Lucia Founder of Hot and Wild Poke

 A 23-year-old woman from Salford has shared how she started her one-woman-only healthy fast-food business from scratch. 

Located in Kargo food hall in MediaCity, Hot and Wild Poke began in 2022 after founder Lucia Piekarski tried a poke bowl in Belgium for the first time.

On her return to Manchester, she searched for something as good but couldn’t find anything that hit the spot. Lucia said: “The poke bowls here were typically served cold, and in October, in Manchester, you don’t really want to be eating cold food.”

She continued: “I thought, how great would it be to create somewhere that served healthy fast food but was also really delicious and fulfilling.”

From then on, Lucia decided to take the leap from being self-employed in recruitment to an industry she had no prior experience. She added: “Before this, I had never worked in a kitchen. I had no hospitality experience.” But that wouldn’t stop her from bringing her vision to life.

“I searched on YouTube how to make the food, and then I would go to the food market, get what I need and just practise.”

To get real feedback to work from, Lucia said:  “I took the food to community spaces to see how people reacted to the food, how the kitchen would work and just get a sense of what I needed to do.”

“It was all about listening to feedback and taking that into consideration, not taking it personally.”

Lucia serving Hot and Wild Poke
Lucia serving Hot and Wild Poke

Receiving feedback and going through the motions of trial and error was challenging. However, Lucia admitted, “I always knew I wanted to start a business. So, I was very ready for it in my mind.”

She went on to explain how she prepared herself to take Hot and Wild Poke from an idea to a reality,

“I did a lot of networking,” Lucia said. She would search Google for networking events within the food industry, then turn up with a business card she had designed and tell people that she was starting her Hot and Wild Poke.

Eventually, Lucia said: “I found a growth company, and through them, I found a mentor who specialised in the food industry.”

Having a mentor was a key element to Lucia’s success: “He mentored me and guided me in the right direction.

“Through my mentor, I met the owners of Kargo, the food hall Hot and Wild Poke operates in.”

From there, she began making her dreams a reality. “It was a lot of preparation and thought that went into it,” she added.

Considering the current cost-of-living crisis, Lucia said one key thing she did was manage the risks to ensure she could accommodate what she wanted to do. “I had savings which I had prepared, as I knew I wanted to start a business one day.”

As well as her savings, she took out a personal loan for business use and began distributing that in accordance with her plan.

Hot and Wild Poke Bowl
Lucia serving Hot and Wild Poke

Hot and Wild Poke has been up and running in the Kargo food hall for two months, with only one staff member, Lucia, who runs the business from Thursday to Sunday weekly.

“I knew it was going to be really difficult, so when it was difficult, I’d have a cry, I’d have a breakdown, and then I would pick myself back up.” She explains, “When you’re in it, and you’re doing it, you don’t have time to deliberate if you want to carry on; you just have to get on with it, and you just have to find a way to make it work.”

Recently, Lucia reached a big milestone after receiving her first order on Deliveroo. When asked to reflect on her accomplishments in the past year, she said, “One of my biggest accomplishments is how much I have learnt.”

Through all it has taken for her to build her brand, Lucia says, “My confidence has grown, and I am so much better at tackling problems as they come.”

Although Lucia has seemingly already come so far since beginning her business, she is already working towards her next big vision: “My big goal is to have a healthy fast-food chain using the poke bowl concept.” When asked about possible locations, she admitted, “I’m looking into expanding into Liverpool and Sheffield.”

Lucia advises those who want to start a business to “just absolutely do it.”, adding: “If you are going to do it, make sure you’re really passionate about it.

“It has been so difficult, but I don’t think I have ever been happier because I am doing something I really love and care about.”

@sophieawajan um thank u for existing #pokebowl #pokebowls #sushi #bahnmi #salford #manchester #greatermanchester #foodreview #journalism ♬ My Addiction – Alex Guesta

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