Chris Bryant’s well-paid finance job was having a seriously detrimental effect on his mental health. He explains how the Covid pandemic made him reassess his career and gave him the confidence to start his own pizza business.
Chris Bryant of Lost Nomads Pizza
Website: Lost Nomads Pizza
Instagram: Lost Nomads Pizza
After school, Chris worked in the City for a few years, muddling through jobs before getting employed by a Japanese bank as a desk assistant in the Foreign Exchange department.
After a few years, Chris took on more and more responsibility, surviving rounds of redundancies and mergers. As the pressure increased, the salary went up but, before long, Chris was one of only a few traders left, earning good money but enduring extreme pressure and poor working conditions.
Following the birth of his second child, things had got so bad that Chris was diagnosed with stress-related depression, and had to take time off under medical advice. The time with his family made him realise exactly what he had been missing and made him question how important money was compared with health and happiness.
After Covid struck, and Chris lost his mother, he decided to take a leap of faith and leave his employer of 22 years.
Chris realised that his real passion was with food. As luck would have it, a friend had experienced a similar story and they got together to start a pizza business.
It’s been a very steep learning curve but, finally, Chris is doing something he enjoys and is passionate about.
What you’ll learn in this episode
- [1:40] What ‘Lost Nomads Pizza’ is and their business model during the pandemic.
- [3:36] Chris’s background in finance and banking, and what it was like working in that field.
- [7:08] The career progression that was available to Chris at his old job.
- [9:48] Why it’s so difficult to leave a high-paying job.
- [12:06] What made Chris reassess his priorities and change his lifestyle.
- [14:36] How counseling helped Chris realise what was causing the problems in his life.
- [19:20] How Chris ended up quitting his job and started studying online.
- [21:32] What helped Chris overcome the fear of being unemployed.
- [24:30] What the first steps of retraining in a new field looked like for Chris.
- [25:50] The deadline Chris set himself for when he needed to be back making an income.
- [27:52] How Chris had the idea to start a pizza business.
- [31:43] How Chris avoided feeling too much pressure starting a hospitality business during the pandemic.
- [35:39] Chris’s plans for the future of his business.
- [38:02] The quotes that have most inspired Chris.
Resources mentioned in this episode
Please note that some of these are affiliate links and we may get a small commission in the event that you make a purchase. This helps us to cover our expenses and is at no additional cost to you.
To see the resources recommended by all our guests, visit the Resources page.
Episode 95: Covid Stories: Reassessing your lifestyle and career - with Chris Bryant of Lost Nomads Pizza
Jeremy Cline 0:00
It's been about 18 months since we first started hearing stories of a strange new virus emerging in Wuhan in China. A couple of months later, and we had a global pandemic with countries around the world locking down. A year or so on, what effect has the pandemic had on your career and your job? What changes have you seen? Are you starting to work more from home? Have you decided that you really didn't like your existing job and you've made a complete change? That's what we're going to talk about in this week's interview. I'm Jeremy Cline and this is Change Work Life.
Jeremy Cline 0:46
Hello, and welcome to Change Work Life, the podcast that's all about beating Sunday evening blues and enjoying Mondays again. Now, this episode is being recorded in March 2021. And that's around the first anniversary of the date when the UK went into the first lockdown at the start of the coronavirus pandemic. And this interview is the first of what I hope will be a series of interviews with people who have effectively used the pandemic as a catalyst to change career themselves. I'm really interested to explore what effect the pandemic has had on people's careers, whether it's forced people to change careers or whether it's made people want to change careers. So, I'm delighted to welcome as my guest this week, Chris Bryant of Lost Nomads Pizza to talk us through his own career change. Chris, welcome to the podcast.
Chris Bryant 1:30
Thank you. Nice to be here.
Jeremy Cline 1:31
So, first of all, can you tell us a bit about Lost Nomads Pizza? What is it? I mean, clearly something to do with pizza, what's the setup?
