At Blue Apple, we’re particularly proud of the number of our great team who have given us long service and this month, Design and Brand Manager Jo Billing celebrates an impressive tenth year as part of the bunch. In her blog, Jo gives us the lowdown on her Blue Apple journey!
As the new decade gathers momentum and we’re already well into our second month, I celebrate my tenth year with Blue Apple (how did that happen?!) and look back on the career journey I’ve been on during this time.
I was working as a freelance graphic designer, while moonlighting as an equestrian groom and dipping into the catering business from time to time. My partner is a chef and my father, an accountant, had always worked in the hotel and catering trade, so I was already familiar with contract catering, having done my fair share on a deli bar or two, and often assisted Dad with accounts admin when I needed extra work.
It was in this last capacity that I joined Blue Apple, part-time, in February 2010 – the introduction came through Dad – and as far as I was concerned this was only to be a temporary position and I’d simply been drafted in during a particularly busy time to help out – I couldn’t have been more wrong!
At the time Blue Apple was small (but perfectly formed) with 220 staff across the business and a head office team of about ten, all working from one cosy office and with a real family feel. While other companies were struggling in times of recession, Blue Apple appeared to be thriving with the acquisition of a Midlands based caterer, bringing with it 15 new contracts. We enjoyed nothing more than a call from one of our unit managers and we still do!
I had been expecting to simply process a few invoices and check the bookwork, yet before long, encouraged and supported by the finance manager I took on a wider accounting role and relished in the challenge. No mean feat, given that my maths was quite frankly rubbish when at school. I realised I did in fact have an aptitude for numbers after all – amazing what a little coaching and the right environment can do.
In the early days the marketing and design for Blue Apple was all outsourced but when an opportunity arose, I suggested we use my skills as a qualified graphic designer to bring the design of our material in-house. These skills were put to good use when we tendered for a major contract with a well-known charity in 2012.
The bid, against one of our much larger competitors, culminated with a thrilling live cook-off involving our chefs, ops managers (CEO Brian made an impressive croque-en-bouche) and even head office staff who donned aprons, while the rest of us nervously waited for news back in the office. When the call came in to say we’d won, we all jumped around like loons; a true team effort, which meant we were all invested in the contract — one we still proudly hold today.
At some point, and I can’t remember when, I went from a temp ‘helping out’, to part-time accounts assistant to full-time marketing designer, supporting all of our units and sales bids, while writing newsletters and creating anything else in between. Somehow along the way, I also gained the mantle of ‘The Font Police’… I think it’s used affectionately.
Keeping things fresh and up-to-date is important to the business and in 2015 I enjoyed redesigning the Blue Apple branding, including a shiny new logo, updating the company visual style and launching our new website. With head office numbers (and contracts) growing, we moved sales & marketing into our own office across the courtyard; a creative space to work and one that truly feels like home.
I’ve been well supported and mentored along the way, allowing me to grow in confidence and for my role to evolve, while learning new skills and feeling that I’ve been part of the company growth. In recent years I’ve also been able to indulge in my hobby of photography and I now produce many of our food shots, used in tender documents and marketing material.
Working alongside our Executive Chef and launching new concepts to our wider teams is hugely rewarding but one of the things I’m most proud of is our coffee brand, Pip & Bean, which was launched in 2019 – amazing really as I don’t even drink coffee – but seeing how much our customers love it, the story behind the bean and the journey we took as a company to create the brand, the marketing and eventually showcasing this to the rest of the business was a massive collaborative affair and one I very much enjoyed.
Many things have changed in the ten years I’ve been at Blue Apple and we’ve grown considerably, updated our processes and systems and adapted to current trends, however the ‘family feel’, has remained as strong as ever and I count myself lucky to say that I love my job. Being part of a great team and working alongside passionate people has definitely inspired the foodie in me, in fact I think I’m more obsessed with food than ever.
These days, I keep my equestrian pursuits as a hobby and the accounts team don’t need my assistance now – I’m a creative and have Blue Apple to thank for allowing me to find the right path!