After completing a Btec in Baking Technology and a degree in Food Technology, I spent 14 years working in various technical roles. I had been really lucky that during my career I had been given some amazing opportunities, which at the time, meant I was out of my comfort zone every day. I remember driving to work shaking with the prospect of what the day held. Those later years of my career have made me who I am today and although I wouldn’t change them for the world, it’s not something I would want to go through again.
Unfortunately, by 2012 I had burnt out and I’d lost my mojo. So, having saved up enough to be able to do so, I handed in my notice at my current job and looked forward to the prospect of having at least 6 months off. I didn’t have any idea at that time what I wanted to do with my life.
Luckily the Site Manager at the site I was leaving, gave me some advice that literally changed my life. He explained to me how I could become a consultant and gave me the confidence to do it. So, I’d like to publicly thank him for that now – Mick O’Sullivan; I’m not sure if you’re aware of how much of an impact you had on me, but I thank you from the bottom of my heart – you helped me get my mojo back!
MAY THE FOURTH BE WITH YOU...
On 4th May 2012, the business was registered as a limited company and Techni-K was born. May the fourth be with you! Did you know – the name Techni-K, is a play on words. Technical shortened to Techni’ and K comes from my name – Kassy.
By March 2014 I had been working on interim contracts for nearly two years, so I decided the business needed a logo. I saw (and still do) technical as a fundamental element of a manufacturing site, without it the whole site doesn’t function as it should. This is where the cog idea came from, representing the cogs of a well-oiled machine. When I look back at the logo now, it makes me cringe slightly as it looks so amateur, but at the time – I was well chuffed with it!
In April 2014 I decided to stop doing interim contracts and launched the business as it is today. The intention being, that I would work with a number of clients all at the same time, building long term relationships, by essentially being part of their technical team – available when they needed me. I also wanted to work on shorter term projects, to give sites a more flexible option, where they didn’t need a full time interim for months. So I created a very basic website, using one of those ‘build it yourself’ website tools. Again, now when I look back at it, it makes me cringe, but it was my first step on the ladder for on-line!
The response to my business idea was so overwhelming on LinkedIn (which just went to my contacts), I realised I couldn’t meet the need on my own. So, in May 2014 I took the plunge and Ruth joined me as our first Techni-K employee, working from my little office at home!
As techie’s we decided that we didn’t have the know how to be able to understand what we needed to do, to market the business. So, in October 2014 we contracted the help of a marketing team. Our roller coaster ride of a business journey took a large dip at this time. We spent a huge amount of money (well it was to us anyway), and wasted a great deal of time, but I learnt a very important lesson; that marketing companies don’t know your business like you do. From this point forward, we’ve done all of our own marketing!
By Christmas 2014 we needed more help, to be able to manage the amount of admin that the business was producing, so Mel Allen joined us and we became a small but mighty team of three!
In January 2015 we moved into our first proper office on the lovely Welbeck Estate. On our Techni-K rollercoaster, this was a high for us – being a team of three in a professional office space. On a personal front, for me, this was a really terrifying time – I was now responsible for paying two peoples salaries and the rent on an office. I think I was literally trembling for at least two solid weeks with the pressure!
BRC Issue 7 was also launched in January 2015 and we saw the new requirements for TACCP (which was actually VACCP). Myself and another HACCP specialist; Adele Adams decided as HACCP specialists we needed to know what TACCP was. Our research quickly highlighted that the whole subject was very complicated and confused, and a simple solution was needed for the industry. So, we decided to build a solution, and our first publication was born that we published ourselves ready to go onto our new website!
In February 2015 we launched our new website and we went on a major learning curve on how to build, design and manage our new website, given that we’d learnt that; we need to do these things ourselves, rather than rely on a third party marketing company where there was little or no control. Steph & Sue at Ruddy Good, helped us in designing software and when we realised we needed someone who understood the really technical side of website development when we got stuck, they gave us the help we needed and continue to support us to this day, quietly sitting behind us when we need them day or night – they are our superheroes!
