Our, ‘Ten Minutes With,’ series of interviews gives businesses the opportunity to tell us about themselves, how they’ve adapted to Covid-19 and what their plans are for the future.
And we always get to hear something unexpected during the interviews, which is why we love doing them.
This week, forget Tiger King, we’re talking to the Oatcake King of North Staffordshire, Alex Povey owner of Povey Oatcakes. They recently won the contract to supply retail giant Marks & Spencer with their oatcakes and are going from strength to strength.
What five words would you use to describe yourself?
· Sociable (although I do like time with my own thoughts)
Tell us about you and your business?
Essentially, everything we do is about oatcakes! We sell direct to the public and distribute to key retail chains including Waitrose, Marks & Spencer’s, Iceland, Aldi, Makro and Booker. My late Dad launched the business in 1994 and over the years Povey’s has grown massively.
We have two shops, a factory/distribution centre and we employ 26 staff. On average we produce around 180,000 oatcakes a week which when you put it on paper, sounds a lot!
What did you do before launching your business?
I left school and studied catering and hospitality at Buxton College. I saw first-hand from Dad what it was like to run the business. Unfortunately, not long after my Mum died in 2008, my Dad needed a triple heart bypass, so I helped with the business then.
In 2011 my Dad passed away from lung cancer and I took over the business. I’d learnt a lot from him already but running the business was a different matter and I had to learn very quickly. I’ve been here ever since, and I absolutely love it – I can’t imagine doing anything else.
What was lockdown like for you?
I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t worried and at the start as I was doing 12-hour days, especially as three days before lockdown we took over the High Lane Shop
As people stock-piled we also had the worry of being able to get flour and putting in the relevant safety measures as we were still open for takeaways but both worries were soon addressed.
Thanks to the power of LinkedIn, just as we came out of lockdown, we won a contract to supply Marks & Spencer, so it’s been a very productive period for us.
As a team, we really pulled together but in terms of stress levels, I wouldn’t want to do it again anytime soon.
What’s the first thing you ordered on-line during lockdown?
I’m a massive believer in investing every spare penny you can into the business so one of the first things I bought was an industrial oatcake machine which has helped us increase our capacity.
Have you learnt anything about yourself during the last six months?
Always expect the unexpected.
What are your plans for the future?
We have big plans and want to build a new factory and distribution centre in Biddulph. It’ll be bespoke and built to our own specification. It’ll allow us to expand, increase production and employ more staff.
We’re in the process of getting the building designed and going though the planning process. Hopefully it’ll be successful, and we’ll be able to move into our new premises next year.
I’d like us to be able to supply some of the key supermarkets in the country, maybe make oatcakes a national delicacy, although I don’t know how people locally would feel about that and opening an oatcake restaurant would be brilliant!
What was your dream job when you were at school?
I’m doing it! I grew up watching my Mum and Dad build the business and wanted to be part of it. Oatcakes are part of our city’s heritage and it’s a unique market that not many people tap into it. I’m lucky to be such a big part of it.
We couldn’t let you go without asking you about oatcakes. What makes for the perfect oatcake?
Definitely don’t microwave them – it takes all the goodness out of them. Using a frying pan to warm them is the best method.
Finally, what’s the strangest thing people you know have had on their oatcakes?
You wouldn’t believe what some people have – chili con carne or left-over Chinese takeaway are probably the weirdest. I’ll stick to cheese, bacon and brown sauce, thanks!
If you’d like to be one of our, ‘Ten Minutes With,’ interviewees find out more by dropping us a line at firstname.lastname@example.org