“I think the events industry had an early warning, compared to everyone else,” Georgina Burrows says of the coronavirus.
The owner of Sussex-based events company Great Little Events, which works with the likes of Harrods and Burberry, was facing cancellations even before the COVID-19 pandemic brought the nation to a standstill.
Business was drying up. The entrepreneur was left with just one client, who postponed their event until the end of the year. She says she was lucky to keep even that one.
“That’s really the only event work I’m doing – everything else is now all egg-based! Not something I thought I’d say a month ago!”
Her Lewes-based egg delivery business went from idea to reality in record time. After posting the idea for egg delivery on a local Facebook group, she says the interest was overwhelming. But Burrows had to then actually set it up.
“The next day I used Google Forms to set up an order form and started taking orders for the next week’s delivery,” she says.
Quickly creating a Facebook page and Gmail account too, she then used her event company’s accounting system, Wave Apps, to invoice.
“I had 60 orders in the first three hours of being live in Lewes, and in two weeks I now have 100 customers.”
Burrows began by buying wholesale from Macs Farm, an organic, free-range, higher-welfare hen farm in nearby Ditchling. But demand was growing faster than they could process.
“They ran out of eggs and had to cut down wholesale orders,” she says. “This led to a frantic ring around of all the organic egg farms in Sussex so I wouldn’t let my new customers down, and luckily Springles, who are related to the Macs Farm family, were able to help.”
The farm, twice the size of her first supplier, had stopped selling to the public because of coronavirus, and had enough to supply the fledgling start-up.
Despite the explosion in demand, Burrows says it has been for the most part a solo venture, though her boyfriend has been on hand to help with the first deliveries.
“I am absolutely hectic with admin, deliveries, coming up with recipes for the egg box inserts and responding to messages,” she says.
Through a DIY combination of Google Forms, payment processing app Stripe, Gmail and her existing accounting software, Burrows has managed to bring the ‘Sussex Eggpress’ online with little-to-no tech expense.
“I spent a lot of time researching order forms with payment functionalities yesterday: I wanted to find a free one that integrated with Stripe but none of the free ones would let me take as many orders as I needed to,” she says, revealing that she settled on Australian firm Paperforms to process orders.
The success of the business has been such that Burrows is already planning to launch in Brighton next week, and has hired a friend who is also out of work because of coronavirus to do the deliveries.
She is also already making plans to add more products. “I’ve sourced some South Downs honey and we’re going to start delivering that too,” she says.
On the future, and a potential return to normal after coronavirus has been tamed, Burrows says she’s still unsure what that might look like.
“I really hope that if anything positive comes out of the crisis, it’s that people will realise the value of locally sourced, seasonal food,” she says.
“I’m pleased that I’ve identified an opportunity that fulfils a need, keeps me busy and is something I’m passionate about.
“I love events though, and I have some wonderful clients, so I’m sure I will return to that in due course. But I would also be disappointed to give up the egg side of things too quickly too, so perhaps there will be a way of making both work.
“I think Brighton and Lewes is enough for now, but who knows?”