Inside Track: GourmetFuel co-founder Emma Buckley
Company is fast becoming the leader in healthy meal delivery companies in Ireland
GourmetFuel co-founder Emma Buckley: “I do try to put the laptop down, put the phone on airplane mode and focus on important quality time at home.”
GourmetFuel 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!”