In March 2015 I published our first book with Adele Adams – ‘Assessing Threat Vulnerability for Food Defence,’ which Chris Elliott kindly wrote the foreword for us. This was the very first product that we put onto our new website for sale, so it was a big moment for us! Each time a sale came in, Mel would do a jig around the office – it was such an exciting time.
On 15th April 2015 we sent out our very first newsletter, which at the time was called BRC Newsletter – to communicate changes around the new issue 7. Little did I know at the time what it would become…
In May 2015 we launched our first eDoc on the website, which could be downloaded on payment. We didn’t know how this type of product would be received, as many techie’s were sceptical about how documentation could be written generically. However, the pack got amazing feedback, and it gave us the confidence to keep going, paving the way for future packs…
Over Christmas 2015 Adele and I started working with M&S to assist them in developing their integrity training for their supply-chain.
In January 2016 we published our second book with Adele; Assessing Error Vulnerability for Food Integrity. Just one month later, we started teaching the M&S Integrity training, which was such a privilege for us, to work with such a great retailer and their supply chain.
In the lead up to May 2016, I had been doing a lot of research into my own book ‘Combine your HACCP and HARPC plan step-by-step’ which I published to meet the requirements of the FDA human food rule. I also flew all the way over to Ohio, America to complete the PCQI Lead Instructor course, in line with the new FDA’s Preventive Controls for Human Food.
In July 2016 we sent out a survey to find out more about the readers of the BRC newsletter. Because the subjects that I wrote about in the newsletter had become more than just about BRC, we felt that calling it the BRC newsletter didn’t seem right anymore – so we asked you what we should call it and one amazing reader came up with the name Techni-K Smart Knowledge, which we loved instantly! I still don’t know who that fab reader was, as we didn’t ask for names on the survey, but thank you whoever you are!
By October 2016 we’d grown out of our offices in Welbeck and we moved to our own premises in Clowne, in the old train station booking hall. It needed a lot of paint, DIY and heat but we were really happy there being so close to the busy little village and pubs nearby!
Christmas 2016 we decided that staff photographs were just too corporate for us and we needed something a bit more fun. So, the caricatures were born.
These have gone from strength to strength and help to provide you with an insight into the personality of each person. Mel is the organised one, she’s got an amazing eye for detail and likes things to be ‘just so’, so we call her ‘Mega-checker’. Her caricature shows her checking everything with a magnifying glass. Me, on the other hand – I’m supposed to be the boffin, so I’m busy writing and have an unusually large forehead which is meant to make me look like one of those geeky scientists!
I also started working on our Technical Planner, we wanted to do something for our customers that we thought would ‘add value.’ my favourite saying. The planner was designed for the techie’s and was an instant success – it’s still going strong, and sells out fast every year when we put it on the website.
In January 2017 we launched Techni-K Training Academy and our first eLearning course – ‘Food Fraud Vulnerability,’ which was another huge learning curve as we had to learn how to create videos and start using all kinds of recording software and equipment, it was a fun time hearing all the audio out-takes (we have to admit, there were a few expletives we had to remove for the final version).
June 2017 saw the arrival of a serious bit of kit as I like to call it… We moved from doing our accounts on a spreadsheet – a pretty big spreadsheet, truth be known to a proper online accounting system – again this was a huge learning curve (mostly for poor Mel), but we were starting to feel like a real business now!
The summer of 2017 was a busy time, applying for OFQUAL accreditation, recruiting and working on our Level 2 food safety courses – it was a challenging time as we had decided to start expanding our business to include training. We wanted to change food safety training for the industry by making it more up-to-date and relevant. We worked like trojan horses getting everything ready to start testing, developing and still learning all the time. By December, I think I was ready for a holiday as I was fed up. It occurred to me that I had been writing Techni-K Smart Knowledge for well over 2 ½ years and to be honest, I had become a little disheartened with it. Although I could see from the data that like minded techie’s all over the world were opening it, I got very little feedback as to whether what I was writing about was useful or not. And although I encouraged people to join in the conversation or ask questions, this very rarely happened. I also co-authored an article with someone, who then ripped off my work and published an eBook called Shared Knowledge (sounds like Techni-K Smart Knowledge – right?). On the roller coaster ride this was definitely a downward dip.
