Britain the target for Mexican food chain Boojum

EY Entrepreneur of the Year finalist David Maxwell of Boojum

David Maxwell, managing director of Boojum.

David Maxwell, managing director of Boojum.


Since he started collecting glasses in a bar in Belfast 25 years ago, David Maxwell has built up a raft of experience and now is the managing director of Mexican fast casual food brand Boojum.

In under three years the company has grown from five locations and 120 staff to what will be 20 locations across a number of stores with 600 staff.

Maxwell has targeted the brand at a core market of young professionals and students aged 18-40, with the disposable income and desire to eat out regularly in the evening but also requiring speedy delivery at lunchtime.

Having set out studying aeronautical engineering, Maxwell realised that wasn’t his passion. In 2002, when he told his father he had received an opportunity to go to Arizona to start an Irish pub business, he was told to go after it even though his dad didn’t want him to leave.

With outlets in Belfast, Dublin, Galway, Limerick and Cork, Maxwell is now targeting Britain.


What is your greatest business achievement to date?

Putting the deal together to buy Boojum in 2015 was a challenge and something I am very proud of. It required bringing private equity and a bank together. Since then we have not looked back and have achieved so many amazing things. In the past three years one thing sticks out as our proudest achievement and that was being recognised as a great place to work in 2017 (recognition it has obtained from the Great Place to Work institute).


What were the best and the worst pieces of advice you received when starting out?

The best advice was from my dad and that was simply to go and make the best of a good opportunity. I can’t say I’ve had bad advice at any point but prior to starting out in business I worked for a few companies opening bars and restaurants. I probably learned more from watching their mistakes than anything else. Experience is crucial in our industry.


How are international political developments such as Donald Trump’s presidency and tax reform along with Brexit affecting

your business?

Brexit has not influenced many decisions to date. However, initial currency movements related to Brexit have presented challenges. Trading and purchasing in multiple currencies can create risk in the business if not well managed. Looking forward, we are trying to understand what the impact of a hard/soft Brexit might be on our supply chain and logistics.


How does ‘red tape’ hamper your growth?

The predominant route for growth for Boojum is opening new stores, which involves property acquisition and fit out. Both can be held up by legal, planning and building control regulation. We have a site now that has been delayed for months incurring holding rent, staff wages and other fixed costs as a result.


What is the most common mistake you see entrepreneurs make?

Delegation – I struggle with this myself on occasion. I see entrepreneurs getting stuck in the detail of items that should be left to their team. This takes up valuable time, preventing them from thinking about the bigger picture.


Who has been the greatest influence on your career or who do you admire most in business?

There’s no substitute for hard work – my mum and dad taught me that, and were my biggest role models. My mum was the most honest hard-working person I ever met and instilled those values in me. They stick with me every day. My dad knew exactly what to say at the right time. He gave me the confidence I needed to go off and be an entrepreneur.