Spreading the joy of puff puff in the UK
What we’ve learned from our first three months in business
Puff puff is an experience to be shared, and over here at Puff Puff Ministry, we’ve been serving joy through our boxes of fried dough balls.
Since we launched in August this year, we have introduced puff puff, a West African snack, to people in the UK who had previously never heard of it. While “puff puff” itself is a popular term in Nigeria and Sierra Leone, the snack exists in variations across the world. That’s why we’ve been able to connect with a diverse group of people in the UK.
After spending one year doing research, we found the perfect gap in the market, enlisted the services of a designer and went to work on our go-to-market strategy. Between the point of registering our business and launching our products, COVID19 happened and we found ourselves in the middle of a global pandemic. We took the plunge anyway and announced that we were OPEN FOR BUSINESS on 1 August 2020.
We have since received an enormous amount of support and encouragement from puff puff lovers across the country (and the world), and we have achieved some pretty amazing milestones.
Week 2: Launched nationwide delivery due to (unexpected) popular demand
Week 3: Launched a website to simplify the customer journey
Week 4: Gained 500 followers on Instagram and announced a giveaway, because puff puff tastes better when it’s free
Month 3: Sold nearly 6,500 balls of puff puff
Like doughnuts, but better?
We are on a mission to make puff puff as widely recognised as doughnuts globally, starting with the UK. It is a delightful treat that would be a great addition to the UK's top desserts.
What's not to love? It's light, it's delicious, and with our unique range of toppings, it’s as colourful as life itself.
When the New York Times published their puff puff recipe, they wrote that “the genius of puff puff is in the simplicity of the dough”. We couldn’t agree more.
The one thing we didn’t want to compromise on with our product was its simplicity. If you ask any Nigerian, certainly one of our parents’ generation, they would tell you that they like their puff puff plain and simple. So do we. That’s why our products remain true to the essence of puff puff – a delicious snack made of flour, sugar, yeast and water. Our toppings have been kept simple for the same reason.
How it started
Growing up in our mum’s bakery in Nigeria meant that if we were ever going to set up a business, it would definitely be in the food industry. Over the past five years, the Sister Squad had endless Telegram and WhatsApp conversations about the right product to introduce to the UK community and the right time to do it.
In 2019, we had an epiphany about puff puff, and that is how The Ministry was born. It took a while (and lots of disagreements) to get to a point where we were ready to launch, but once we did it, we wondered why we spent a long time being timid. Along the way, we’ve learned some important lessons about starting a small business.
Three lessons we’ve learned since we launched a food business in the UK
Lesson 1: Just do it Once you’ve done your research to identify a gap in the market or a unique way to present a product that is as old as time, pull the relevant resources you need together and launch your idea/product/service. The only way to know if you’ve got the right idea is to put the product out there and evaluate its reception. You will then learn what works and what doesn’t, which helps you refine your product or processes as required. While our first month was overwhelmingly positive, we also encountered some operational issues which led us back to the drawing board to ensure our customers remain satisfied.
Lesson 2: Keep learning As children, we were surrounded by bakers and business people, so we had some idea of what it takes to run a business. That said, we have also been pleasantly surprised by the things we didn't know - some were industry-specific and others were generic to running a business. We found that we had to adapt to unforeseen responses and situations in a matter of hours or days to ensure that the user experience remained top-notch. Business requires patience and an open mind, and to be moderately successful at it, you have to be ready to learn and adapt to different situations (within reason, of course!).
Lesson 3: Prioritise excellence After registering our business in 2019, we spent a year planning, researching, and detailing every single idea, before we eventually made the decision to go public with Puff Puff Ministry. Having come from a long line of ambitious, enterprising people, we spent a lot of time trying to get it right and 'perfect'. It was worth it in the end, so we wouldn't diminish that experience, and our customer response has been amazing so far. So, to anyone thinking of starting a business in what might seem like a difficult market - make sure you prioritise excellence, for your brand and for the customer experience. Take the time to get the basics right; plan as much as you can for various scenarios, and have an open mind.
Thank you to everyone who has supported our business by purchasing boxes and sharing our content. We truly appreciate it.
The Puff Puff Sisters x