Lead­ing the way in healthy meals to go

The Irish Times - Business - - WORLD OF WORK - MICHELLE JACK­SON gourmet­fuel.com

Gourmet Fuel is a health food com­pany started by sib­lings, Rob and Emma Buck­ley. In­cor­po­rated in 2014, it be­gan trading Jan­uary 2015 with a year of re­search and de­vel­op­ment be­hind them and with a staff of seven. Hav­ing bro­ken even in April 2016, it now em­ploys 15 full-time staff and is fast be­com­ing the leader in healthy meal de­liv­ery com­pa­nies in Ire­land.

What sets your busi­ness apart from the com­pe­ti­tion?

At Gourmet­Fuel, we take the work out of healthy eat­ing. Our slo­gan is “healthy eat­ing made easy”. As nu­tri­tion­ists, we ad­vise and cre­ate meal plans and, as chefs, we pre­pare the meals and send them to our cus­tomers.

We help clients to achieve weight/body com­po­si­tion goals and, of course, weight loss, weight gain, re­hab from surgery etc. They range from 80+ year olds right through to young fam­i­lies. We have had some clients for over two years, week in week out. It’s just a dif­fer­ent way to shop for them now. With de­liv­ery na­tion­wide, our team of qual­i­fied nu­tri­tion­ists ad­vise our clients and cre­ate new meals and meal plans to suit their needs.

What was the best piece of busi­ness ad­vice you’ve ever re­ceived?

I’ve had a lot of great men­tors along the way and I’ve been for­tu­nate to learn a lot from very suc­cess­ful peo­ple. I think the key thing is al­ways to be teach­able and will­ing to learn/adopt new strate­gies and to also know your strengths and your weak­nesses. Thanks, Mark Cag­ney!

What’s the big­gest mis­take you’ve made in busi­ness?

If it sounds too good to be true, it gen­er­ally is. Put­ting all our eggs in one bas­ket and believ­ing rel­a­tive strangers (with an agenda) about the suc­cess of a par­tic­u­lar gig. I’m a very trust­ing per­son, I don’t want that to change but I have a healthy dose of scep­ti­cism now.

And your ma­jor suc­cess to date?

Hav­ing a start-up com­pany in the in­cred­i­bly com­pet­i­tive food in­dus­try and be­ing able to break even af­ter 16 months trading, and now em­ploy­ing 15 peo­ple and grow­ing.

Who do you most ad­mire in busi­ness and why?

I ad­mire fe­male busi­ness own­ers. Caro­line Keel­ing of Keel­ings Fruit was in­cred­i­bly gen­er­ous with her time and ad­vice to me when I was start­ing Gourmet­Fuel. She in­spired me to dig in, be cre­ative and work hard. I think she’s one of Ire­land’s most tal­ented, gen­uine and smart busi­ness own­ers.

Clodagh Ed­wards, chief ex­ec­u­tive of Im­age pub­li­ca­tions, sim­i­larly, is a dy­namic, mo­ti­vat­ing CEO who looks af­ter her team, her clients and her board.

Based on your ex­pe­ri­ence in the down­turn, are the banks in Ire­land open for busi­ness to SMEs?

Yes, but with a lot of hur­dles to jump through, which is no bad thing. Back­ing Brave was a great cam­paign by AIB and we ap­pealed to them on that ba­sis and they couldn’t say we weren’t brave!

What one piece of ad­vice would you give the Gov­ern­ment to help stim­u­late the econ­omy?

In terms of the gov­ern­ment and busi­ness, I’d like En­ter­prise Ire­land to change their agenda re­gard­ing only sup­port­ing ex­port busi­nesses. Surely, em­ploy­ment and cre­at­ing a valu­able prod­uct for the Ir­ish mar­ket is wor­thy? We plan to ex­port but not yet and maybe only with a fran­chise model. We’re too big for LEO sup­port and don’t qual­ify for EI.

What’s been the big­gest chal­lenge you have had to face?

There have been many, both per­son­ally and pro­fes­sion­ally. One mo­ment in par­tic­u­lar stands out when Rob and I lost our fa­ther the week of a huge event, which took a mas­sive toll on us. We had lit­er­ally 20,000+ meals to pre­pare and de­liver, the lo­gis­tics of which were a nightmare. Our small team ral­lied to­gether, clients helped out. Friends and fam­ily mem­bers helped out and we got the job done. I still look back at that time and thank them for be­ing there for us through one of the hard­est weeks of our lives.

There have been long, long days and weeks, some­times clock­ing up 90 hours. My son has grown up around Gourmet­Fuel – we call him the Mas­cot. My par­ents ran their own busi­ness and, with small fam­ily busi­nesses, you’re never fully clocked off. It didn’t do me any harm and I cer­tainly don’t feel short changed. But I do try to put the lap­top down, put the phone on air­plane mode and fo­cus on im­por­tant qual­ity time at home.

How do you see the short-term fu­ture for your busi­ness?

We are grow­ing. Each week sees more in­ter­est in what we’re do­ing and each month we see re­ten­tion of our ex­ist­ing clients. Cus­tomer ser­vice is paramount, it’s my golden rule. Our client’s goals are our goals and, if we de­liver what they want and help them achieve their health goals, then we’re do­ing our job.

What’s your busi­ness worth and would you sell it?

Work­ing off a mul­ti­ple of earn­ings be­fore in­ter­est, tax, de­pre­ci­a­tion and amor­ti­sa­tion is the way it’s be­ing looked at right now, which is in­spir­ing for growth. In terms of an of­fer to buy Gourmet­Fuel, Rob and I both say, “We’ll know it when we hear it!”

Emma Buck­ley: “I’ve had a lot of great men­tors along the way”

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