In the current climate it is fantastic to hear some good news and success stories and Larks Live is definitely that! Larks Live is an online cookery school, born during lockdown, that brings top tier professionals from the food and drink industry to share their skills via live, interactive, small group classes on Zoom.
Laura Seaward recently caught up with Clodagh Murphy the founder of Larks Live to find out more.
Clodagh, would you mind telling us a little bit about yourself?
I am married with three kids and moved to the UK in 2003 from Ireland, settling in Devon in 2006. My background is IT services in FTSE 250 companies, but I’ve always been a ‘foodie’, loved cooking and wanted to be my own boss.
A few years ago I found myself leaving Exeter on a Monday and returning on a Friday and I was keen to get a better work/life/family balance. I stepped out of my IT role and joined Exeter Chamber and ExIST; the STEM subgroup as the chair, as well as coaching and mentoring entrepreneurs to help them achieve them goals all whilst completing a Master’s degree at Exeter University.
What gave you the idea to start Larks Live?
At the beginning of the pandemic I, along with the rest of the country, saw the struggles of lockdown. I saw the hospitality industry struggle and restaurants, including some owned by close family members, close. I saw the isolation and loneliness everywhere and I wanted to do what I could to support those who would be alone and encourage people to engage with technologies to get them through it.
I also saw professional/celebrity chefs move from the hospitality industry to working in supermarkets just to make ends meet and I was keen to help.
Larks live was born in April 2020 to help professional chefs adapt to the pandemic and earn an income by bringing them a platform to impart their knowledge and to bring people together over food.
What exactly is Larks live?
We offer a wide variety of interactive, online cookalong classes and participants sign up to cook a specific meal (upcoming classes include sour dough, Thai red curry, rich vegetarian ragu with polenta to name a few!) live with a professional chef.
Attendees are given a list of ingredients needed prior to the session and a chef will talk the group through the meal whilst cooking along, giving them practical tips and advice along the way. Anybody can look up recipes online or watch YouTube for recipes but we go one step further as the chef can see what you are doing and advise you on what to do next so tips are practical and effective and people get so much more from our classes with 5* reviews across the board.
We have started running regular events and now run ‘Tapas and tails’ every Friday evening with participants preparing a homemade cocktail and snack. We have 12+ repeat customers at this class and relationships are building so there is also lots of networking across the group as well as cooking!
Do you think there will be a change in demand now lockdown is easing and what other barriers are there for the business?
I think our business will change and adapt but we are confident there is still a market for our business. The world post-COVID will be very different to pre-COVID and I think the use of technology such as Zoom and an increased awareness of health and well-being and the importance of eating well will remain.
‘Eat out to help out’ was a challenge for our business as more people ate out rather than cooking at home but we think that people will always be interesting in learning new skills and we anticipate our business will thrive in the Autumn and Winter. There will always be a market for support with making the perfect Christmas pudding!
What are your future plans?
Our focus now is to help people understand our business and what we are about and increase our participation levels so we can build our foodie community and deliver more sustainable classes.
We’d like to start a book club with a recipe book such as Rick Stein’s new cookbook taking centre stage and attendees cooking a different recipe from the book every week with a chef on hand to cookalong with and provide practical advice along the way.
We would also like to develop our offering to planning dinner parties or baking specific birthday cakes, the list is endless!
Have you got any advice for new start ups or people setting up their own business for the first time?
- Focus. Make sure you pick the really important stuff and go with it. Do not get distracted by other things and trust your instincts. During lockdown fitness classes took off on Zoom and we could easily have lost our way and offered a wider range of courses though Larks live along the way. We would not have the calibre of courses/ experience we have now had if we had diversified and followed the crowds.
- Listen to your customers. I spent all of August listening to my customers to find out what they wanted. Friends and family will tell you what you want to hear but customers will be honest.
- Fail Fast. If something goes wrong, pick yourself up, brush yourself down and move on. Do not let things get you down.
More details about Larks Live is found here.