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Mango Rays

Mango Rays

It seemed like just another ordinary day in the NCASS office until a huge, bright orange folder turned up in the post with my name on it. Penny Bailey, owner of mobile catering company Mango Rays, charity fundraiser and general legend had sent me a whole bunch of info about what she's been getting up to.

They’ve been doing rather a lot; festivals, markets, trips abroad, fundraising, to name but a few. So we did a little Q&A with Penny; enjoy! And I promise to show you the folder if you ever drop by the office…

Hi Penny! When did you start Mango Rays?

Mango Rays started out as a part time sideline to an established coffee/juice bar that we had in Manchester and Leeds. Our first event was the Manchester City Council run Manchester Jazz Festival on a 3m stall just selling Sangria out of a glass bowl!

This has led onto a beautiful relationship with Manchester City Council and Manchester Markets which has ended up with us working on some very prestigious events in Manchester not least the Manchester Christmas Markets.

Penny Bailey of Mango Rays

What was the inspiration behind your decision?

Wasn’t inspiration unfortunately, more desperation. After a bad business deal, Manchester Chambers of Commerce suggested that we should try street food, a new up and coming industry at the time.

We tried it, liked it and carried on. We loved the freedom of not having bricks and mortar, leases and all the other costs associated with a permanent location.

When I first started Mango Rays I was juggling 3 businesses and 3 young children. It definitely wasn’t easy, but I could see it was what I wanted to do, so the hard work, long hours and blood, sweat and tears was worth it.

Nachos by Mango Rays

What are the different aspects of your business?

We started off doing smoothies, juices and drinks then diversified into doing food at summer festivals. We also do summer bars in Manchester City Centre where we serve our festival food alongside local cheese boards and breads, summer cocktails and real ales.

One of our biggest ventures is our Manchester Christmas Market bar where we serve homemade mulled wine and liqueur coffees. In 2013 we ran three bars on the Manchester Christmas Markets including ‘Burlington Bertie’s’ in the brand new Vintage Bar.

Tell us about your charity work...

We’re very proud of the amount of charity work we do. At every event we’re trying to raise money for our two nominated charities: Macmillan and The Born Again Children’s home in Mombasa, Kenya.

This year we’ve run a 10k with our staff, held chilli juice drinking competitions and had a wishing tree where people paid £1 to write a wish to hang on our tree.

A big part of our fundraising this year has been our #BarkingBad board and #BarkingBad T-shirts which you might have seen at festivals. On our board we had a charity box for people to put a small donation in when they take pictures. We also sold our T-Shirts this year with all the profits raised going to our charities. Over the past 2/3 years we’ve raised around £4-5000.

We had also planned this year to visit the children’s home in Kenya with staff to do some voluntary work but unfortunately the upheaval there has made it unsafe to do so. This is now on hold but definitely still on the horizon. We’re also planning a sponsored coast to coast cycle with staff (when we’ve got a weekend off!)

Badly Drawn Boy Barking Bad

How do you use social media?

We have made a massive use of Social Media this year, a brilliant tool to grow your business and interact directly with your customers. We have run competitions on Twitter and Facebook and got a great response from customers and other traders and lots of retweets from NCASS :)

And how do you fit a social life around your work?

We work hard for long hours at festivals and are then able to take quite a lot of weeks off during the year, which make quite a good balance. I’ve also got a good core team of staff who can do a lot of the setups and takedowns at festivals for me.

Smoothies at Mango Rays

So what do you think makes a successful event caterer?

I think the important things are investing time in your staff, training them up, making sure they are people you can trust and who will work hard for you. Making sure that everything is good quality, your food, your equipment, your stall, your uniforms. Doing your research and keeping an eye on the competition is really important, got to be ahead of the Jones’!

Other important elements of event catering are being sociable with other traders and event staff, being flexible and willing to change your ideas and processes, reading the NCASS magazine, and never staying still!

What do you find the hardest part?

Building a solid event diary, keeping up morale when you’re not making a profit- you will find the good events! Avoiding the sharks, who will try and get money out of inexperienced traders.

What's it like working with Woman's Organisation?

We’ve only just begun working with WO but so far they’ve helped us come up with lots of idea for 2015 and have pointed us in directions that we may not have previously considered. It came totally out of the blue, the business manager at NatWest networked with them and put my name forward as an ‘inspiration business woman’.

Why do you think you won 'Best Bar' at Manchester Christmas Market?

Because of our extremely high standards. Our staff, service, product and presentation are all of the highest quality and we put a lot of care, time and effort into everything we do on the bars.

We use our awards in promotions, festival applications on our business CV and also they let you know you’re doing it right, which is always nice!

Mango Rays at Manchester Christmas Market

What advice would you give someone starting out in the business?

You’ve got to have guts and determination. It might look like you take a lot of money at festivals but there a lot of overheads to be aware of. Your pitch is very important. The best bit of advice I was given at the start was be prepared that only one in 5 festivals you take on will be profitable. And stick with it! Once you’re through the worst bits and you start to find the good festivals you’ll reap the rewards.

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How has your NCASS membership helped you?

Endlessly. The magazine is full of useful tips and NCASS are great at keeping you up to date with changes in legislation and important things that we need to know. It's brilliant for staff training, we always ensure all our staff are NCASS trained with a wide variety of courses.

The articles are always informative and interesting, especially one particular one in issue 22 about tendering for shows.

Thanks, Penny!

Food cooking at Mango Rays


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Mango Rays' Barking Bad campaign

The Wishing Tree at Mango Rays

How to start and run a mobile catering business

Thanks, Mango Rays!