You might think working as an operations director for three successful scaleups would set you up nicely for the leap to being your own boss.
“Until it’s yours you have no idea of the pressures of finance and growth,” Mark Davidson told me, in between peeling 1000 eggs.
He set up Aye Love Real Foods with his wife Jacqueline in 2014, incorporated in 2016 and now turns over more than £300,000.
“You have to multitask and problem solve – that’s basically all there is to it,” he joked.
Before starting anything he did an “Access to markets” course with Business Gateway to gain an overview of the industry and remains committed to the business side of running a business.
“It’s all about relationships,” he said. “You have to place yourself in the market, be visible, have good contacts and then when opportunities arise people naturally say “oh, you should speak to Mark about that” and you can capitalise on that.”
When a call came from an edgy music promoter, he knew to prioritise their demands and “pulled out all the stops”. Next thing he knew, Justin Bieber was eating his Scotch eggs.
“I think my background in the festival scene was a real education – it’s a weird and wonderful world full of weird and wonderful people,” he laughed. “But a lot of what we do is around events. We focus on reputation and success – sell well and be consistently professional. It sounds so simple, but it’s hard work.”
Another lesson he’s learned is to accept support and value it. Family help out with his two small children and his Business Gateway advisor Kerry has proved invaluable. As the company grows, Mark and Jacqueline have made the decision to stay in North Ayrshire.
“Our staff are great, so that loyalty goes both ways, and we’ve had so much support that I feel we’ve gone up a few levels in the pipeline, so to speak,” he said.
With a new kitchen to build and more contracts to fulfil the future is looking bright.
“Oh I could never go back,” he said. “This is going from strength to strength so I’ll be busy for a wee while yet!”
Drop me a line with your scale-up story: Kim@impactonline.co.uk
Kim McAllister is a Journalist & Communications Consultant and director of Impact Online