Alexander was one of 10 winners of Courier's 2022 Fresh Fund, a $150,000 fund of cash grants for young black founders in the UK and US who have great ideas to start or grow a business.
It's fair to say that entrepreneurship runs in Alexander Mair's blood, with his parents and siblings all running their own businesses. So he had a good grounding when it came to starting his meal-delivery service All in a Box.
‘My parents and two older siblings are self-employed, and my younger sister is looking to set up her own brand. So I'd always had an insight into the autonomy and creativity involved in running your own business. This gave me the curiosity to set something up for myself and an understanding of the hard graft it takes.
‘Going to a very traditional school, and studying politics and economics at university, it was easy to go with the flow, so I went into management consultancy. It was a great experience, but it wasn't quite right for me. I wanted to pursue something that was more stimulating.’
Taking the plunge
‘I've always had a passion for food and cooking. But thought it only made business sense if you had bricks and mortar, like a restaurant. I saw people doing food trucks and festivals, but I just couldn't see the scalability. But, as lockdown hit, we had a lot of local people who couldn't get food because supermarket deliveries were all booked. The idea of bringing them food while also giving them some enjoyment at a dark time was the catalyst for how our first product, BBQ in a Box, was born.
‘I was working for my sister's communications agency at the time, but she gave me the time to pursue this, and I can't thank her enough. Within a week, I'd done all my health and safety certificates, built a website, bought a bunch of food and started getting boxes out to friends, family and local people for feedback. The whole point of the box is about creating an epic experience, so we added things like a playlist to the menu card and simple instructions, and made the unboxing experience really special.’
A family affair
‘I was fortunate to have a strong family and friends unit around me. They offered guidance when I needed it most. From my sister [at her] brand communications agency to my mum helping in the kitchen and my dad and other siblings delivering and packing. It was an unbelievable period.
‘That summer was wild. We had some press coverage, took out a billboard, went on local radio. We were managing all the deliveries, as well as manufacturing and creating dishes. That was challenging. It's a lot of learning very fast, but it was really fun. ‘These days, we've got the delivery arm with three products [BBQ, roasts and brunch], the events catering arm and the corporate gifting side. We have DPD doing all the deliveries, though my family are still very involved, helping with taste-testing and boxing, and my sister is very much an informal mentor to me.’
Advice for others starting out
‘Say “yes” to everything. In the first year, I drove down to Eastbourne at 6am on Christmas Day for an old gentleman who was on his own because the government had changed lockdown rules. But you have to do those things because they're the foundations of your business. If you don't believe in what you're doing, no one else will. We still check in with the family of the man and love our community we have built.’
This article was first published in Courier issue 46, April/May 2022. To purchase the issue or become a subscriber, head to our webshop.