Chris Bryant 1:38
Yeah, the clue's in the title. Lost Nomads Pizza is a project that I've started with a business partner. We came up with the idea, I guess, October, November last year. And the idea really was to cater for festivals, parties, weddings, anniversaries, and between us, we bought a horsebox, had it converted, we had a huge woodfired oven built and installed in the back of the horsebox, and yeah, by sort of Christmas time we were all set to go. And then, obviously, you know, we know the rest, another lockdown. So, that kind of put a spanner in the works and a temporary halt to the whole festival, wedding party activity. So, in the meantime, I'm basically working from home. The horsebox is on my drive, is all set up, is covered in lights, and I'm offering a click and collect service three nights a week. And so far, it's going brilliantly, we're pretty much sold out every night that we're open, the community in Hitchin here has been incredible, so much support from neighbours, and you know, people just strolling by, wanting to see what's going on. And for a lot of people at the moment, coming out on Friday to pick up a pizza is a Friday night out, you know, it's a chance to talk maybe to another adult, which I think a lot of people are missing at the moment, chance to stretch their legs and hopefully, go home with a nice pizza. That's essentially where we're at at the moment. Our plans are, you know, to try and get involved with festivals and parties, et cetera, later on in the year, when a normality returns, however that normality looks. That's the plan.
Jeremy Cline 3:21
Yeah, we'll certainly dig into that. I mean, it's certainly an interesting time to start this kind of business. And I'm very interested to find out about your thought process. Let's talk a bit about your backstory, because I gather that you spent quite a lot of time working in finance.
Chris Bryant 3:35
I did. Quite a lot of time, I think it was about 22 years, I worked for the same bank in the city. So, I joined as a junior trader on the foreign exchange department of this particular bank.
Jeremy Cline 3:47
This is out of school, out of university. How did you end up in this?
Chris Bryant 3:51
Not directly from school, I'd had a couple of jobs previously, but they were much shorter term, dips in and out of different environments. But I'd always wanted to work in foreign exchange. I think, if I remember rightly, when we had a careers evening at school, a guy turned up and said, 'Yeah, I work in foreign exchange, I'll be retired by the time I'm 35.' And I thought brilliant. That's exactly what I want to do.
Jeremy Cline 4:18
So, was it the opportunity, the making loads of money kind of thing that appealed to you?
Chris Bryant 4:23
Yeah, I kind of like the idea of the excitement, the hustle, the whole business of it, and the fact that, yeah, potentially you could make money. The stress and all that hadn't really occurred to me, you know, it was a case of, yeah, anyone who does it will walk away with a decent amount of money in the bank and a nice lifestyle. But clearly, it's not always like that. And some people get lucky, most people don't. But that was what really appealed to me. It was a bit of a schoolboy fantasy. You know, I didn't want to be a racing driver, I didn't want to be a Premiership footballer or whatever the Premiership was called then. I quite liked the idea of the city environment, which in a bizarre way, was an unusual choice for me, because I've always erred on the sort of creative side of things. I've played guitar for years, I've been in bands, more arty than I am numerical. And I never really fitted in to the sort of stereotype of the city worker. I didn't like the idea of dressing up in suit and tie, just didn't see the point. But I went along with it. And so, yeah, I eventually got this job working in a foreign exchange department in this bank, which at the time was an inroad into my dream job.
Jeremy Cline 5:37
So, what were the first few years like sort of the first five years? I mean, was it kind of everything that you dreamt about? Or did you start to think, 'Yeah, I'm not sure about this'?
Chris Bryant 5:46
Well, I think on my very first day, someone said to me, 'This job isn't necessarily difficult. It's the people that you work with that make it difficult.' And I would say not everyone fitted that description. But there were a lot of very difficult people, there's a lot of big egos, a lot of personalities. And a dealing room isn't a place for a shrinking violet, you've got to stand up for yourself. And in that respect, I will always be grateful for doing that job, it's very character building, toughens you up, it gives you a good experience of life and how some people are. But for the first two or three years as a junior, you know, you are very much told what to do, when to do it, and you will definitely know when you've done it wrong. You know, it's not a case of, 'Oh, well, never mind, it will be okay next time.' You'll properly find out if you've done something wrong, and you won't do it wrong again. You don't get the opportunity to do it wrong again. The environment was much more bullish than I'd kind of imagined it would be. But it was good fun, I won't lie. There were plenty of times when people would go out after work. We went to nice places, nice bars, nice restaurants, there were lots of upsides. It was good.
Jeremy Cline 7:02
What was the career progression like, sort of as you moved up from a junior, what were the opportunities that you had?
Chris Bryant 7:08
As a trader, there's not really too many stages for you to go, unless you want to start getting involved in management. If you want to carry on trading, you're essentially a junior trader, a trader, a senior trader. So, that's pretty much the three steps. Then you can become head of a desk and start man managing people, become sort of senior director level, where you're more involved in overall strategy and policy decisions. But if you just want to stick to the basic trading side of the business, there's not really many places you can go. Once you hit certain level, you're pretty much there.
