Genius: Lucinda Bruce-Gardyne
Tell us what your business doesGenius Foods is a gluten-free food company
Where did the idea for your business come from? I have three sons, two of whom have food allergies. Prior to having my children, I trained as a chef at Bibendum restaurant in London and went on to teach at Leith’s School of Food of Wine where I co-authored their Techniques Bible. When I discovered that two of my children had food allergies I decided to write a book called How to Cook for Food Allergies. During this time I learnt the intricacies of cooking gluten-free food and I found gluten-free bread to be the biggest challenge. I continued work on the recipe for that after the book was published until I was convinced that there was nothing else like it on the market.
Have you always wanted to run your own business? I used to run my own business before when I catered for exclusive parties and events in London. I enjoy having my own company as I am self-motivated and driven.
What planning did you do before you started up? I built a team around me that could help take the product to market as it wasn’t something I had ever done before. I took a loaf into the bakery of my local Sainsbury’s store and they pointed me in the direction of a gluten-free bakery. Sir Bill Gammell, European Entrepreneur of the Year and CEO of Cairn Energy, has also been involved from the start, providing not only financial backing but also advice, and he put me in touch with a brand management company that developed the brand and business strategy. Following 12 months of intensive product development Genius gluten-free fresh bread was launched in April 2009.
How did you raise the money? I was very fortunate to have met Sir Bill who is the father of one of my son’s friends at school. He suffers from Coeliac Disease, tried my bread and loved it. He has been instrumental in helping me set-up the business.
How did you find suppliers? Genius bread is produced in the UK by a dedicated gluten-free bakery. I was very fortunate that the bakery was close by and interested in manufacturing for me since they also realised the market potential for my bread.
Where is your business based? The office is in central Edinburgh which is easy to walk to and the bakery is a 40 minute drive away. Fortunately the bakery is on the same side of Edinburgh as the children’s school so school runs are not too challenging.
How have you promoted your business? We’ve promoted to our target market via Coeliac UK, who are the registered charity for Coeliac Disease but there is a huge market out there of people who avoid gluten and we reach them through PR, online marketing, and sampling. There is also a lot of word-of-mouth support and interest for new products amongst the gluten-free community.
What about staff? We have 11 staff members at the moment across finance, sales, marketing, customer service and HR. It’s a close knit team and we are growing all the time.
What has your growth been like? We have grown very quickly and are now stocked in Tesco, Sainsbury’s, Waitrose, and ASDA as well as a number of independent retail outlets. We have become brand leader across the ‘free from’ bakery, cakes and morning goods sector and have won several awards for innovation and quality including the Baking Industry Awards for Innovation and the Gold Q Award at the Quality Food Awards. Our next step is to launch more products into the range.
What’s the impact on your home life been like? Until we put suitable childcare in place we found school pick up times and holidays a bit of a juggle. With limited holiday time, weekends and time off with the children have become very precious.
What was your first big breakthrough? The first breakthrough was when I finally cracked the recipe in my kitchen – I knew I’d done it when my children said that the bread tasted delicious and asked for the rest. The second defining moment was getting the listing in Tesco as they were our first retailer to come on board and gave us nationwide distribution which was a fantastic platform for the brand’s launch.
What would you do differently? Be bolder from the beginning – I’d put more capacity in place to satisfy demand for our products.
Where do you want to be in five years’ time? I want to grow the business by developing a range of high quality products both in this country and overseas to help improve the quality of life for people on a gluten free diet.