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Although he is not technically the founder of confectionery company Aldomak, Managing Director Dario Riccomini was a crucial figure in the growth of the company when he decided to take on an Aldi contract he was not even sure he could fulfil.
What does your company do?
Aldomak has been making traditional confectionery since 1932 in Glasgow and the business has evolved from servicing the wide network of Italian cafes, restaurants and eateries to supplying some of the successful high street retailers like Aldi and Waitrose.
What is your background?
I worked in business banking, sales and IT security.
What do you do there / what is your role?
I joined the family business in 2001 as the MD, but which really meant being the ‘jack of all trades’ on the factory floor and in the office and entailed anything from boiling tablet batches to clean downs to accounting. My remit has changed a little now we have 20 staff, and at least I have time to concentrate on new product development and our cost base.
At what point did you decide you wanted to grow the company?
The company really started to grow when I took the leap of faith and committed to an Aldi contract I was not even sure I could fulfil, and fortunately (touch wood) we have been able to keep up with demand, whilst still being able to stay true to our long-term customer base.
Where did you get assistance after you made the decicion to grow?
Bringing new product to the market can be expensive in set up costs and packaging, and we would not have been able to launch certain products when we did if it was not for some of the strategic advice and financial support in our projects from the likes of Scottish Enterprise and the bank.
Give us a brief history of the growth of the company
Our focus on contract manufacture for some well-established retailers undoubtedly was the catalyst for a significant growth trajectory, however we have conducted some comprehensive market research along the way to establish how to fortify our business with some market differentiation and establishing our own name in our brands so we are not solely dependent on these relationships.
Have you taken any external funding? If so from who and when?
Scottish Enterprise has played an integral part in advancing our manufacturing ability, allowing us to invest in new machinery and helping make our food quality systems and procedures robust. This assistance helped support the recruitment of trained specialists in these areas, and these additional people skills helped us hit objectives where the business might not have otherwise been able to afford it at that key time.
So what does it look like now with regard to staff and turnover?
We are now turning over in excess of £1 million, but still have to keep a tight rein on our staff numbers, as demand for confectionery has peaks and troughs in the annual cycle. But the key for us is to retain our core artisanal skill set in our confectioners, as you would be surprised how difficult it is to hand pipe a meringue, so looking after our good people is key and training new people for the future is essential for our growth aspirations.
What’s the difference between when you took over and now in your marketplace?
It should not be a surprise to anyone if I said that commodity pricing and packaging have now become omnipresent and we have to keep a keen eye on our supplier relationships to ensure we are getting the most competitive prices to keep our cost base on track.
What is your target market – Who is buying your product / service?
Aldomak has a broad customer base from our meringues in food service, household purchase from the supermarkets to the gifting and tourist market where the appetite for our traditional Scottish products goes from strength to strength.
We also aim to keep on trend with market trends as the younger generation has a very different outlook from its elders.
What are your goals for your business?
I hope we can move from the shadows of being a private label operator to establishing our own brands in the market and being able to take satisfaction from achieving this goal and seeing our brands widely listed.
What are your biggest current challenges?
When you are expanding as a small business it is sometimes too easy to lose track of cash flow so it has always stood me in good stead to have a sound book keeper (and maybe why Italians have always kept it in the family!) and also work through any new project thoroughly in my head before pressing the green light.
What has been the biggest challenge so far?
Letting go control of areas where I know consistency is key – product manufacture!
What do you do outside work?
I relax with my family try to switch off and tinker in the garage with my pet project – she is blue and currently has no wheels
What do you know now that you wished you had known earlier?
Not everyone has the same business principles as you do
What’s the secret to good leadership?
Don’t compromise on quality and ensure your team understand why.
Where do you see the company in five years?
I would like to think our innovative approach to market trends will have allowed us to develop a healthy range so we have a wide-ranging business base which adapted to old and new eating habits
How can the Scottish startup/entrepreneur landscape be improved to help more businesses start up and grow?
The funding landscape is now trickier as the hoops to lending and funding are more onerous and the thresholds often higher but as a result there are some really innovative opportunities to get support – our business support just needs to be more expansive and perhaps bring all of these to a place where they are easier to navigate as small businesses often only have one or two people at the helm and getting might be the easier part but then justifying it can be a paperwork nightmare.
Dario Riccomini is managing director of confectionery company Aldomak.
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