Jeremy Cline 7:46
And so, what were your thoughts on that? I mean, were you intending to go up to management? Or did you really want to stick with the trading?
Chris Bryant 7:53
Well, the problem that kind of hit my industry, sorry, the industry I was in at the time, is as technology advanced, the number of people, human beings, actually doing the job decreased. And that, you know, I'm sure that's the same across many, many, many industries. Everything became much more automated, compliance issues meant that everything had to be input into systems, rather than just written on a sheet of paper, everything was computer based. Previously, things would have just been written up on a whiteboard with a marker pen, you know, that whole sort of hazard system of managing orders and things that very quickly went out the window. And so, the number of people involved dropped dramatically. I think, when I joined, there were probably something like 10, 12, maybe 15 traders, and probably four or five assistants. And by the time I left the industry, there were two or three of us doing everything, and doing more than we would have done 20 years ago. In terms of wanting to become a manager, there weren't many people left to manage. It's an international bank, Japanese bank, and senior management would come over from Japan, from Tokyo, and they were the ones that would make the sort of decisions and be more involved in the actual management of people. And we were kind of left to get on with the day-to-day running of the operations. In my mind, I didn't really have anywhere to go beyond where I was at. I've always been a people person. I don't really like that phrase, but I like talking to people, I like working with people, I like interacting with people. So, I would have liked to have gone down management route, but those opportunities just didn't exist, and I couldn't see that ever existing.
Jeremy Cline 9:44
So, what were you thinking at the time? Were you thinking that you would just stick with what you were doing and that was what you would always end up doing?
Chris Bryant 9:50
Well, part of the problem of the job was, and I think this is going to probably strike a chord with a lot of people listening, is you get trapped. The money's quite good, you become reliant on it. I wasn't going out buying fast cars and speed boats, but we had a nice comfortable existence, we went on some amazing holidays. We were lucky. Yeah, went to very nice restaurants, and that becomes your life. And without realising it, it becomes what you expect. And if that is your norm, and it isn't the norm, those sort of things should be for special occasions or treats for most people, but you just get locked into that lifestyle. And then, the sort of fear kicks in that, if you no longer have that income, if you don't have X amount of money coming in, how can you possibly go to a two-star Michelin restaurant at the weekend? How can you go on a three-week holiday around South America? Those sorts of things start panicking, and all it really is, is not understanding what's important and what is surplus to requirements, I guess. The problem that myself and a lot of people in our industry find is they're used to the money coming in, they get stressed that they might lose their job for whatever reason, and it starts to impact on mental health. That in turn impacts on your performance. That increases your likelihood of not having your job this time next year, blah, blah, blah. And it kind of starts a vicious circle. And I found myself in a situation where I was working extremely long hours under intense pressure, just to keep my job, not to get further along the career ladder. I was kind of paranoid, if I didn't put this extra effort in, that would be it, we wouldn't be able to afford shopping, we wouldn't be able to afford anything. And so, it was an extremely difficult time, at the end. I really did find myself in a particularly dark place.
Jeremy Cline 11:57
What happened? I mean, clearly, something happened that made you go, 'I'm not going to carry on doing this.' So, talk us through it.
Chris Bryant 12:04
Yeah, a couple of things happened. And I guess again, this is going to be the same for lots of people. The first big change was the birth of my son, which was 2016. So, he came along, and instantly, your priorities change. You have an actual sense of purpose in life. And your purpose in life is to raise that child and look after and love that child. That is your priority. Previously, my priority had been make money for the bank, they'll pay me a sum, they'll give me a bonus, I'll go on holiday, I'll go to a nice restaurant. All of that went completely out the window for me. But at the same time, it added extra pressure, because you've now got another life to support and look after. And everyone's different, but for me, I wanted the best pushchair for my son, I wanted the best Scandinavian wooden toys, you know, even though they finish up just playing with cardboard boxes, and they don't care. But you still have that in your head, that this is what you want, and you're going to do your damnedest to get it. So, that was a turning point in that my priorities for myself changed. And I actually had a purpose. Then, the next big event, I would say was the birth of my second child, my daughter in 2019. And I had a couple of weeks off work for paternity, went back to work, and I just thought, 'I've got no interest in this environment.' It's hostile, it's ruthless, there's no, I don't know, there's just no enjoyment of life here. Being at home for a couple of weeks with my family, and it really made me think, 'I don't know if I can do this anymore. I just don't know if I can be part of this system.' And to sort of cut a long story short, it kind of sent me into a depression state, a depression. And I have serious conversations with people about my mental health and where I was at, and the root causes. And a lot of it came down to me not being happy with the environment I was in, and really wanting to spend more time with my family and the people that mattered.