But my lovely readers, I think you all heard me. I received an email from one reader who told me how helpful the articles were to him. This one email gave me the motivation to keep going so much, that I printed it off and stuck it to the wall by my desk. And from that point on, the response to Techni-K Smart Knowledge have been amazing. You all now seem to get involved in the articles, share your knowledge, thoughts and experiences and ask questions – which I love, it makes it all worthwhile!
In January 2018 Louise Donaldson joined us our trainee consultant. Louise has a BSC in Forensic Science with Biology and to this day, is the most intelligent person I know! Louise also loves to learn (which is a good job, as we’ve bombarded her with training since she joined!), so her caricature shows her in her element – surrounded by lab equipment and learning.
Also in January we launched our Level 2 eLearning courses that are specific to the food category. This again was another huge learning curve for us, as we had to learn how to program on a new piece of software, and learn Adobe in order to draw and design the images. But it was all worth it to create the fab interactive eLearning that we have now – and which is unlike any out there!
March 2018 Ruth left us to go onto new and exciting things and Ady Atter joined us. Ady is our fish specialist and his passions are exercise and his family, which is why his caricature is dressed in his training gear. The ear trumpet is because he gets called ‘The Councillor’, as he’s known for offering sound and logical advise when listening to problems.
Although the Old Booking Hall had served us well, the lack of insulation was proving to provide a bit of a chilly working environment (it’s really hard to type when you’re wearing gloves!), so in July 2018 we moved office again (and definitely for the final time) into our very own place – which we just love!
In May 2018 Robert joined us. Robert has a wide and varied foodie background and has an eye for detail, hence the microscope. He also loves golfing and gardening – can you tell? He really gets on well with Mel too, liked-minded they must be!
Damien quickly followed Robert and joined us in July 2018. Damien lives in Scotland but is French, so of course his caricature just had to show this! In true stereotypical form (his words not mine I promise!) he loves to cook and has studied wine so, we put this in there too. The building blocks which spell out relationship also put into pictures his fab talent of building relationships.
In August 2018 we launched our first BRC courses, in both eLearning and classroom format. Mel created the most amazing lesson guide (she’s fast becoming a pro – as her level 2 food safety and GMP lesson guides are pretty amazing too though to be honest!). The courses and the lesson guide have gone down a storm. Although they are not officially BRC approved courses, our practical understanding of the industry has proving invaluable in order to teach ‘the how’, rather than just ‘the why’.
The lovely Barbara joined us in October 2018. Barbara is a nutritionist, has a background in produce and loves everything that’s healthy, hence the heart of fruit and veg. In her spare time, this amazing crazy lady is also an outdoors swimmer, if you’re wondering why she’s wearing a swimming suit and cap!
October was a big month for Louise, as she did her lead auditor and HACCP level 4 courses, back-to-back. But of course (we never doubted it to be honest) she passed with a distinction! This completed her training and she was promoted to a fully-fledged consultant. That wasn’t the end of the good news for Louise, as she found out that she was expecting the first Techni-K baby! We just can’t wait to meet our new Techie!
So, what does the future hold for Techni-K? Well, we’re definitely global now as we are sending Robert over to Cambodia this month to work with a client on site. Who knows what the rest of this year will bring? So much has happened since we started Techni-K Smart Knowledge back in 2015, I can’t imagine where we will be when we hit article 200, three years from now. What I can promise you though, is that we will continue to push the boundaries of the industry. We want to be known as the leader in technical solutions – which are designed to provide what today’s modern manufacturing industry truly needs, rather than providing what we currently have, even if it doesn’t really add value, just because that’s the way it’s always been done.
(My team will find that last statement funny – I harp on about adding value all the time, it’s my favourite thing. I’m always asking whether what we’re doing ‘adds value’, because if it doesn’t, then we’re just not going to bother doing it!) I’d like to take this opportunity to thank my team. Without you, I would have not been able to build Techni-K to be what it is today. Every day you amaze me and I’ve very proud to work with you. We may be small (we like it that way), but we are definitely mighty. I believe that together we can achieve anything!