This morning I’m excited to delve into the life of yet another Cheltenham based Maman who has been doing amazing things in our town both as a high achieving woman in business and a very busy mum of two. Having bumped into Bonny on a couple of occasions socially and heard great things about her contributions to Cheltenham’s thriving food industry AND that she might be a shining example of a MumBoss I was very excited to have the opportunity to visit Simpsons Fish and Chips out of hours and find out how Bonny keeps those plates spinning.
CMHQ: So Bonny thanks so much for having me. You do a great coffee as well as a fantastic fish supper! We start every interview at CheltenhamMaman with a question about your little people. Tell us about your children?
Bonny: My little sleep thiefs! Bonny is four and Bruno is two. They are amazing little ones but what I wouldn’t do for a full night’s sleep. James (my husband and business partner) and I seem to have really lucked out on the children who sleep lottery and despite trying every trick in the book Betty has only just started sleeping through and Bruno still wakes multiple times a night and has a bottle.
CMHQ: Oh wow – that’s tough. You know there will be so many women out there who are relieved to hear you admit that though. Sometimes you just can’t crack it and I know lots of women who feel judged if they give in and let their child come in to bed with them or have a bottle when the books say they are ‘old enough to know better!’ Sometimes you just have to do what works for your family and gets you back to sleep the soonest!
Bonny: Very true. Bruno suffers really badly with asthma too which makes leaving him for long when he is upset out of the question. But sometimes when James and I have to travel for business the thought of a full night’s sleep is the most exciting thing in the world!
CMHQ: So what arrived first? Family or business?
Bonny: Business by a good few years. Fish and Chip shops were my family’s business and when James moved in with me (we met at seventeen) and my parents at a young age he earned his keep by working in our shop. We both moved to Brighton to study art and sculpture and when we graduated in 2009 my parents had just bought the Simpsons site on Priors Road, next to Sainsburys in Prestbury and offered it to us as business.
CMHQ: Did you have much work to do to get the business established?
Bonny: Oh my god we worked ourselves into the ground in those early days. We would be here 7am – 11pm every day of the week and though we were constantly together we had no real time as a couple. It didn’t take us long to crash and burn and we invested in some staff. When we first opened there were just seven of us. Now there are thirty.
CMHQ: In those early days what decisions and elements of your brand do you attribute to your success and popularity today? What made you stand out from the crowd?
Bonny: Well our design experience meant we were always committed to building a brand that was visually pleasing. We have also been totally committed to a serious quality standard. All ingredients come through our doors in it’s raw form. The fish is freshly caught and the potatoes are still covered in mud. All of the preparation takes place on site so we can be sure that our customers are receiving the very best end product. We worked with a great local PR company (Silverball) and a friend who specialises in commercial interior design (Kelly from Shadowplay) transformed the premises in 2015/16 so it’s not just about the fish and chips – it’s a food experience.
CMHQ: Then Betty must have come along in 2012 – how did you manage such a change of priorities?
Bonny: Not very well! We had a hell of a time trying to get and stay pregnant. We lost IVF twins, one to a miscarriage and one to an ectopic pregnancy the pain of which I didn’t give in to until very, very late on. It was a real shock and eventually I had to stop working to focus on having a baby. We were so focused on staying pregnant that we were totally unprepared for having the baby and I feel really lucky that by then we had such a well established management team as we completely disengaged with the business after Betty was born. Even James didn’t set foot in the place before she was eight weeks old.
CMHQ: There are a lot of women out there who run their own businesses and just can’t figure out how to keep the cogs turning and take some time off with new babies. Can you offer any tips?
Bonny: Not really because by the time we had children the business was bigger than just us. I really feel for those women though – it must be incredibly hard.
CMHQ: And now? How do you balance your time between the business and life as a Mum?
Bonny: I’m actually almost completely surplus to operational requirements now. I work some hours on a Friday evening just so the staff can chat to me about things and to keep my hand in (it’s also our busiest time of the week) but other than that my involvement is more on the marketing, HR and finance side which can mostly work around the children. When we do need to travel or be on site though we are really lucky to have some great support. The children are at nursery and we use a nanny occasionally.
CMHQ: You won the National Fish and Chip Awards for the Best Independent Takeaway in 2016. How did that come about?
Bonny: Well there are a lot of competitions you can enter as a fish and chip shop and it’s a great way to take your business to the next level. We were shortlisted and then you have an inspection and a Dragon’s Den style interview and then we found out we had won! We’ve just passed the title on to 2017’s winner.
CMHQ: And aside from getting a bit more sleep, what’s on your to do list with the business and home?
Bonny: Betty starts school in September so we’ll be getting her settled and the business needs taking to the next level. We now have a mobile unit that goes out and does weddings and parties during the summer and we are taking steady bookings for that. We offer private events here at the restaurant, it’s a fantastic venue for a party! We feel we are about ready to take the next steps and so are busy making plans for the new chapter. There’s plenty going on. Life is never dull.
CMHQ: Doesn’t sound like it! You are definitely someone that a lot of us MumBosses can learn a thing or two from though Bonny – thanks so much for taking the time to talk with us. We all have our fingers crossed that Bruno starts to need a bit more sleep!