Jeremy Cline 14:18
Was this, without wishing to pry too much, and please tell me if this is an inappropriate question, is this sort of external help to assist you to realise that you weren't in the right environment for spending time with your family or that kind of thing, is this sort of like, this is coaching or even sort of depression counselling or that kind of thing?
Chris Bryant 14:36
Yeah, it was counselling. I've always been one of those people, and I think, as a result of the job that I was doing, you will always expect just to get on with it. And I've always been one of those people that's just kind of pushed off to the side and let it build and build and build and hope it goes away, rather than just openly stand up and admit that there's a problem that needs dealing with. You just kind of think, 'Yeah, I'm a man, I can get on with this, I can deal with it. There's plenty of people worse off. There's people with severe health conditions. You know, there's people who've had all sorts of traumas and troubles in life that they get on with it. Why should I, as a city trader be moaning or why should I have these issues?' You know, there's no two ways around that, I really was struggling. And I went to see someone, I went to see a counsellor. And she, in all honesty, didn't really say much apart from, 'Just tell me your story. Talk to me, tell me where you're at.' And she didn't really do anything apart from listen. And I just kind of sat there on a few occasions and talked it out. And I came away with the feeling that I'd answered my own questions. I knew that I shouldn't be in that environment. I knew that I was or had been chasing probably unachievable goals. I had had focused on the wrong things. Yeah, and there was a few other background issues as well, which just talking openly about them, you know, solved a lot of problems. And I think it sort of made me realise that you quite often know that you're not doing the right thing, but you do it because you feel you have to. So, what I'm trying to get at is, if you're trying to support a family member, for example, who might be difficult, you do it because you feel obliged to, even though it's a cost to yourself. And the same with work sometimes, it's almost like being in an abusive relationship. You keep going back, knowing what's probably going to happen, but hoping it doesn't, and it probably will happen again. And that's kind of the state I found myself in, having these counselling sessions, it just helped me answer all these questions and explain it to myself.
Jeremy Cline 16:49
So, having figured out that you were in the wrong place, how did you start to answer the question about what was the right place?
Chris Bryant 16:58
Well, I mean, first and foremost, I have to say that my family, and I don't really have any family left, I actually lost my mother last year, as well, which has all sort of happened at the same time, but my wife's family and my friends are unbelievable. They're so supportive. And having that kind of close support, family support, friends support, it gives you a little bit of confidence, and it gives you ideas, you know, as to what you can do. Because I've always loved food, I've loved music, I love travel, I love photography, all of these sorts of things, but I've never had the confidence to sort of think I can do that and actually make money out of it. You know, I've been in awe of creatives. Nearly all my friends are creatives, you know, they work in advertising, they're photographers, musicians, and as much as they're my friends, I've always been in awe of how talented they are, and how they've managed to make a living, some better than others, but they just genuinely seem happier, you know, than people slaving away with numbers. And so, talking to my friends and family, it just made me think what is it that I could be good at, and what would I be happy doing five days a week, you know, what would on a Monday morning, make me think, 'Great, I'm going to do this today.' And so, I kind did a few courses, just to be on the safe side of things like project management, business related, but not finance related and not creative. But I've done lots and lots of courses, which kind of helped with lockdown, it gave me something to do. And I mean, I've got two young children, so there's always something to do, but I like to keep busy, you know, busy-busy. Doing all these courses gave me a sort of impetus to get through, and it gave me targets, because I set dates for exams. So, I knew I had to work to get these exams done. Because I think, all of a sudden, if you've gone from a really busy work environment, doing nothing, it's so easy just to think, 'Do you know what? I'll do it tomorrow, or I'll do it next week, or I don't know what it is I want to do, so I'll just watch telly.'
Jeremy Cline 19:13
So, the missing piece here is, presumably, there was a point at which you basically said 'Okay, that's it, I'm quitting.'
