Office Pantry deliver snack packs and fresh fruit to offices right across the UK, with an optional honesty box for school staff rooms and companies on tight budgets.
They also cater for conferences, business lunches and meetings with tea, coffee and biscuit packs. Founder Giles Mitchell talks about the legal difficulties the business faced in the first year, and the importance of clear communication with customers.
What did you use your Start Up Loan for?
With the Start Up Loan, we used the money to register our trademark, attend markets and fund the production of our wooden Pantries.
How did you come up with your business name?
When we started, we made a wooden box and started collecting food from local markets and went around offices to get customers. We built an honesty box at the front and decided to call ourselves ‘Honest’. The ingredients of the food we put in our boxes are what they say they are.
How did you end up being called Office Pantry?
Originally we wanted to call our company ‘Honest’, because of the honesty box in the product. Unfortunately, another company had registered a trademark related to ‘Honest’ food products before us. We spoke to an IP lawyer who advised us it would take around eight months and be very costly to challenge. As every small business knows, time is valuable, and we couldn’t put everything on hold for this long. We decided not to challenge the trademark, and had to think about another name that was going to work. We wanted a name that reflected us and what we do, and ‘Office Pantry’ worked well and gave a bit of character to the product.
As a startup how did you go about seeking legal advice?
We reached out to friends and used our network! One of our customers was a legal office, and they were able to recommend someone who was experienced in Intellectual Property law and provided us with some great advice. It helped us to learn about the legal system and know where we stand as a small business.
How do you protect your business?
When someone places an order for an Office Pantry box, we are in a contract with the customer. It’s important for us to clearly display the terms and conditions of what we do and how we do it on our website. The legal information we display is easy to follow and understand for customers, so it means we can’t hide behind anything. We hope our customers know they can come to us with a query or issue.
What advice would you give to small business owners on how to protect their business?
Strive to be as good as possible at what you do. It’s extremely important to be nice to people, as they will be willing to help and support you when you need advice.
Have you used any of the support available from Start Up Loans?
We were matched with a great mentor after receiving our Start Up Loan. We have been far more goal-orientated and have been far better at short-term planning with the advice of our mentor. At times he has had to shake us a bit, but he has been spot on. His ideas on some of our forecasting assumptions have also been very handy, and his experience vs our naivety has been a great help.