Serena Hindhaugh is co-founder and director of award winning butcher Parson’s Nose with her husband Tony Hindhaugh.
Parson’s Nose won Best Butcher in the South in the National Butchery Awards 2021 and is shortlisted for the same award this year, There are three stores in South Kensington, Fulham and Putney and an online shop offering national delivery 7-day a week, next day delivery.
Can you tell us a little about your background and the company?
The Parson’s Nose was founded by brother and I in 2007 with one ambition in mind – to bring back the traditional high street butcher that was so loved from our childhood memories and encourage people to eat better quality ethically reared meat. We pride ourselves on our “passion for food, innovation and service”
I run the business with my husband Tony, juggling the business around 2 young children. We employ 45 people.
My first job was with with handbag designer – we were just three people in the business then today. I then caught the travel bug and worked as a diving instructor in Guatemala and Tanzania as a diving instructor and continued working in Africa at various safari lodges.
When I came back to the UK in 2007 I joined Parson’s Nose as an investor and manager, in the early days I was working in the shop every day. I had no experience as a butcher but knew about customer service and creating an inviting retail environment Originally I was just going to help out over Christmas but here I am 15 years later. My brother left the business in 2019 when my husband, Tony came on board as a director.
We opened our second shop in Putney in 2008 taking on a site from a butcher who was retiring. It was perhaps a bit early to take on a second site but it was too good an opportunity to turn down! The third site in South Kensington came after five years in 2013.
During the first lock down in spring 2020 we launched an online shop offering same day delivery in South West London and by summer 2021 we expanded our online shop to offer next day national delivery. This has taken off brilliantly and now accounts for a significant part of our business.
How did the idea come to you for the company?
It came about over a dinner party conversation about the the decline of the high street butcher and the difficulty of sourcing quality ethically sourced meat – our ambition was to bring back the traditional butcher’s shop.
Neither my brother nor I had a background in farming or butchery but we were passionate about sourcing the best quality meat straight from the farm for customers who care about quality meat with full traceability.
How did you achieve awareness?
Initially we did no marketing. We aimed to offer fantastic customer service and make our customers feel welcome. We grew through word of mouth.
One thing that particularly mattered to me was to stamp out any sense that it was a male environment. Women are our biggest customers so we made them feel welcome. We also wanted someone buying six sausages feel as welcome as someone spending £60 on a leg of lamb. Every customer and purchase is equally important. If they have a good experience, they will come back and they will tell their friends.
Another initiative that helped was that I set up “We Love Fulham” working in collaboration with other retailers in Fulham, where we opened our first store.
How have you been able to gain funding and grow?
We invested our own money at the outset and reinvested more two or three years in.
I believe the biggest single reason for our growth has been building strong partnerships with our farmer suppliers and we’ve worked with most of the same suppliers since we began. We didn’t buy too much stock and always pay on time.
We visit the farms regularly to understand the whole journey from the field to our butchers counter.
What are the key successes?
We are particularly proud of the customer service we offer and the experience of visiting one of our stores – it’s what keeps people coming back. Many of our team have worked here for years and know our customers personally.
Building an online business has been a learning curve but it has enabled us to grow the business significantly. In the last 2 years. Web traffic is up 600% with 90% increase in sales YOY. (Oct ’20 VS Oct ‘21)
We turned over £1.6m in online sales YOY April 2020 – 2021 with 27,000 orders in the first year of the website (versus 6 per week max on the old system)
87% returning customers and our conversion rate (visits into sales) has been up to 63%.
What were/are the challenges and how have you overcome these?
At the outset the biggest challenge was that I’m not a butcher and that it was very unusual for woman to start a business in a traditionally male dominated sector.
I was convinced that my lack of technical knowledge wasn’t going to be an issue and I drew on my previous management and customer service experience. I was quickly named “The Governor” for my firm but fair approach to leading the team.
Another huge challenge was to make the online experience a reflection of what happens in the shop. It’s hard to replicate the shop experience – the theatre of butchery – online. When you order remotely most of the time arrives and throws the package at you. We put a lot of effort into the delivery method; we started local and dressed our drivers as butchers. We had liveried vans and delivered a personal service. Boxes weren’t vac-packed and thrown together as you’d expect for nationwide service, it was packed as you’d get it in the shop and boxes were hand delivered.
We put a lot into furthering that shop experience in to delivery and it worked, actually. We’re trying to meet all of customers’ needs because people will go back to convenience brand surrounds whatever’s in the box. I’m constantly looking at trends. Delivery apps – they work, and we ventured into supplying one but it’s just not what we do. Keeping the quality up is quite tricky so we’re trying to stick what we do best.
What are your plans now/for the future?
I’m keen to hire more women to work in the shop. We know that women make fantastic butchers and yet it’s difficult to recruit women into the role. A career as a chef is now truly aspirational and we would like to see the same change in perceptions towards working as a butcher, especially for women.
We’re also just embarking on seeking new external investment to enable us to grow the online business and to invest in the technology and marketing to build an even more successful national online butchery store.
Can you share you top tips for entrepreneurial success?
Be prepared to work all the hours. When it’s your business you are always on call.
You need to build a strong team around you. You can’t do it on your own. Surround yourself with the best people you can find.
Give your team opportunities to grow, to learn new skills and feel fulfilled at work.
Who are the 5 people who inspire you the most and why?
The person who had the biggest affect on me was my father. He always told me to keep options open and keep an open mind. He also instilled a strong work ethic in me which has stuck with me for life.
I worked for Lulu Guiness in the early days of her business and learned a lot from her about how to build a business from scratch. There were just three of us in the team – it was a n exciting time. She was a mother of young children at the time and I was inspired by how she juggled both.
Finally, my husband Tony who is a visionary – he’s the ideas man in our business always driving us forward.
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