Chris Bryant 19:19
Yes. What actually happened was, when I effectively got diagnosed with stress related depression, I had to take time off work. And that kind of went on over Christmas 2019 into the new year. And then, of course, the pandemic started. With all that, and my mother passing away as well, I was sort of in a position where I thought, 'Right, I don't think I can go back to work, because I know it's bad for my mental health.' I've pretty much lost my family now. And this pandemic on, who knows what's going to happen? What's next? Is this the end of the banking industry, as I know it? You know, with humans going to a dealing room and working. Or is everyone going to be at home? And all these questions, and I just sort of thought the only answer I have is just to walk away from it, and have one of those etch a sketch moments, and just think, just start again. If ever you're going to do it, do it now, because there's so many, so many things lining up telling me to do something else. And it was extremely difficult, I won't lie, because after 22 years of doing the same thing for the same employer, you become institutionalised. Again, I go back to the abusive relationship thing. You keep going back, because you're frightened of what else is out there, and you don't know if you've actually got it good. You could have it terrible, but you don't know until you try. And I just felt in my life that all of these things had all come together at the same time, and I just had to do something about it. And so, yeah, I basically left my employer last summer. And yeah, started on these courses, which I thought would just give me a background to try something else.
Jeremy Cline 21:16
So, when you quit, so you didn't have something else lined up or something, a project that you were thinking seriously about? So, kind of what got you over the fear of, 'Hang on, I'm quitting. I don't have anything else. I mean, you know, how long am I going to be without an income for?'
Chris Bryant 21:32
Well, I think it's kind of balancing two different fears. There's fear of I might not have any money, I might not get a job for however many months. But then, there's also the fear of, if I go back into that environment, how am I going to finish up mentally? How am I going to be as a father to my children? How am I going to be as a husband to my wife? Because I think, you know, sometimes work and employment can become all consuming. And it just can take you away from where you're supposed to be. I'm a dad and a husband, I'm not a machine that makes money for someone else. And it was realising the fear of going back was greater than the fear of trying something new, that made me sign on the dotted line and say, 'Right, let's just go for it.' And another strange thing happened, I got a call just very randomly from a training company, just saying, 'We're doing these courses at the moment, it's, I don't know 20% off, blah, blah, blah.' And it was project management. And I talked to this lady for about hour and a half maybe. And she sort of said, 'Given everything you've done, basically, you have all the necessary skills and abilities that you would need to be a project manager, you know, and if you were to do the courses, do the exams, you would absolutely sail through.' And it was that conversation that made me think, 'Yeah, of course, I could do that.' It was having confidence in my own ability that made me think I definitely can do something else. And it kind of opens other doors, you kind of look into my case, and what a project management might do, or different industries, and it got me into, only for a short term, I'll be honest, but learning how to programme, I had a go at that, which then got me into software development. You know, all the different things that I looked at, I had no idea that all these industries existed. I sort of sat on commuter trains in the morning, looking at everyone thinking, 'What do you do? You can't all be foreign exchange traders. Yeah. Why are you on the train? Where are you going today?' And it was that realisation that it's a big world out there, and there's so many things that you can do. And I think the biggest thing for me was realising that you can be self-employed, be your own boss, and be happy doing it. You're not beholden to anyone apart from maybe the bank manager at some point. But on a day-to-day basis, you make your decisions, you do what you think is right, and it can be great.
Jeremy Cline 24:10
I just want to go back to, so day one, kind of after you had quit your job, what was going through your head in terms of your plan for what you were going to do next? I mean, what was your thinking in terms of, 'Okay, so I've quit my job, I'm going to want to do something else. I don't know what yet. So, these are the steps that I'm going to take now on day one', what did that look like?
Chris Bryant 24:31
I think I was trying to be very practical. And I literally thought, 'Okay, I've spent years doing this job. It's very niche. I have to learn to do something else.' What am I, 45? So, I'm not especially young. I'm not particularly old. I'm kind of in that middle ground where I can still just about learn things without forgetting everything straight away. So, I thought I've still got the ability to learn, so let's do that, let's just look through courses. You know the things like, you know, job sites like Reed, offering loads of courses, Udemy, I think that's how you pronounce it, lots and lots of courses on there. And not expensive either, you know, you sort of talk in 15, 20 quid, something like that. And I just thought, I'm gonna try and enjoy it, do something, courses that I'm interested in or could become interested in, and just see what is out there. Because I knew in my heart, I never wanted to go back to trading, or that sort of dealing environment,. It was just, for me, it just wasn't going to happen. So, I gave myself a sort of ultimatum, learn something now and just see what happens.
