Several of my friends thought I was mad when I said that I wanted to spend my gardening leave setting up a charity supper club. They thought I should go out and have the "trip of a lifetime", climb Mount Kilamanjaro, get lost on the Inca Trail, something like that. But I thought that I have done plenty of travel in my time, and one thing I would never have had the time to do and experience without this time off would be setting up a supper club. Although I don't ever hope to own, run or work in a restaurant, I do love to cook and entertain and have a fantastic house to do this in, so the ability to do this for charity seemed a great idea, plus I would meet a lot of new people along the way. Whatever might happen, I thought I would definitely learn something. And of course the great thing about a supper club is it's all on your terms, you set the dates, so when I want to go away, I can.
The first thing I did was e-mail a list of my neighbours. We had an e-mail list because we have for the last 2 years done "The Big Lunch", a streetparty in our road which attracts 150 people from our road alone. We put out a table that seats 75 people each side! I've been involved in cooking for that (we cater the bulk of the food) since its inception. In fact it was one neighbour who suggested a neighbourhood pop-up restaurant once, which I think was what gave me the idea.
Then it occurred to me I really needed a website. So I got one. (www.parkholmesupperclub.co.uk). People were amazed. So was I. I'd never written a website before, and it looked so professional!! Everyone said "how did you do it?!". I replied that I typed "how to write a website" - GOOGLE. That was literally it. There is some organisation called Getting British Business Online, which has a tie up with Google Sites. I have my own website, I wrote it myself with relative ease, and best of all it was totally free. Which given that it's all for charity was a great thing. I even managed to get myself an RSS feed (slightly accidental, but it really looks like I know what I'm doing!) so people can subscribe to the latest dinner dates.
I found another mailing list I could mail out to of neighbours. I put notices in local shops, I mailed my friends and ex-clients. It's a constant stream of marketing I have to say. I found this supperclubfangroup website and posted stuff on here. I've not had to market in this direct way for years (since I've been working for multinational companies). That has certainly been a learning curve too. I even got some business cards printed so I could hand them out.
I started to get bookings... but mainly from neighbours. Some I knew, and some I didn't. I had 7 bookings for my first night which I thought was a fair show and a good number to cut your teeth on. Next I had to actually do the cooking... tune in for the next blog to find out how I got on!