I got a taste of something a bit different over the weekend.
Aside from being a keen investor and analyst, I am also a cricket fanatic, and I’ve been playing for the same club down in Surrey my whole life.
In 2019, we received the crushing news that after over one hundred years at our ground in Roehampton, it was being sold by the owner.
It was a phenomenally nice place – and there has been a degree of dejection about the prospect of having to move.
Over the winter though, our committee worked tirelessly seeking out and negotiating a new place to play, as close as possible, and we found one. Just a couple of weeks ago we started playing there.
It’s not immaculately prepared with a nice bar and a swimming pool as part of the sports club as the old one was. We have to prepare everything ourselves like a normal cricket club now – covers, boundary markers, etc.
And because of coronavirus, we can’t use the recently refurbished pavilion for anything.
But since I went there for the first time, just a couple of weeks ago, I’ve felt really good about it all.
And there’s a remarkably interesting twist of fate at the centre of this story.
Because on Sunday, we had our annual president’s day, where the young current players play against a team of veteran former players.
It’s usually accompanied by a nice sit-down lunch, with wine and the rest of it – one of those lovely cricketing days that could have come right out of a book on very English traditions.
But this year none of that was possible.
We had to come up with something else.
And so, I offered to do a big barbecue for everyone, and there’s a fridge there which we could stack with a few cold tins.
Previously, bar and food revenue always went to the sports club which owned our ground, but now we had a chance to set up a way to actually generate some money for the club.
Obviously, we weren’t renting a shop and I would do it for free, so anything above cost price would be profit.
We checked out payment options for avoiding cash, and landed on iZettle, the card reader which is so ubiquitous, but you might never have heard of it.
I had already seen these things everywhere – pop-up food stalls in Borough Market or Maltby St, small retailers, and other events or sporting venues and clubs.
It was super easy to set up, the app is very straightforward, and we were taking payments within days of signing up and ordering the reader. It takes a 1.75% transaction fee but as we’re not paying rent or wages, we’re not too fussy about that. And we’re not exactly dealing in huge numbers…
In the week though, I had to plan how much food and drink to buy – buns, burgers, sausages and rolls, lettuce, cheese, ketchup and mayo, paper plates, and the rest of it.
I had to try and guess how many people would be there, how much they might eat, what was reasonable to buy, could we save leftovers in the freezer if we didn’t shift it…
And then estimate how much I would spend and what we needed to charge to break even or turn a little profit.
And did I get these judgements right?
Let’s just say there are 60 sausages in a freezer in South Wimbledon which say I didn’t.
Anyway, I set up the iZettle app and added a few products and prices on there, my parents actually delivered the barbecue itself, and with a little help from some friends, we managed to get everyone a bit of food and some drink.
And it was hot, busy, stressful work, let me tell you.
I lost all the knuckle hairs on my right hand to the flames, as it was bigger and had more coal than anything I was used to – so it was extreme heat.
And as soon as I was done, I had to run straight out and open the bowling! I won’t lie to you, I was feeling a tad weary this Monday morning…
But I’m also feeling a tad elated, and excited. Yes, I bought a bit too much of everything, and it was a fair bit of work, but it was a great thing to have, and made it feel like a proper cricket club.
It feels like a new beginning. We’ve set up an account to receive payment, and turned our first profit.
Who knows where it could go – we don’t even have a sightscreen or proper covers at the new ground yet. And it’s not exactly life-changing wealth (you’d need to watch my Beyond Oil series of interviews to find out about that!).
But even though it’s only a little profit, we’ve still got a freezer full of sausages and buns to have another go in a few weeks, and a fridgeful of beers for the next few weeks’ fixtures.
And on a personal level, I’ve always been fascinated by the idea of being a chef or owning a restaurant one day. I enjoy cooking and loved thinking about making it actually nice.
And I’ve always had a spoonful of curiosity about starting my own business too, so it was a great experience on that front.
Thinking about what to sell, how much demand there might be, how much excess supply to have, what prices to set, organising it all and running it, taking payment, looking into the reports to see how much we made…
In short, I loved it.
My satisfaction was directly proportionate to my sweat glands’ productivity – plentiful.
I’m sure many of you have had similar experiences, of being in charge of your own destiny, and I’d love to hear your stories if so at [email protected].
It’s a brilliant thing to do – and of course so much riskier and more intense if you are doing it for yourself, for a career.
That’s real risk. I had guaranteed customers, and wasn’t going to be liable for the risk of loss – I was being bank-rolled by existing club funds.
But many people out there, some of you among them I’m sure, have taken real risk and started a real business and I imagine it’s one of the most satisfying things you can do.
I only got a flavour of the risk and thrill of setting up your own little business.
Hopefully it’s just the start though, and there’s one final detail I must give you.
The pavilion, which has existed for a long while since it used to be a cricket ground years ago, is beautiful.
Here’s a photo I took a couple of weeks ago:
Source: editor’s own photo
I wonder if you can zoom in, or see what it says just under the clock?
Let me help you if not – it’s the date the pavilion was completed.
And it’s an auspicious one.
In the midst of the Great Depression, two years after the great market crash of 1929, which didn’t actually bottom until 1933.
In that extraordinary year, cricket was founded here, and in 2020, it seems beautifully appropriate that in the midst of a global pandemic, a club (mine), has brought cricket back to the ground, and we are ourselves being reborn.
You could even say that Brexit, whether you wanted to leave or remain, does offer a similar opportunity for fresh starts and new ideas to flourish, whether you’re thinking small like me or dreaming big.
After a weekend of new starts and first-time experiences, full of hope and optimism for the future, I feel that perhaps the link between 1931 and 2020 is no coincidence.
They say that crisis brings opportunity, and we have had our own tiny slice of that.
I’m sure many of you have your own stories, from previous crises and the current one, and it speaks of the resilience of us all that no matter what happens in the near term, we can all retain a deeper optimism for the future, whatever struggles (investment or otherwise) lie ahead in the short term.
I hope you agree.
And, also un-coincidentally, I am over halfway through reading J.K. Galbraith’s brilliant book on the Great Crash of 1929, and that will be the next book I review for you all, either later this week or next.
Best wishes to you all, and get your sun and ice cream orders in before Thursday.
Editor, UK Uncensored