School friends Anna Mackenzie and Lucy Wright first tried bircher muesli on a school trip in Switzerland. It seems their love of this tasty breakfast never quite faded, despite a barren period at University. Inspired by her mother’s home made bircher recipes, Anna went on to co-found Cuckoo with Lucy and since then things have gone from strength to strength with Cuckoo now found in Ocado, Waitrose and Tesco, amongst other places. We caught up with Anna to find out about her life as a small business owner.
Why did you decide to start your own business?
I started Cuckoo with my old school friend Lucy Wright and we’ve always shared a love for good food. We remember trying bircher muesli on a school trip to Switzerland, talking about how good it was and wondering why it wasn’t more of a thing back home. We then forgot about it and went on to University.
When I was at Uni going to the library early, I always thought it was very hard to find an on the go breakfast that was really tasty and healthy. You could obviously go to Pret or a cafe but in terms of actually going to a supermarket it was very difficult to find one. Then the summer I graduated I was at home, and my Mum who’s a great cook was making all these bircher mueslis for breakfast and they were all really unique and even better tasting versions of bircher muesli that I’d had before.
So it all came together when I was catching up with Lucy at the end of the summer, and having just graduated we were discussing our plans for the future and what we were going to do with our lives. I mentioned this idea to her, of turning these recipes into a business and the rest is pretty much history. We started working on it literally the next day.
What skill or ability is most important and why?
Lucy and I work well together as we have two or three different skills which balance each other out well. Lucy has a creative background and is a natural saleswoman and I have more of a business background.
But largely, I’d say a lot of it is more general ability, being a quick learner, a problem solver as a lot of running a business is responding to issues, being persistent and also patient, as the success certainly doesn’t happen overnight, and also being passionate about what you do.
What are the most important lessons you’ve learned?
Have an amazing co-founder if that’s possible. I don’t know how people do it on their own, and that way you have someone to share the good and the bad times with. It’s also important to have a strong wider team around you and have that outside perspective and opinions, and it’s important to listen to that advice.
Having a lack of experience is positive in many ways as we it means we do things creatively and differently but it’s good for that sort of naivety to be balanced out with previous experience and knowledge as well.
What’s the best part of your job?
I would say how varied it is. When you start your own business you’ve got to be a jack of all trades and involved in all aspects which makes it really interesting and it means that you are really truly challenged in the sense of… I can’t imagine using my brain more than I do on this job.
Also, you then get to experience the reward too, and walking into a store and seeing Cuckoo on the shelves is certainly one of the best parts.