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How I Left Hedge Fund Management to Start My 7-Figure Cheese Business

  • Hedge fund manager Edward Hancock quit his job in 2018 when his cheese tasting business took off.
  • As of Christmas 2021, Cheesegeek, his cheese subscription business, brought in $300,000 in one week.
  • Here’s how he grew the business just by learning from Google, as Amber Sunner put it.

This say-to-say essay is based on a transcribed conversation with Edward Hancock, a 39-year-old founder from London, about starting a cheese subscription service. It has been edited for length and clarity. Insider verified Hancock’s earnings with documentation.

In 2017, I was a hedge fund manager at a small investment management firm in London. In my day job, I was developing algorithms to track consumer behavior, but on my weekends, I was exploring my passion for cheese.

I’ve been a cheese lover since I was 11 and would spend whole weekends wandering London cheesemongers trying to find specialty cheeses.

The idea for Cheesegeek came to me during a local wine tasting. The wines were delicious and cost £40 a bottle – but the cheese pairings were terrible.

I asked someone I knew at the event where the cheese was from and they said, “The supermarket next door.” I was shocked.

I knew good cheese was accessible, people just didn’t know where to find it or didn’t care enough to look. I came up with the idea of ​​sharing awesome tasting sized portions of cheese that can be delivered to people’s front door.

I’m not one to be idle. I like to work hard and earn money so I started my cheese business as a hustler in my free time

Cheesegeek was my first business venture – I learned everything I needed from Google. I researched how to start a business, cheese wholesalers and accountants.

My mom had just retired and was shocked when I told her that I couldn’t afford to rent space for Cheesegeek and therefore would have to operate out of her laundry room. I also hired her as a volunteer, cutting cheese and wrapping it for six months.

Fortunately, she accepted and we took our first order in September 2017.

I invested £25,000 of my own money in the business while working as a side hustle. I bought a fridge wholesale for £1400. We also got a freezer for £700, and wrap, cheese and a special cheese wrap cost £10,000. Then I hired a friend to help me design a website and branding that cost £500.

The rest of the money was invested in equipment and other things we needed as we grew.

By Christmas 2017 we had over 100 orders.

Our first success was due to word of mouth and a monthly budget of £100 for performance marketing

In April 2018, I quit my full-time job. However, having a side hustle had shown me how to maximize my time. To this day, I still work on a contract basis at hedge funds, waking up at 6:30 a.m. and doing a few hours of contract work in the morning.

My afternoons and evenings are only for Cheesegeek.

In 2018, I hired three employees to help the business grow and left my mother’s utility for a 700 sq m commercial warehouse.

When we started sending boxes of cheeses, I had an internal spreadsheet that guaranteed customers new cheeses every month.

As our customer base grew, this method became chaotic. It took me 40 minutes to select each box.

With my background in algorithms, I knew that mechanizing this system would increase Cheesegeek’s ability to deliver exciting cheeses to customers and make my life easier.

Cheesegeek hired a specialist developer to create an algorithm that helps us assign five new kinds of cheese per month for our subscription service cheeses

I had a clear idea of ​​what I wanted it to do – I wanted it to curate five balanced cheeses that represented different styles but would still work together. CASSIE, our cheese selection AI, was born in November 2018.

The agency built the AI ​​on contract, but I didn’t realize the fine print meant the IP wasn’t mine. This meant that if we wanted to expand into other countries, I had to ask permission.

We rebuilt the system in 2021. Now CASSIE can do even more for us, including inventory management, and we can dispense up to 5,000 boxes of CASSIE-selected cheese each day.

When the pandemic hit, we saw a surge in orders.

From the day the UK lockdown was announced in March 2020, our year-on-year growth soared to between 600% and 1000% over the following four months.

We expanded our team from three to 15 people and upgraded our premises to 7,500 square feet in the fall of 2020 as the order increased with another lockdown.

Supply chain issues have affected operations – we ran out of cheese during the first two lockdowns in 2020, but supply returned to normal in 2021.

Our most profitable week was in the run up to Christmas 2021, where we generated £230,000 by sending 2,000 boxes of cheese in one day

We have to prepare in advance for Christmas. For 50 weeks of the year, we are within capacity. For the remaining two weeks, we are at full capacity and at maximum stress, but we never refuse orders.

41% of our subscribers are still with us 12 months after the Christmas wave, which shows the importance of not turning away customers.

I applied for the UK investment show Dragon’s Den in January 2021, and participated in the show in June of the same year. I got three offers to invest in the business but took the £150,000 from Stephen Bartlett for 7.5% of the business.

We had a turnover of £1.3 million, or about $1.7 million, last year.

The business has grown through a lot of hard work, but sometimes I wish I had a mentor to lean on. There have been times when I made a trading decision alone and lost a lot of money. Being an entrepreneur can be risky and sometimes lonely, but I’m proud of the product I’ve created.

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