Amy Whitfield on building her confidence to try again – and it’s paying off.
Amy's confidence was completely knocked when she had to close her clothing boutique. We spoke to her about starting again and founding her new and successful business - Triple A Food Tours.
Tell us about yourself and the story behind your business.
I’m Amy Whitfield, 35-years-old and I live in Seghill, Northumberland with my husband Andrew and our 2-year-old little boy Archie.
I run Triple A Food Tours, the North East’s only on-foot food tour. Prior to this, I was a property auction specialist which was a role that I got into after the closure of my clothing boutique, based in Tynemouth. Throughout my career, I have always been involved in a sales role.
I have always been ambitious and wanted to do something on my own. But most of all, I can’t sit still! So it was whilst on maternity leave in 2018, I began to think about the future and what it was that I really wanted to do. The birth of my son started to make me feel differently about my career, I didn’t want to be at a desk job, working until late and seeing Archie for 10 minutes before bedtime.
One of my absolute passions is and always has been food (in particular cheese). Eight years ago, we visited New York and it was there that we first discovered food tours. We did a walking tour around the meatpacking district of the city, trying such a diverse range of foods. I remember saying to Andrew that Newcastle didn’t have anything like this and it would be great if there was a food tour or something similar on our doorstep.
It was whilst in-between feeds and afternoon naps that I started to put together the idea of my first food tour “A Taste Of Newcastle” – I call this type of working environment “business when the baby sleeps”.
Obviously Covid-19 must have had a huge impact on your business – how have you dealt with that?
When Covid-19 first hit, like most people who were self-employed, it was a huge blow and to be quite honest, for the first few weeks, I found it extremely difficult to get remotivated. It was around week three that was really the turning point for me. I started to look at my business plan and what I had pledged to achieve within the first three years of trading.
The first year had gone way better than I had anticipated. Towards the end of year two, I always wanted to expand the tours from Newcastle City Centre to venture up to our stunning Northumbrian Coastline. This tour was always in the pipeline however the reason that I had planned to put it together next year was just down to the time that I had to dedicate to it and get it off the ground.
In week three of lockdown I began to think, why not now? I had the resources available to get wheels in motivation and more I importantly, I had the time to do it. I set about reaching out to restaurants that I wanted to include on my new tour. The response was very well received. I also contacted local holiday let businesses who welcomed the idea of including my marketing material in all of their cottages etc.
These last few months have been extremely challenging and have definitely had an impact on my business however the one glimmer of light for me was being able to have the opportunity to focus on my business goals for the future.
Tell us more about your past experience with the closure of your clothing boutique knocking your confidence – how have you managed to overcome that?
In 2013 I opened up The Dressing Boutique based in The Land of Green Ginger, Tynemouth. This was a dream come true for me. The concept for the business was one size fit clothing using loose fabrics such as silks and linens, something that was popular at the time.
What I loved about my garments was that ladies from a petite size 8 could wear something the same as a lady who would maybe be a size 20. When customers tried on an item, we would chat together about how to wear it and I absolutely loved the feeling of helping make women feel good about themselves, something that I am extremely passionate about.
I would often hold fashion shows at local hotels and bars where I would use customers as my models. This business really was my baby and I had a great relationship with my regular customers. Unfortunately, in 2016 I took the decision to close the business. This was mainly due to the building itself and it’s ever-changing retailers. I was finding it increasingly difficult to keep the footfall and in business, it is a vicious circle.
You need the custom to bring in revenue for advertising but at the same time, you need the footfall for the revenue. I took my personal attachment away and asked myself if there was going to be any longevity in the shop.
After just 7 months of trading, I decided to put myself and my business Triple A Food Tours forward for the North East Win Awards. This is where women in the region are recognised for their achievements in business. I got the call to say that I had been shortlisted for the innovation award! I remember breaking down in tears as this just gave me that little boost that I needed as I had started a new business only seven months ago and was still very raw from my past failure.
I attended the awards evening and it just gave me so much joy and inspiration to see so many strong women in one room, rocking their own business. I didn’t win my category but I know that just being shortlisted was an achievement in itself (this is something I never thought I would hear myself say).
What is the best piece of business advice you’ve ever received?
“One who fears failure limits his activities. Failure is only the opportunity to more intelligently begin again.”
I am a massive believer in learning from your mistakes and if you can do this then there was no failure at all.
When do you expect to start recovering from lockdown and how can we keep in touch in the meantime?
At the moment, we are eagerly awaiting information from the government. My partnership restaurants are hoping to be fully reopened by early July. Realistically, we aim to open in early August so that we can completely protect both our guests and our tour guides.
We have all of our tours on our website tripleafoodtours.com.
Bookings can be made for future dates here. The new tour is available to book now and will commence on Friday 4 September.