Jeremy Cline 25:45
Did you set yourself any kind of deadline in terms of when you were going to start work of some description?
Chris Bryant 25:51
I mean, the only real deadline I set myself was, my wife and I sort of sat down and we budgeted, we were like, 'Right, we've got X amount in the bank, we can live relatively frugally.' You know, I touched on before, we've got two kids. And it's true, they are as happy playing with cardboard boxes as they are with 50-60 pound plastic robots. They just don't care. And in a way, the pandemic helped, because there was nowhere to go and spend money, apart from takeaways. We couldn't go on holiday. So, that didn't matter. We genuinely were okay. You know, it was like, for some reason, the weather seemed amazing. We were in the garden, having barbecues, I was doing some courses. And in all seriousness, although it was a very, very tough time, it was a great time, because it felt like things were happening, positive things were happening, even though there's a lot of negativity in the world. But it felt, because we were doing something about it, it was a really, really good positive feeling. And I've come out of that completely changed from where I was this time last year. In terms of deadlines, we kind of thought, 'Come this time next year, we might be struggling.' My wife is freelance, she works in costume for films, TV, obviously, that whole industry pretty much ground to a halt as well. So, yeah, I won't lie, it was a bit panicky. But again, I come back to where I said about, would I rather be at home panicking about what might happen this time next year, or would I rather be at work, miserable, stressed, depressed? You know, for me, there was no decision to make there, that was my only choice. I was just going to go for it. And what's the worst that can happen?
Jeremy Cline 27:40
Let's talk about pizza. After all of this, and all the courses and everything, how did you come to decide, 'I'm going to start a mobile pizza business'?
Chris Bryant 27:49
It's quite a funny question to answer. Because I remember years and years ago, I think we were going through a recession, and my boss at the time, who I've always had a huge amount of respect for, he's one of the most talented traders, one of the most knowledgeable people I've ever met, I remember him saying one day, do you know what, he said, 'I just wish I put my money in a pizza business.' He said, 'When everything else goes wrong, people will always keep eating pizzas.' And it kind of, that's what I've always remembered him saying, now, I can almost remember the colour of the tie he was wearing when he said it. It just kind of stuck in my head. And I've got a friend, it's actually my wife's friend's husband, who I'm good friends with. He finished up in a very similar situation to me, he was working for a big corporate, doing accounts, and just did not like it, had enough. He quit a bit before me, actually. And he was going through a similar sort of process of trying to think of what to do. And he sort of called up for chat one day, and we were just talking about it. And just during this conversation, I think I said to him, 'Yeah, I used to have this boss, he said, "When everything's going wrong, just buy pizzas".' And it just kind of started from there. And we thought, 'Well, let's just put some money into it. If it doesn't work, we'll sell what we bought, we'll hopefully come out of it flat if it doesn't work. If it does, great, we might actually make some money out of this. And so, yeah, that started the ball rolling and we bashed our heads together, and we got it up and running really quickly. But unfortunately, second and third lockdown weren't really what we were hoping for, or expecting, so it delayed things a bit. But at the moment, I'm concentrating on getting the brand going. I've got an app, which has just been developed this morning. I've just been messaged. So, yeah, you know, things are happening and it's good. And I love it. I genuinely love doing it. And bizarrely, I seem to be quite good at it. Blow my own trumpet, but I think you've got to if it's your own business.
Jeremy Cline 29:54
Are you doing the cooking and the baking and all that sort of stuff as well as the business side of things?
Chris Bryant 29:59
Yeah, I mean, I've never done this before. I've never had my own business before. I've never worked in food or hospitality. So, a couple of weeks ago, I thought I'll have a soft launch and just message the people on my street. You know, we've got a WhatsApp group, you know, and I thought three or four of them might come down. And it was fully booked, and it was fully booked the next day. And then, people started turning up on the third day saying, 'We're not from your street, but we've heard from other WhatsApp groups, there's this guy making pizzas in a horsebox on his drive, you should come check it out.' And then, second weekend, we were fully booked, this weekend gone, fully booked. I'm taking orders now for Thursday nights. It's crazy. So, initially, I thought it was just going to be myself doing it all, but pretty much from 10-15 minutes after opening, I've had to rope my wife in. Now, I've got someone else managing the oven while I'm making the pizzas, and I'm not expecting it to carry on this busy all the time. I'm sure it's a bit of maybe beginner's luck, and also, that we touched on the beginning, people want to do something new, or want to do something at the moment, rather than sit at home and watch Netflix. But at the moment, the support is there locally, and people are coming back if they can book a slot. And then, yeah, it's you know, it's great. I love it. I absolutely love it.
