Name: Navina Bartlett
Job title: Founder of Coconut Chilli meal pots
Time in current role: 2 years
Navina is the founder of Coconut Chilli, a fresh food start-up which makes award-winning, gourmet South Indian meal pots. Visit the website here.
Why did you decide to start your business?
I’d been freelancing for a few years, mainly doing integrated marketing roles in London, so I was comfortable with having an irregular monthly income. When I moved to Bristol I started working with a friend, Marti Burgess, and we set up our marketing consultancy StrEAT Food Collective, specialising in food clients which was a passion for both of us.
Without her, I wouldn’t have had the confidence to go it alone. Coconut Chilli was one of the street food stalls we marketed, but I couldn’t find a way to scale that business, so I established the Coconut Chilli range of meal pots. We sell nationwide by delivering directly to offices, so it’s a more viable proposition.
What are the key functions of your role?
I’m the ‘Boss Lady’ – which means I’m responsible for leading my small but perfectly formed team. I tend to work with people who are highly-skilled and experienced in their roles, giving them the motivation and resources they need to excel. It helps that I used to be a project manager.
Talk us through your typical working day
Every day is unique so I don’t have a set routine, however I like to rise early and start my day with a short meditation which focuses my thoughts and allows me to listen to my intuition.
Mornings are usually spent preparing for events, planning or catching up with suppliers. We always take a proper break for lunch and make sure to eat hot food away from our desks. Afternoons are usually focussed on sales and marketing or meetings. My productivity usually starts to wane at around 7pm but I tend to write content in the evenings – usually while sipping a glass of fine red wine.
Your favourite part of the job?
I love networking and talking about my mission to plug the gaping hole in the food industry.
…and the part you could do without?
I personally hate ‘selling’ in the traditional sense of the world. But I believe that the line between sales and marketing is becoming exceedingly blurred, so there’s a lot of crossover. I’ve started our business journey and now I’m actively looking for a super-talented and experienced business partner to enable us to grow. I firmly believe that a kick-ass sales and marketing partnership is the way to do it.
How would your staff describe you in three words?
Intelligent, loyal and ambitious.
Plans for the future?
In the last six months or so I’ve come to realise that women in particular hinder their own progress, so we really need to look within before starting on our entrepreneurial journeys.
I believe the food industry needs to acknowledge it’s not all about profits and shelf life. It’s become my mission to change this on a global scale, and Coconut Chilli is my vehicle to do it. I plan to disrupt conventional manufacturing by utilising innovative shelf life technology and packaging so that our ‘artisanally crafted’ products can be manufactured on a much larger scale, without compromising on quality.
Do you have any advice for other aspiring entrepreneurs?
Get a mentor or a coach, but not necessarily one in your industry. It’s one of the reasons that I applied for a Virgin Start Up loan – they will assign me with a mentor and this will increase Coconut Chilli’s chance of success. Since receiving my loan I’ve also been nominated as a Virgin Ambassador, which is an honour and allows me to empower other entrepreneurs. LLY