Letter Box Hamper is a business that offers a wide range of treats presented in a way that is designed to delight recipients. And, as the name would suggest, all of this in a package that fits neatly through the door.
“We source luxury British food and drink, beautifully wrapped in parcel paper with twine – a tip of the hat to the old way of receiving post – and then delivered through the letterbox,” says founder Jonathan Winfield.
“Our customers love the fact that the hampers don’t come covered in barcodes and that we’re taking care in the presentation. Everybody gets a lot of online shopping these days – but not everything’s packed and wrapped with such care and attention.”
Being apart from friends and family was one of the driving forces behind Jonathan’s decision to set up the business, which has been running for three years.
“I was living in South America for a while and I missed a lot of family occasions. It wasn’t really that feasible for me to affordably order a little food and drink hamper for birthday presents that easily, as far as I could see. And at the time there wasn’t really anything like this on the market.”
And although there are now a number of online hamper businesses out there, Jonathan is clear on what helps his business stand out from the crowd.
“Hampers are, in people’s minds, really quite expensive,” he says. “Usually you’re thinking somewhere between £30 and £50 and then quite often you get to the checkout and it’s another £10 to deliver because some of them are heavy, cumbersome things.
“And then if it’s for someone elderly on their own do they really want a larger hamper? Or you’re getting it delivered to somebody’s work, how are they going to get it back? So that’s an aspect of it too. That was a nice market opportunity – the drawback being the margins on them are quite a lot slimmer.
“Because it’s a more of a £25 price point, you’ve got to sell a lot more. But it’s doing really well and I think we can compete with the big hamper companies despite not selling a £200 wicker hamper. It’s a unique niche that we’re in.”
Jonathan currently runs the business from a small unit in Penryn – but following a period of growth, including the addition of two new part-time staff to help with production while he concentrates on further growing Letter Box Hamper, he plans to move to new premises.
Letter Box Hamper parcels may use exclusively British produce, but the packages are received internationally – a fact that makes Jonathan proud to do his bit in spreading the word about the items he hand picks for his hampers.
“We sell quite a lot to European countries like Germany and the Netherlands, but also North America, Hong Kong and Australia,” he says. “I think there’s a there’s an appetite for British food and drink. The coffee we offer is made just up the road from here but might be in Australia later in the week, or Hong Kong. It’s really nice to be part of the export story.”
Jonathan was keen to tap into Oxford Innovation’s expertise to maximise growth potential following a referral from the Growth Hub. Since first engaging with OI in 2018, he has spent time with a variety of coaches covering a range of subjects.
“The first coach I met with gave me some marketing and strategy support – sense checking the direction of the company. And then more recently I’ve been working largely with Lynda Clark, and we’ve been focusing on putting together a proper business plan.
“She’s been really brilliant. She’s got a really good buyer and consumer hat on, so she was very good. One of the key things is that [Oxford Innovation coaches] challenge your assumptions. It’s easy to make a lot of assumptions, and so Lynda was very good at challenging some of them.”
Along the way Jonathan was also able to tap into the wider pool of business coaches Oxford Innovation has to offer, working with coaches such as Ernie Capbert on branding and customer segments and Andrew Upton on strategic planning.
He has also worked on financial management with Theda Gray and leadership and management with Sarah Pryce, who offered support around recruiting the business’ first employee and related best practices. “It’s nice to be able to provide some employment,” says Jonathan. “I know that’s one of the drivers of the [Oxford Innovation Cornwall] programme.
With input from so many of the Oxford Innovation team, Jonathan feels the multi-coach approach has had a positive impact on the business. “I’ve been really impressed with the quality of the coaches,” he says. “And the way that the programme is delivered – it very much slots around you. It’s not like ‘you must attend this training session that’s been booked for you at a convention centre an hour away’. It’s ‘we’ll come to you’ or a local cafe or whatever. And when’s good for you? And how long can you do? It’s tailored around you, which is brilliant.
“Because I’ve got to run the business at the same time and manage staff and find premises… The meeting with Oxford Innovation might be one of a hundred things that you do that week but it just slots in around everything else
The time I have invested into the coaching is paying dividends. Some of the things that we identified, such as taking on staff, when was the right time to do that? And we identified that in the strategy. And that’s been really handy because it has allowed me to focus on growing the business and focus on corporate orders, which was an area that was identified and has been quite lucrative in the last year.”