Monday, 04 July 2022

Let's Get Down to Business: Zoe Ferriera, the Henley Larder

Let's Get Down to Business: Zoe Ferriera, the Henley Larder

ZOË FERRIERA is proprietor of the Henley Larder in Bell Street, Henley, which opened a year ago. Born and raised in Remenham, she went to Gillotts School and The Henley College before studying for a degree in performing arts at the London Metropolitan University. She and her husband André, who is a podiatrist from Portugal, were married in Remenham in 2017 and they live in Albert Road, Henley, with their three-year-old Australian silky terrier Olivier. Zoë likes to cook, going to the theatre and travelling when she can.

Describe your business

It’s a small independent food shop and delicatessen showcasing the products of small local food and drink producers.

How many people does it employ?

There’s me and three part-time assistants.

What did you do before you started this business?

I wanted to be an actor and when I was 22 I went to New York to study drama and then work in the field. Like many aspiring actors, I spent a lot of time working in restaurants. I came back to the UK when I was 25 and my brother and I set up a roaming restaurant company called Chateau Marmot. We organised a series of pop-up restaurants in different locations, including at Henley Royal Regatta and on the Culden Faw estate. It was great fun but meant very antisocial hours. However, I made lots of contacts with small artisan food and beverage suppliers and producers and the seed for my business was planted.

When did you start your business?

On October 30 last year in the middle of the coronavirus pandemic just before the second lockdown. Eight days after opening, I caught covid and lost all sense of taste and smell. Thankfully, I recovered quite quickly.

What was your objective?

To promote locally produced food and drink and get customers excited about it. Small producers work so hard to bring us the highest quality products and I wanted to celebrate their creativity and entrepreneurship.

Who or what influenced you?

Many people but mostly my parents — my father was a huge foodie and an academic and my mother is a professional wine writer.

Do you have a mentor or role model?

I’ve been inspired by Hannah Tonder, who founded Tonder & Tonder in Dunsden. She designs and produces high quality British bed and table linen.

What would you do differently if you could start again?

I probably would have done more market research and given myself a bit more time. I only decided to go ahead in April last year, although I had dreamt about it for far longer.

What impact has the pandemic had on your business?

Having a food shop, I was very fortunate that we were able to remain open. Nevertheless, the lack of footfall due to lockdown meant that it took some time before people began to find us, so it was a challenge to know what quantities to order.

How is your business doing?

Trade is somewhat seasonal with Easter and Christmas being busy times. If it’s sunny one day and we do well, it doesn’t mean that it will be repeated on a sunny day the following week. Hopefully, the regatta will revert to normal next year.

What’s the best thing about running your own business?

Creative freedom. I’m a people person so I love to meet and talk to my customers, especially about food.

What’s the most challenging aspect?

Learning to run it efficiently, particularly the accounting side, and having to “wear all the hats”.

Where is your business headed?

I want to continue as we are for the foreseeable future and maybe in time open a second shop. I am fairly ambitious.

What three qualities are most important to success?

Being open and honest, organised and positive.

What’s the secret of your success?

My ability to communicate with people.

What’s the most valuable thing you’ve learned?

That it’s okay to say no. We won an award as the Great Taste Retailer on Instagram, which was fantastic but as a result I was inundated with requests from lots of suppliers to stock their products. Many were unsuitable and initially I found it difficult to decline.

What would you advise someone starting a business?

Take your time to think about what you want and, more importantly, what your customers want. And get your head around accounting or find a good accountant.

What’s the biggest mistake you’ve made?

Opening in a hurry without enough planning.

How organised are you?

I’d always considered myself to be well-organised until I opened the shop. Now I’d say, “Good, with room for improvement.”

How do you dress for work each day?

I wear jeans with a T-shirt and trainers. I put my hair up as I’m dealing with food and I wear a Henley
Larder apron with our logo.

What can’t you be without every day?

Olivier, my dog.

Lunch at your desk or going out?

Here in the shop and I try not to eat too much of my stock!

What do you read?

All kinds of fiction and plays. I especially like novels by Elizabeth Day. I read the Henley Standard every week.

How are you planning for retirement?

My long-term dream is to own a holiday home in Portugal with lots of rescue dogs.

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