GourmetOrigins: Miquel Ros
The co-founder on finding finance and facilities through start-up schemes
Tell us what your business does:
GourmetOrigins.com is an online marketplace for European artisan and high quality foods.
Where did the idea for your business come from?
Before GourmetOrigins we were working in very different areas (Alex in web development and myself in the financial services industry) but we both had our passion for food and travel in common. We liked tasting foods from different places and learning about their origins.
We realised this was a very fragmented market where information was scattered over many different sources, so we thought there might be an opportunity to create value by placing all this information on a single platform that facilitated the discovery of unique foods.
What’s your unique selling point?
We are focused on explaining the origins of foods and the story behind really unique specialities, while providing a great user experience – a place where people that love food can find inspiration.
We think there is a growing market for companies that see food as an experience, rather than simply a functional product. Mass-market is no longer appealing and people are looking for unique products.
What were you doing before starting up?
Alex has a degree in digital media and worked as a freelance web developer, participating in projects for large corporations like Audi and Cadbury, and also for start-ups.
I hold a master’s degree from the London School of Economics. Before starting GourmetOrigins.com, I worked in new product development at Bloomberg.
Have you always wanted to run your own business?
I had always had the idea of working on my own and it was just a matter of circumstances allowing me to do so. I had reached a tipping point in my career, so did not think twice when the opportunity came. It is a lifestyle choice, it is not about the potential financial upside.
What planning did you do before you started up?
We did market research and drafted a business plan, although we have updated it several times as we’ve tested our ideas in the market.
How did you raise the money?
We raised money from Openfund, which invests in early-stage internet projects. They make an annual call for projects (a sort of contest) and select the best to receive seed capital investment.
We also had some rejections along the way, but we always try to learn from these. Often potential investors will provide feedback on their perceived weaknesses of the project and this ends up making you stronger.
How did you find suppliers?
With lots of “field work”: attending events, cold calling, getting referrals.
What challenges have you faced and how have you overcome them?
Everything is a bit of a challenge when you are starting with little capital.
Cash flow management is possibly the most important, because without cash you cannot go on and, cash is one of the things that is most scarce.
Where is your business based?
We are based in London and use the facilities of Accelerator – the start-up incubator of London’s Metropolitan University.
We do lots of work from home, as it is mostly online, and also have a small office in Barcelona (where I spend part of my time).
How have you promoted your business?
We have done a bit of everything: participating in events, online ads, mailings, social media. We have just launched our own affiliates programme, which allows food bloggers to participate in our business by referring us traffic and getting a share of revenue.
At the end of the day, organic traffic is the most cost-effective you can get – and it builds over time. Having a good blog helps a lot!
How much do you charge?
We charge commission on every sale that producers get through our marketplace.
What about staff – how many do you have?
At the moment it’s only us two founders, but we have contracted work outside the company when needed.
It is a bit burdensome in terms of workload, but we’d prefer to stay lean while we develop and roll out our concept.
What has your growth been like?
We launched very recently so it is very early to mention representative figures. December and the results of our first Christmas campaign were really encouraging.
What’s the impact on your home life been like?
On the one hand, the frontier between work and leisure has become blurred. But on the other, we get a lot of flexibility.
What would you say the greatest difficulty has been in starting up?
Securing access to the capital that would allow us to dedicate ourselves to the project.
What was your first big breakthrough?
Getting the first orders’ notifications!
What would you do differently?
I would possibly have been more focused from the very beginning. We were flirting with too many ideas and potential business models at the start of the project and this slowed us down.
It’s better to focus on something and do it well.
What advice would you give to budding entrepreneurs?
Go ahead and fulfil your dreams. Be prepared to work hard and be very focused.
It can be really tough but it is definitely life-changing.
Where do you want to be in five years’ time?
We would like GourmetOrigins.com to be the reference site in Europe for artisan and high quality foods.
We like this sector and are in it for the long-term, but who knows what’s next? Five years is a lot of time in the life of an entrepreneur!