We spoke to Jules to find out how it all got started, and picked up a few oyster facts in the process, including how to pair an oyster with the perfect champagne…
Hi Jules, how did the business get started? Were you previously working in the food industry?
Having been an actor and singer for about ten years, I began to realise that there can be a lot of time in between jobs, and if you don’t keep yourself busy achieving things on a day to day basis, then you can start to feel pretty frustrated. I wanted to be my own boss, and a food business appealed to me because I’ve always been passionate about great British produce, especially seafood. I live in beautiful North Norfolk where there is an abundance of amazing, fresh seafood and so Oysters seemed like a great idea. It’s also a bit different, which I think is helpful in terms of competition.
There is a bit of ‘performance’ in The Norfolk Oystermen, because I walk around parties with a big metal bucket attached to a leather belt, shucking Oysters and giving them to guests. People seem to find that pretty entertaining. It’s also fun when someone tries one for the first time. The reactions can be priceless.
You also offer an Oyster Masterclass – why did you choose the provide this option, and what does it involve?
I launched the Oyster Masterclass from day one and it’s a really big part of what we do. There is so much to learn about Oysters and their history, and also so many different ways you can eat Oysters that I wanted to share some of my passion for them. It’s also a really fun way to pick up a bit of knowledge at the same time as having some really special Champagne and wine and a laugh. I always get people involved in how to best ‘shuck’ an Oyster, and so there is a hands-on side to it. It makes a great activity for stags and hens, birthday parties, work ‘team building’ days or just a group of friends who want to have a bit of fun and some great food and booze.
Your branding is excellent, and we love to see businesses whose identity is consistent across their unit, web & social pages and even on uniforms! How did you come up with your branding, and how has this helped The Norfolk Oystermen get started?
I worked with a company called ‘Mimi Emmett England’ for the illustration and logo, as I’ve always admired Mimi’s drawing style and she’s super successful at what she does. She’s got a great sense of branding and she saw that there was a traditional element in what I was doing with the nods to the past in my business, so we created a font that had a kind of maritime, old world feel to it. I firmly believe in the power of social media for businesses nowadays, so having the discipline to keep uploading good content on a daily basis is key. It’s also free, so it’s a bit of a no brainer. We have got a lot of private party bookings purely through people seeing us on social media and contacting us, so that’s been amazing.
When it comes to your champagne/wine options, how do you ensure you provide what customers are after?
There are certain wines and Champagnes that work better with Oysters than others, so I do a lot of research before I stock anything. Every drink we stock has been paired with the Oysters and will compliment it perfectly. A lot of people think that spirits don’t work with oysters, but they really can, in moderation. We have just started working with ‘Douglas Laing’ whisky distillery in Scotland. They make a whisky called ‘Rock Oyster’ which is out of this world and has been developed specifically to go with Oysters. We spray it on the Oyster with an atomiser, and it’s delicious. I’m crazy about it.
What is your favourite thing about running The Norfolk Oystermen?
My favourite thing about the business is being able to meet and talk to customers, and the reaction I get when they’ve eaten an Oyster. It’s really something very different to a lot of foods, as it evokes such a positive reaction from some people. If you like them, you really like them, and that’s awesome to be a part of. I also get to eat a lot of Oysters as you might guess, and as they’re rich in Vitamins A, E, C, Zinc, Vitamin B12, Calcium and Selenium, as well as being a great source of protein, I feel like I’m also living a pretty healthy life!
What is the most challenging thing?
I think the most challenging thing about the business has got to be the early starts, long hours, and planning and logistics. Before every event, I have to go through a long checklist of things not to forget, and packing and unpacking vehicles can be pretty tedious. I haven’t forgotten my knife yet, but I’m sure I will one day, and that might be a bit of a problem!
Do you have any top tips for an aspiring seafood or mobile bar business start-up?
My top tips would be to do as much research as you can. Find out how many other people are doing what you want to do in the area you want to work in. Ask yourself if you’re offering something different to them, or perhaps think about how you could improve on your offering. It’s also obviously essential to run the numbers, over and over. How much is this business costing you to set up and run, and how much do you expect to turnover? What are your margins? If you’re confident on your research and you are passionate about your idea, then take the plunge, I’m so glad I did.
What’s in the pipeline for The Norfolk Oystermen?
We want to become the ‘go-to’ Oyster catering business in the UK, supplying Oysters and seafood platters at brilliant events throughout the UK. We love what we do, and we want to share that passion with people up and down the country. We are now getting pretty booked up for 2019, and we can’t wait to be at events like The Big Feastival and Hampton Court Palace Summer Music Festival, as well as lot of awesome private parties.