas expired. Once our visa situation was settled (we’re currently on a Graduate Entrepreneur Visa – endorsed by LMU) we set off to validate our idea – see if anyone would actually buy our pies. Sure enough, the first cafe we went to bought into our idea! From that point we’ve been off and running, allowing our business to unfold and take shape in-front of us… its a bit of go, go, go – then pause, reflect, pivot and go, go, go again!
How did you raise the funds to start your business?
Whitney: We each put in £50 of our own money to cover the cost of our initial ingredients and baking supplies. We also had a bit of a nice cash prize from winning the Big Idea which helped us buy the supplies for our first market stall, but that’s been our only “funding” since starting- everything else has come from selling our pies!
Nicole: It’s a work in progress…. but like Whitney said – we each threw in £50 to cover ingredients, received a small pot of money from winning London Met’s Big Idea Challenge 2016 which was enough to cover some marketing materials and our first market stall costs – and since then its been money brought in from pie sales.
How do you stay informed – networking, newspapers, social media?
Whitney: I manage our Instagram account and constantly browse it- living at the mercy of the trains leaves me with a lot of Instagram time! I generally follow a few hashtags to stay up to date with things going on in London and in the food world in general (trends mostly). Other than that I browse through twitter occasionally and I read the news every morning.
Nicole: Social media and networking play a large part in how I stay informed. I scroll through Facebook more than I’d like to admit, and I’ll use any excuse to socialise, meet for a coffee and chat! 🙂 I am constantly amazed by the connections available when we open up and share our ideas, knowledge and experiences with others. Building connections and community is the foundation of OGP!
Tell us about one of your business low-points and what you learnt from it
Whitney: There was a moment over the Christmas holiday when we both realised that we weren’t headed in a direction that we wanted. It was very eye opening to realise that you just aren’t happy despite all of the hard work you’ve thrown into something. This was a great learning opportunity for us though because it forced us to figure out what exactly we wanted our business to be- and now that we are working towards our new goal, I think we are both a lot happier and energized by everything again. It can be really tough trying to start a baking business- you don’t really realise just how much time is spent baking, delivering, shopping for ingredients and that’s all really tough to juggle with your paid employment, but I think we are getting there!
Nicole: I agree with Whit, one of the low-points was in leading up to and over the holiday period. It was challenging, not only from a business perspective, but also on a personal level. I was up for renewal on my visa, awaiting on a reply for 8wks, unsure of what the outcome would be, would I be approved? If I wasn’t, what would this mean for the business, for me, for Whitney? – At times like this you begin to question EVERYTHING! especially if you’re not entirely satisfied with the current direction your moving in. It became clear to Whitney and I, we weren’t happy. It was painful – gut-wrenching – to recognise you’ve worked so hard and sacrificed all you could, but its not enough – you’re still not satisfied. The silver lining, however, was that it forced us to sit down and re-evaluate what was important to us, what started us on this journey to begin with… it all came back to home, family, tradition, our grandmothers and the therapeutic benefits of baking. Through this we learned to stay true to ourselves, as individuals and as a business.
Name five qualities people need to be successful in a job like yours
Whitney: The first is accountability because you must hold yourself accountable for so many different things in many parts of the business (ie following hygeine guidelines, recipes, delivery dates and times), I’d also say a genuine love for baking, a warm personality, professional attitude, and being able to see both the big picture and the daily one. And also baking skills, which is pretty important if you want to be successful.
Nicole: To be successful in a job like ours (baking entrepreneurs), I think it’s incredibly important to remain flexible/open-minded – things don’t always go to plan, and sometimes that has the potential to be a really GREAT thing! Perspective is HUGELY important, maintaining the right perspective will keep you moving forward, especially when things get tough. Patience, with yourself and others – if you can’t play nice, no one will want to play with you. Communication skills are most definitely needed – they don’t have to be perfect, but you do need to find a way that works for you to clearly communicate your ideas to others, we wouldn’t be able to accomplish all we have in this last year without the support of our family, friends and the community around us. Lastly – PERSISTENT! it may be cliche, but persistence does pay off… eventually people either tire of telling you ‘No’ or you find the right door to break through! 😉
Do you have a business mentor?
Whitney: We’ve been very lucky to have the support of the Accelerator team throughout this whole process.
Nicole: One specific mentor at this time, no, but we have had a remarkable array of individuals assisting us over this past year. The team at London Met Accelerator is our main support and mentor, helping us to stay on track and providing us with the tools and insight we’ve needed to get this business up and running.
What’s been your favourite piece of press coverage so far?
Whitney: Probably the first article written about us which appeared in the Islington Gazette. It was a lovely read and of course since it was the first time we had appeared in anything we were both super excited.
Nicole: For me, it’d have to be appearing in the University’s 2017-18 prospectus. It’s an honour to be on display for other students, demonstrating that there is so much more out there than where they may be at the moment. I hope it encourages them and shows that they are in a perfect position, surrounded by the support from the university, to continue on and pursue great things, even after their studies!
Name one of your favourite start-ups
Whitney: I think what Blondies Kitchen are doing at the moment is amazing.
Nicole: Do bands count??? The Stacy White Suite! Favourite band (also my brothers band) I’ve gotten to witness all the challenges and successes they’ve faced, and learn from them. My brother and I are really close, so now that we’re both on similar paths its great because we hold each other up with encouragement and brainstorm ideas together for each others businesses.
Quick fire round!
Apple or Android?
Whitney: Apple. I had an Android for a week and hated it (I hate change)
Mac or PC?
Whitney: Mac but I own a PC
Apples for hand or melons for feet?
Whitney: Apples for hand – I feel like my life is ruled by apples at the moment.
Nicole: Melons for feet – I feel like it would be really good for strengthening my core, while also adding to my height!
Name two chocolate bars you would put together to make a super bar
Whitney: Being an American I would die for a Butterfinger Milky Way super bar right about now.
Nicole: Charleston Chew Vanilla (chocolate cover nougat) and Take 5 (chocolate covered pretzel with caramel, PB and peanuts)… OMG! Can we just…. I can’t… heading to the kitchen now!
Oh Gee, Pie! was born on the streets of Shoreditch in August, 2015. They’ve missed the comfort of real American dessert pies and their reminder of time spent with family and friends gathered around the table. They wanted to bring their family recipes to Londoners, to share their love for handmade pies using fresh and local ingredients, and to build towards their ultimate goal of opening a kitchen and bakery aiming to give back to the community.