Inside Track: Ania Szewczyk, chef and fitness trainer
The owner of Ania’s Fit Kitchen combines her training with her passion for healthy living
Ania Szewczyk: “The constant challenge for me is balancing my business and my family”
Ania Szewczyk is the owner and head chef at Ania’s Fit Kitchen. Having trained as a chef, nutritionist and personal trainer, Szewczyk has developed a business that combines all her training as well as her passion for healthy living.
Ania’s Fit Kitchen designs clean meal plans and workouts aimed at its clients’ needs. Clients can access an easy, nutritious, and economical way to eat well and workout, without the headache of having to source ingredients and cook a good meal. Ania’s Fit Kitchen delivers meals to its clients each week in keeping with their meal plans and fitness goals.
What sets your business apart from the competition?
We do individual consultations with the customers so we know their likes and dislikes as well as any allergies they have. We also discuss their goals with them, whether its weight loss, increased fitness etc. We change our menu every week. We are very passionate about health and healthy eating and we are focused on helping our customers achieve their goals as simply as possible.
What has been your biggest challenge in business?
The constant challenge for me is balancing my business and my family. I have an 18-year-old daughter and a five-year-old daughter and I find myself having to be in two different worlds, being everything from a friend to my eldest to a fairy for my youngest. When you run your own business, there is so much on your shoulders, that pressure is a constant challenge.
What’s been your biggest mistake in business?
When I started, I put too much money into each meal. My costs were far too high. I’m bad at maths and I was trying to calculate at the end of every week whether I had made any money or not. I was too focused on making sure I had put the best ingredients in every dish without thinking about the costs.
I had to find a way of ensuring the health, nutrition and taste aspects of each dish were balanced with what each dish cost.
The other mistake I had was giving up on this business once or twice before. I kept making excuses for why it wouldn’t work when in fact I just needed to be more resourceful.
What’s been your biggest business success?
When I get a phone call or email from someone saying they reached a goal they had set – it could be weight loss or a fitness target – I love that. But the biggest success I have in my life is when my daughters tell me they love me. At the end of the day, that’s when I really feel like I’m doing a good job.
In your experience, are the banks open for business?
Yes. I am with AIB and, even though I have self-financed this business, I have gone to them for advice and had really good support. Recently, I have gone to them about expanding, and they have given me really good advice. I am putting together a business plan at the moment for expanding the business, but they have always supported me.
What advice would you give to the Government to help SMEs and stimulate the economy?
I have had difficulty at times when I tried to apply for grants. I think the Government could make this process easier for people.
Who is your hero in business and why?
My grandfather Joseph is my chef hero. He was a chef in Paris and he taught me to cook at a very young age. I have wonderful memories of cooking with him. Oliver Dunne is my business hero. He has three restaurants: Bon Appetit, Cleaver East and Beef & Lobster. I really admire him as a chef but also how he is as a businessman and how he has developed his restaurants. He gave me great advice when I was starting out, particularly about costing a dish without compromising on the nutritional content or the quality of ingredients. It’s an ambition of mine to own a small restaurant and I really admire Oliver’s style of cooking, it’s similar to mine.
What was the best business advice you ever received?
Keep things simple! Oliver Dunne taught me that also. I was trying to offer too many dishes at the beginning and Oliver advised me to start with a few dishes, know what I can afford to offer and grow from there.
What’s the short-term future for your business?
At the moment I am looking at expanding. This is a challenge because we are so busy and I have to try to meet those demands while developing the business at the same time because the demand is there. I am looking at locations because we need a bigger commercial kitchen. I would like to have two more refrigerated vans on the road for delivery and to begin to offer our services outside Dublin.
I would really like to have a contract with hospitals. I think it’s really important to offer healthy nutritious food in hospitals and I think our meals would be ideal for that setting.
What’s the business worth and would you sell it?
My business is my passion and we are on an upwards curve at the moment in terms of growth and expansion, so at the moment I wouldn’t sell.