Jeremy Cline 31:23
It must have been something going through your mind. I mean, starting a business in effectively the hospitality industry during a pandemic. I mean, even if we weren't necessarily anticipating the lockdowns at the start of 2021, there must have been part of you that thought, 'Hang on, wait, I just have no idea what the future is going to look like.' I mean, why didn't that put you off?
Chris Bryant 31:43
You know what? I think it was just a case of, I didn't put a ton of pressure on myself to make it work. Maybe I was a little bit blasé, you know, got away with it. But I think a lot of the problems that people have, when it comes to changing jobs or changing their lifestyle, is unnecessary pressure, whether it's pressure that they put on themselves, or their families put on them, or you know, their environments put on them. I think I basically took the stance that, if it works, brilliant, if it doesn't, it's not the end of the world, do something else. The difference was this time that I realised there were other things to do. And I didn't expect this business to be as successful as it is at the moment. I thought it would work. Because I've always liked going to festivals. If I was going to a wedding and there was a pizza truck, I'd be hanging around that pizza truck all night. And I know I'm not the only one that thinks that way. As it turns out, Hitchin seems to be a town that absolutely loves pizzas. So, I've kind of struck lucky there. But I just thought, the worst-case scenario is we have to sell the pizza truck and the oven, and we'll probably get our money back, because it's a nice looking thing, blah, blah, blah. And yeah, that helped me start it with a sort of positive frame of mind. And I think you have to go into any project like this, thinking it's going to work, but at the same time being realistic that if it doesn't, okay, do something else. And I've also spent a lot of time, it's not like I spent in lockdown with freelancers, but I've spent more time at home in Hitchin seeing how small independent businesses come up with different ways to make things work. And I'm hugely in awe of these businesses who've started doing click and collect, suddenly rose, I don't know, you know, they're finding ways to make it work. And I think if you have that kind of drive, you've got something pushing you forward like that, it will make your business so much better than it would have been otherwise. You know, it's quite easy to become a little bit blasé and just, oh, yeah, people will come, you know, we're a nice pub, we serve decent beers, everyone will come. When you've got to change your marketing and your strategies of business to get people to come, that's what I think makes the difference between a really successful business and one that will probably just fade away into nothingness. I think this whole pandemic has been the ultimate test of what makes a good business a good business. And a lot of businesses won't come out of this, which is a shame, but maybe they wouldn't have lasted anyway. It's a horrible harsh thing to say, but maybe we do need a bit of a clear out. Maybe it is time that lots of things that aren't necessary go, and we people have a proper re-evaluation of what is important, what is good, what is sustainable, what is good for the environment. And I think this is kind of what's driven me on, is that, if I can make it work in this environment, it will be great once festivals are back on, once parties are back on, fingers crossed, I'll get some bookings and that will be my business. And I think if you're going to dive into something new, straight in at the deep end and see what happens.
Jeremy Cline 35:09
It's almost impossible in the current environment to predict what's going to happen in the future. But if we assume we get to a place where we have some kind of normality, where we have festivals and shows and weddings, where you can have more than 10 people, or whatever it is, and that kind of thing, I mean, do you have a five-year vision for your business? Is it just going to be kind of like a lifestyle business, just of you rocking up to these things and serving pizzas? Or do you have plans to expand it beyond that?
Chris Bryant 35:39
My next plan, or next part of the plan, I think is probably to get another one or two horseboxes and find similar towns to Hitchin, and do a similar sort of thing there, you know, train some people up and kind of franchise the brand. Again, I don't want to get ahead of myself. But I think if you do something well, and I think the way that my setup works is that it looks good, and it's in keeping with the environment it's in. It's a vintage horsebox, it's got fire and smoke coming out of it, it looks good, it smells great and it's covered in lights, it's a nice looking thing, and it fits where it is. And I think, for me as a business going forward, I want to try and find similar sort of environments, little towns that are supportive of local industry and independence. And I think that is going to be the way forward. People realise that they've got to look after their own, and small businesses all support each other. And I've always sort of thought everyone would be in competition. But as soon as I set up Lost Nomads, I thought, I want to get involved with other small businesses. And because I know now where they're at, I want to help them, if I can promote them, they can promote me. And it's a great little business network that everyone gains from. The community gains, because they're getting passionate people making their dinner, making their coffee, whatever, serving their drinks, you know, they're getting people who care, and you get a better service. And I think going forward, hopefully, we're going to have more independence back on the high street, probably most likely to be food, hospitality-related, rather than shops, unfortunately, but Amazon tells us what we want to buy and when we want to buy it and how, and how many minutes before it gets delivered. So, I don't know what's going to happen there. But I do think in terms of the hospitality side of things, independence are going to really come back strong. And I'd, you know, quite like to be part of that, to be honest?
