For Paul Mulligan, founder of Chef in a Box, a maker of premium handmade meals in Drumshanbo, Co Leitrim, invoice finance provided a recipe for success. He set up the business in 2009 but, since working with Bibby from 2013, he has increased the number of supermarkets he supplies from 60 to 159, pushing turnover from €1m to €2.5m. Chains he supplies include SuperValu, Centra, Spar and Londis.
Paul has a long history of working with food, having worked all across Europe until he set up Chef in a Box. At a certain point, Paul was at a crossroads – and invoice finance suited perfectly as the funding came from his debtors and this meant he didn’t need to seek any investors.
Banks were reluctant to fund the business and there were lots of delays and bureaucracy. With BFSI, funds were secured in less than a week – once they had completed thorough checks of his business. He understands it’s all about customer relationships – with his customers and between himself and Bibby.
Mulligan reckons the facility costs him 1.5% of his turnover. “Once you have it managed, it is not expensive. We draw down our money every three days, for example, where we used to draw it down daily,” he said.
He’s very positive about BFSI – they catch challenges before he does and advance him the cash when required.
Chef in a box have recently been exceeding their sales targets and BFSI have helped them put practices into place to help – Paul thinks it’s great to work with a lender who understands his business properly.
“If I got a new shop, Bibby would give me 75% of the money within 24 hours, and that enabled me to grow,” he said.
He’s constantly refreshing products and ramping up instore activity – all of this is possible because BFSI are on the button… they’re constantly supporting and advising him on the best way to do business, even encouraging him to streamline the business to only supply those who will pay on time.
Growth can pitch a company into “a Catch-22 situation”, he warns. “When you are growing, you need to win customers, so you supply them, but then you don’t want to be annoying them by chasing payment.”
Invoice finance has given Mulligan the confidence to add new customers. “It’s not expensive, if you have discipline with your customers and you’ve got a good business,” he said.“Luckily, my products are flying off the shelves and having it in place means I can grow at the rate the market dictates.”