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Kyhee Douglas-Francis

Computer Science BSc (Hons)

After having to find an alternative way to secure his place at BCU, Kyhee, who always had aspirations to become an entrepreneur and his own boss, founded his own company Genna’s Kitchen while studying. He has since expanded his offering to stores across the UK and has high hopes for the future of his business, but he says he couldn’t have done it without the skills that BCU provided.

“As a child, I always enjoyed computers and how systems were built and how things work, so throughout school and college, I always planned to go to university and study Computer Science.

But after my A-Levels, I didn’t have enough UCAS points to get onto the course, so I had a gap year and I did an access course at a local college which then gave me enough UCAS points to get into university. I had always liked BCU and had visited on several occasions before becoming a student. It was local to me and I really liked the look of the course itself too.

In my second year of studying, I founded Genna's Kitchen and employed my mum and grandmother to work for me. It all started with me sending a message to about 50 friends telling them that I was selling a lobster platter for £20.

It was really hard setting up and running the business alongside my degree. The course required a lot of concentration with a huge amount of maths, which I often struggled with. So running the business alongside it was really difficult as the business thrived straight away after I started and went straight into the fast lane with it. I always wanted to be an entrepreneur and be my own boss, but never knew in what form it would take. But I ended up just coming across the food side of things and just running with it and seeing where it would take me.

My mother helped me source the ingredients and stock from multiple vendors and wholesalers, as well as being the chef, creating our flavoursome dishes. After just weeks of selling food to family and friends, I started an Instagram account, enabling me to branch out to a much wider audience. I then decided to branch out into drinks offerings too.

Before graduating, I wrote a three year business plan and decided that in addition to the food menu, I would also offer a mixed fruit punch drink to sell alongside my meals called Genna Juice – Sky Juice. I first began just using water bottles to produce and sell the original flavour. But since then, I have developed the range to include Grape, Exotic and Pineapple, with more flavours coming soon.

As demand kept increasing, I was unable to mix and bottle enough Sky Juice per week to keep up with the demand, so I approached a bottling company to find out the procedures for me to bottle and factorise the product. I then trailed and tested my product for 12 months before I had my first production line batch of drinks.

I then started to approach local shops in my area to see if they would stock the Genna Juice. I produced my first batch of drinks in April 2020, and within 3 months I had more than 70 shops across the UK selling my products.”

Since then, I have stopped using the family kitchen as the company base, and now have my own unit on an industrial estate for all preparation and selling of both our food and drink options. Having my own unit has enabled me to expand my business from only serving Friday and Saturday to Wednesday to Saturday, with the intention to open seven days a week soon. I’ve also been able to expand my menu and to serve more food at a quicker pace with a much higher quality.

My career so far has been life changing. Starting the drinks element to the company required a lot of time and effort week in and week out. A normal working day for me includes stock take and restocking on what is needed, as well as contacting all the shops that sell Genna Juice to see if they also need new stock and if they do, I have to get that stock over to them. The job is all about juggling everything, from selling food to delivering drinks, as well as keeping on top of invoices, finances and administration.

Since graduating from BCU, I’m most proud of building my kitchen from scratch. My degree taught me how to be super organised, which is really helpful when you’re managing your own business. I’m also really proud of myself for completing the degree even when the business was taking off. When I graduated, I was so happy that I’d managed to achieve both things in my life. I never thought I’d be able to do it, but I did.

In the long term, I would love for my business to become franchised. I love what I’m doing now, but eventually, rather than me being in the restaurant, cooking food, serving food and delivering it, I’d like to be based more at the processing centre and making sure that everything is being sent out to each franchise.

My advice to current students thinking about setting up their own business is to always have a back-up. I’m confident in what I do, but only because I know I also have a degree. So if the business did suddenly go away, I do have my qualification to try something else. The fact that I do have that option if I ever needed it, pushes me to do well in what I want to do with the business.”

Genna Juice will be featured at BCU catering outlets during October as part of a collaboration for Black History Month. They will be available at the campus where the Black History Month roadshow is on that day throughout the month.