Name: Shani Higgs
Job title: Head of sales UK&I
Company & location: BitesWeLove, London
Education: Oriel High School
Why did you decide to go for a career in food? In a previous life, I worked for an insurance company in the city for five years. I had the classic “epiphany” that this was not what I wanted to do for the rest of my life. Through a passion project, I ended up hosting the first ever London Brunch Fest where I interviewed a range of founders. It was there that I was asked if I would be interested in a sales role for a kombucha company and that was the start of my career in food and drink!
Explain your job to us in a sentence (or two): I’m responsible for growing and managing our sales in the UK & Ireland. I also work closely with the founders and brand manager to help grow our brand awareness in the UK.
What does a typical day look like for you? As the rest of the BitesWeLove team are based in Amsterdam and are one hour ahead, I start my day at 8.15am with our daily ‘huddle’ calls and then head to our office in London Bridge. The nature of launching a successful product in the UK market means a lot of variety in the working week – ranging from strategy to brand building and sales. Typically speaking, Monday is my ‘admin’ day, Tuesdays and Wednesdays are dedicated to meetings and Thursday and Fridays are when I focus on following up on key deliverables.
Tell us about how you went about applying for your job. I have never had a ‘traditional’ application process since working in food and drink, most opportunities have arisen organically from in-person meetings or hearing about roles through word of mouth. With BitesWeLove, Marleen (the founder) and I connected over LinkedIn, we had an initial chat and hit it off. I then met both Marleen and Liesbeth (co-founder) in London, where I was asked to present a high-level strategy proposal for the UK market. The rest is history!
“The people of the food & drink community are unlike any other. There’s a real sense of camaraderie”
What’s the best part about working for a food company? Personally, I love the people element that runs through the entire industry. Firstly, I love the psychology of what makes a consumer decide to pick your product over another; food is such an important and emotional part of our lives and I love the idea of working for a brand that becomes a part of someone’s everyday life. Secondly, the people of the food and drink community are unlike any other, I love how helpful everyone is to one another and there’s a real sense of camaraderie. Finally, working in sales means I obviously love the relationships I get to build with my team and my clients.
And what’s the biggest misconception people have about working in food and drink? That once you land a grocery account you’ve ‘made it’ but in reality that’s just the beginning of the journey.
What advice would you give to other young people looking to get into the food and drink industry? My biggest advice to anyone applying to a job at a challenger food brand is to show that you are hungry, curious and full of passion. In my opinion, these attributes will always triumph over technical skills that can be taught. Aside from this, my top tips are:
1. Network, network, network: in all honesty I hate this word but what this means at its core is try and meet as many people from that industry as possible. If you can, meet them face-to-face, always travel to them and always pay for their coffee. Let them know that you’re looking for an opportunity and that you’re trying to find out more about the industry. Be curious about them, their role and their company. Even if they don’t have any openings, if they like you then they will probably recommend you to someone who does and at the very least you will learn something new. Always send them a follow-up email thanking them for their time.
2. Be driven, especially if you want to work for a challenger brand. I hear this time and time again from managers that are hiring, someone might have the perfect CV but if they don’t have the hunger and ambition that is needed to get a brand off the ground then they will go with the candidate that does.
3. Be obsessed about learning. Learning about the industry, learning about the key players in the space, learning about what skills you will need to get the position you want. If you don’t have them, find someone who works in food and drink who will mentor you. You will be surprised by how many people are willing to help.
What’s your ultimate career dream? Building a challenger brand into a household name while developing an all-star UK team!