Share Tweet Interview With French Cooking Experience Owner Anika Patel Welcome to the 23rd of the weekly interview series where I will speak a wide range of people who have embraced the working remotely opportunity. We will speak to entrepreneurs, business owners, large organisation workers and freelancers about their trials and tribulations when delving into remote working. This week I am delighted to interview someone who I have met in person at the World Travel Market Conference in London. Anika Patel is the Owner of French experience holiday Flavours of France. What I loved about spending time with Anika was the passion she had for her business. Not only had she left behind a comfortable role within Corporate London; she had also followed her interests running a business on a subject close to her heart. Anika spent time within her student years living in France and developed a passion for the cooking, drinking and culture of the fine country. Anika’s motto is that everyone should experience ‘A Real taste of French life’ and her unique holiday experience is wonderful for those wanting to escape the typical package holidays and get to know the real France. I caught up with Anika to ask her about leaving the city, how she deals with the challenges of running her own business and of course working from home. To keep up to date with Anika and Flavours of France you can grab her on twitter here. Q: Hi Anika tell us a little bit about yourself, where are you from, where do you live now? Hello, I am based in London and travel frequently to France for work. Q: What company do you work for and what is your role within the organisation? I set up Flavours of France 18 months ago, a niche travel company that organises cooking and wine holidays in La Rochelle and in Lyon. A typical weekend package includes accommodation plus activities such as cooking classes, visits to a vineyard and trips to local food markets. Our trips are for foodies. My role is sales, marketing and PR mainly as well as the organising of the trips. I work with French chefs and wine experts who run the activities. Q: Previously you were a London based city slicker….What made you switch up your lifestyle and decide to take the plunge into self employment? I wanted to create my own career path doing something I am passionate about. As a big foodie and fan of France, setting up a gourmet holiday company ticked all the boxes. Leaving my job in finance was a big decision as I waved goodbye to the steady monthly income and the security that comes with that. But I feel happier and more fulfilled now. Q: The great thing about your business is that it feels real and personal. Do you think your time in France as a student really adds to the authenticity of the business? Yes, living in France was an unforgettable experience. You begin to understand the French and their attitudes. Learning about France through its food and wine was the best part. I love the food and the care that is taken in preparing every day meals. Also, every region has its own specialities and cultural identity, and I am continually learning new things. It was important for me to work with regional chefs who use local ingredients and make dishes based on what they have eaten whilst growing up. That way, guests learn about the area and how that is connected to the cuisine. Q: How do you deal with stereotypes from friends in regards to productivity when working from home? i.e.: Sleep until midday, 2 hour lunch breaks etc. Sometimes friends don’t quite understand the home working lifestyle and others are very supportive. I don’t worry too much about people’s perceptions. I just remember all the good things about home working such as the beauty of being able to take days off when you want and making up for it on another day. What people sometimes overlook is that if you don’t do the work it is you who will lose out. Running your own business means you are responsible for its success or failure and that is a pressure you won’t have if you work for a company. Q: What is the most challenging part about home working and how do you overcome this? Not having someone to discuss ideas. Talking through things can be the best way to make a decision or to solve a problem. When you work on your own, you have to just go with your gut instinct. Sometimes I will call someone in the travel industry which is useful. I also regularly meet up with entrepreneurs to chat about their business. I recently met Tamara Lohan the founder of Mr and Mrs Smith who was lovely and gave me some useful advice. Meeting people who have made a success of their business is inspiring. Q: What are the main positives in working from home full time? I met Anika at the World Travel Market Conference in London. There are so many I don’t know where to begin. A big positive is the lie in; I don’t have to wake up at 6.30am every day. When I wake up in the morning I feel happy and motivated about working. There is not the sense of dread I used to have when I worked in The City. I don’t get as many colds or bouts of flu. When I was working every couple of months I would feel run down and catch a cold, this might have been from the stress, long hours and lack of sleep.I don’t miss the daily commute, which according to your calculator I wasted far too many hours on! Working from home gives me the opportunity to exercise more, sometimes I head to the gym or I take my dog for a walk.I like having the freedom to plan my day and I can take a break whenever I want to. Overall, I sleep better, exercise more and am generally happier. Q: Are you an advocate of work/life balance and how do you try and balance both? A good work/life balance is important for your health and well-being. I take regular breaks in the day and try to shut down my laptop by 6, but sometimes it ends up being much later. It can be difficult to switch off especially if I am excited about something and I want to continue working. When you do something you enjoy work tends to merge with your life as it doesn’t feel like work. Meeting friends and talking about different things is a good way to switch off. Q: What’s a typical day for Anika? Realistically….start to finish . I will start the day responding to emails. This can be enquiries about a holiday date or people wanting to be added to the mailing list. I am a member of a travel journalist’s network so I will check if there have been any journalists looking for a cooking or wine holiday story or something related to France or short breaks. Two to three times a week I will email out any relevant press releases and be in touch with journalists writing about France or food. I arrange meet ups with people in the travel industry at least once a week. I write up and send a weekly newsletter which contains information about upcoming holidays, new packages and special offers. As part of marketing I create blog posts twice a week for the Flavours site and often am a guest contributor on another blog. To increase traffic to the website I look for relevant links and ways to promote it online. This can be through links or other partnerships with websites. I sometimes advertise the cooking holidays on an online travel agency for a small commission for example. Every day is different as I do a mix of sales, marketing and PR. Q: When we met at the World Travel Market event you told me about your awesome shed based office space. What is the importance of this space? Having a space that is physically outside my house is great. It means I have to go outside to go into the office and this makes it easier to distance myself from work at the end of the day. Plus there are no distractions at all, it is a quiet space where I can shut myself away and be productive. Q: Any pictures of your Office? How awesome is this office space in the Garden? Q: How important do you feel family support is for home workers? It is very important knowing that your family believe in your business.For home workers having a good support network helps to motivate you if you are having a slow day or are dealing with a problem. Q: Do you have any productivity tools you use to keep yourself efficient which may help our readers? I believe in creating lists for everything and anything. I make daily, weekly and monthly to do lists. Without clear guidelines on what you want to get done it is easy to spend much more time on it that you need to. Also, it is satisfying when you can tick things off as you go along. It gives you the sense of achievement and of moving forwards. Q: Do you believe more organisations should allow those with web based roles to work remotely? If so..how come? Yes, they should. In many ways you can be more productive if you work remotely. In a relaxed environment you can feel more motivated. When you feel that you have control over your day this makes work more satisfying and you feel you are more independent. Being able to work remotely is also good for mothers who need to fit their working day around childcare. Also, many people are starting up online businesses from home, and for this all you need is a computer and access to the internet. I think the entire concept of work is changing.