04 - Oli Perron - Growing Lunchd, maker of remarkable lunches for teams, meetings and events.
Lunchd started out almost by accident. It took a catalyst and Oli’s love of the food world to materialise. Today they provide delicious and super healthy lunches to professional events and meetings. They’re now working hard to expand into offices to serve teams lunch on a daily basis.
But as with all businesses, Oli has faced challenges both while growing Lunchd and while experimenting with other businesses. In this episode we explore his journey and some of the challenges that he has overcome.
A world of food.
Oli isn’t a stranger to the food industry; from washing up in his dad’s shop, to being head chef, to selling fresh produce to top restaurants and businesses in London, Oli has had a diverse exposure to the food industry.
His love of the beaches enticed Oli to leave his job in London and move to Bournemouth. It was there that he started to sell produce to restaurants on a small scale. However, without the benefits of economies of scale and a small amount of starting capital, the business didn’t take off.
Despite this setback Oli kept on moving forward. He landed himself a job as an account manager at digital agency in Bournemouth, enabling him to be exposed to a number of different brands and learn new skills in digital, branding and storytelling.
But after four years Oli decided that he needed to move back into food. Leveraging his newfound experience he thought he’d have a better chance at selling fresh produce again.
It wasn’t long before the agency that Oli used to work at contacted him. They wanted him to make some lunch for a meeting. It was a great success. Pictures of his food soon reached Twitter, attracting other local agencies to place orders. This was the start of Lunchd.
Many of Oli’s customers would go on to post pictures of his lunches, making social media an instrumental part of Lunchd’s growth.
Oli worked hard to leverage the exposure he was getting on social media. He was chopping with one hand while tweeting with the other!
The great feedback from his customers was also a major driving factor for Oli. It helped him to work through the rough times and served as a reminder of the progress that he was making.
His supply of lunches to meetups in Bournemouth allowed him to reach a new audience who’d get to try his food first-hand. He also started a vlog, which helped stir interest outside of the digital agency world.
Someone else will do it... Or should you?
Interestingly, the idea for Lunchd is something that Oli had considered before without actually starting it. He thought that it was something that somebody else should do. It wasn’t until he got that initial request for lunches that he took on the challenge himself.
The importance of being customer obsessed.
When starting out there was little competition, or so Oli thought. Looking back on it Oli notes that there were not many businesses offering the same thing as Lunchd, however almost everyone was still eating lunch.
This highlights a benefit of being customer obsessed. Rather than focusing on your solution and considering the competition to be businesses that offer a similar solution, you should look at your customers and the problem that you are solving for them. It naturally follows that your competition are the businesses that are solving that same problem.
Start out simple and gain traction.
Today Lunchd have a slim menu that changes each day. This reduces wastage and saves money so that they can use better produce while still charging less than a traditional restaurant. It also simplifies and speeds up the preparation of each lunch, allowing Oli to scale without taking on lots of staff.
Oli plans to start trialing slick vending machines that could allow him to serve lunches to teams every day, rather than just at meetings and events. This highlights his use of a scaled-back offering to both prove the business and get started with a smaller investment. Now that Lunchd has traction he’ll have an easier job of bringing investors onboard.
He also notes that since he started Lunchd certain technologies have matured that open up an easier, faster path to achieving his original vision. The vending machines are an example of one of those advancements.
You're going to cringe.
If he did it all again Oli would start out with more capital and fewer expenses — in the early days of Lunchd he had an expensive flat which used up money that could have been reinvested. The main reason for that is that he didn’t realise how long it would take to grow Lunchd's cashflow.
When looking back on his journey so far Oli did many things that make him cringe. However, if he hadn't done those things Lunchd wouldn't be in existence today.
These are just a few of my takeaways from my chat with Oli. Listen to this episode and follow the ups and downs of Lunchd. Learn from Oli’s successes and his failures, without having to fail yourself!