Jeremy Cline 37:48
Chris, this has been an absolutely amazing story. I mean, aside from having the counselling and the support of your family and friends, are there any other resources, books, quotes, just something else that you can point listeners to, that have really helped you in your journey?
Chris Bryant 38:01
That's a good question. I think one that I've always, one quote that I've always liked, and I think it was, you know, the old favourite Churchill, and I think he said, 'If you're going through hell, then just keep going', with the idea that you're going to come out of it at some point. And I did quite often think how am I going to get out of this situation. I mean, it sounds bad, I do feel bad for saying it, because the reality was, my lifestyle, for a lot of people, would have been incredible. You know, they would have thought, 'Well, you know, they've got this, they've got that, they've been here on holiday.' But it doesn't, all of those things don't give you good mental health, and I wasn't in a good place at all. And not having any money for a while hasn't bothered me, because I've spent time with my kids, I've spent time my wife, I've spent time listening to the radio, I spent an awful lot of time trying pizzas, way too much time trying pizzas. But I really did feel like I was going through hell. And I now feel I've come out of it 1000 times happier than I thought I would have been ever. So, there's always light at the end of the tunnel.
Jeremy Cline 39:10
That's amazing. And where can people find you? Where can they find Lost Nomads Pizzas?
Chris Bryant 39:15
One thing I'm not good at is social media and advertising and that sort of business. Best way to find us at the moment is on Instagram, Lost Nomads Pizza. And there are links there where people can order for click and collect. We have got a website under development, but it will happen when it happens. At the moment, we're extremely grateful for the local support we've been getting, word seems to be spreading street by street, which is fine. But yeah, Lost Nomads Pizza on Instagram is a good starting point.
Jeremy Cline 39:48
Awesome. I'll put a link to that in the show notes. Chris, thanks so much for this conversation. And good luck with it, as we come out this pandemic, best of luck with the business.
Chris Bryant 39:57
Thanks so much. It's been good talking to you.
Jeremy Cline 40:00
Okay, I hope you enjoyed that interview with Chris Bryant. I don't think there could be many interviews where I've nodded along with what my guest was saying quite as much as I was as Chris was talking. So much resonated with me, the fact that he was earning well and had fears about leaving that behind if he changed jobs, the impact that starting a family has on your outlook, and ultimately, the realisation as a result of the pandemic, that now is a great time to make changes. Clearly, quitting your job without having something to go to, as Chris did, isn't for everybody, but certainly, starting to think, to plan, to set the scene for what you might change to, that's definitely something that we can do straight away. And it's worth bearing in mind what Chris was saying about the pressure that we put upon ourselves to make things work. We've touched on it before, but when you think about it, what is the worst-case scenario? What really can go so badly wrong? Chances are, when you think about it, it's not going to be that bad. You're going to get by, you're going to make ends meet, there will be alternatives out there if things don't go to plan. So, I hope that was helpful and maybe gave you some inspiration if you've been thinking about changing career as a result of what's been going on over the past 12 months or so. As I mentioned at the start of this episode, I'm hoping that this is going to be a short series of interviews with people for whom the pandemic has caused them to make some substantial changes to their career and their plans. And I'd also love to hear from you. If you've got a story about the pandemic and how it's affected your career. Or maybe you know someone who's changed as a direct result of the pandemic. Well, I'd love to hear from you. If you go to changeworklife.com/contact, there's a form there and I read every message and I will reply to you as quickly as I can. As always, you'll also find the show notes for this episode on the website there at cjangeworklife.com/95. We're getting a lot closer to Episode 100, and I've got something special planned to mark that. So, make sure you hit subscribe, so you don't miss a single episode. And I can't wait to see you next week when we've got another great interview for you. Cheers. Bye.
Sign up to receive email updates
Enter your name and email address below and I'll send you periodic updates about the podcast.
Thank you for listening!
If you have any questions or comments, please fill out the form on the Contact page.
I would be so grateful if you’d: