No â€“ not mine! This is a request for you to spend two minutes giving a vote to a business of which I am a big fan. Of the product, the packaging, the service, the owner and particularly the product (yes â€“ I know that was twice ). But this vote is not for any of that (although Iâ€™m sure Kate wouldnâ€™t mind if you voted for her for any of those ) â€“ itâ€™s for a competition looking for â€œâ€¦ the most resourceful, original, exciting and disruptive small businesses in the UKâ€. Let me see if I can explain why I want you to vote Gower Brownies:
Gower Cottage Brownies is in every sense a cottage business. Running from the back of her family cottage on the Gower, Kate Jenkins makes IMHO the worlds best chocolate brownies (clearly Kate went to the Cuprinol school of branding ). Just a few years ago Kate thought sheâ€™d see if she could sell a box or two of her home made brownies in her local community co-operative shop â€“ today sheâ€™s turning over in excess of Â£120,000, has plaudits as long as my arm and celeb fans that include amongst them John Barrowman, Emma Forbes, Andi Peters, Phil Jupitus, Jeremy Vine and plenty of people who know food â€“ such as Gary Rhodes, Delia Smith and Gregg Wallace. Oh, and theyâ€™re a pretty big hit with many members of the Welsh and English rugby squads!
So why the vote? Well Kateâ€™s done this pretty much singlehandedly. Not always all the production and packaging bit â€“ sheâ€™s got @TheBrownieBitch in the evenings and weekends and nowadays a couple of â€œBrownie Elvesâ€ to help out more and more, but what has impressed me is the way that KateÂ has truly leveraged social media (and in particular Twitter) to build the business. With nearly 3,000 followers and 43,987 tweets she has spread the word, built a face for the brand and used her loyal following network to propel the business and itâ€™s profile. From her followers hounding Phil Jupitus to â€œstop byâ€ when heâ€™d tweeted he was having a day out on the Gower to making Kate aware that John Barrowman was filming down the road and passing on the info that heâ€™s partial to chocolate.
The productâ€™s good. I mean reaaallllly good â€“ Kate has many awards and is becoming a regular star attraction at the Good Food Show. The service is great, the packaging classy and the delivery prompt. And you need all of these things to make a success in a very crowded marketplace. But:
-Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Is Kate resourceful? Having spent Â£0 on advertising and marketing the brownies have been reviewed from the Guardian and the Sunday Times to the BBC Good Food Guide and Kateâ€™s had spreads in Ideal Home and Woman & Home (with more in the pipeline).
-Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Are brownies original? I donâ€™t know, but youâ€™ll never have tasted better & I believe they do make an original gift (unless you work with me, in which case itâ€™s no longer original)
-Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Exciting? This business is, in my opinion, at that point where it could go through the roof. Hell, John Barrowman is trying to get Kate to send them to his family in the US -Â so yes, Iâ€™d say itâ€™s exciting.
-Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Disruptive? Kateâ€™s use of twitter has definitely broken through barriers and propelled the business far beyond that which would have been possible pre-social media, breaking into the gift market and beyond, so I think thatâ€™s pretty disruptive.
-Â Â Â Â Â Â Â And this is definitely a small business!
So there you have it â€“ my case (as long winded as usual) as to why I think that Gower Cottage Brownies deserves your vote in the Smarta 100 for 2011. So please take a minute or two and follow the link through. Help a small business and a lovely business lady. And you never know â€“ if you havenâ€™t tried a heavenly Gower Cottage Brownie then maybe voting here will bring that moment all the closer for you.
[N.B. voting closes 20-9 @ 6pm â€“ and if you think that what youâ€™ve read makes this a worthy nomination then please pass the link on. Ta.]