Business

Food for thought as Gareth has firm's growth plans all wrapped up

Gareth Chambers, chief executive of Around Noon

The EY Entrepreneur of the Year gala awards take place in Dublin on October 25. Five Northern Ireland-based entrepreneurs are among the 24 finalists this year. In the last of our profiles on the local quintet, we chat to Gareth Chambers (35), chief executive of Newry-headquartered Around Noon

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AROUND Noon makes innovative, hand-held food and counts some of the largest coffee shop chains, convenience retailers and forecourt retailers in the UK and Ireland as clients.

The company was founded in 1989 and has experienced significant growth in recent years, adding a London manufacturing base to its existing headquarters in Newry, as well as acquiring a Dublin-based bakery.

Employing almost 300 people in Newry and London, its manufacturers up to 60,000 products a day across more than 20 major brands, including hand-made sandwiches, wraps, salads, snacks, bakery items and 100 per cent natural juices.

Under Gareth's direction, Around Noon has grown from a company with £2.3 million turnover (2012) to almost £25 million, with a strategy in place to support continued growth. Over the past four years, sales have grown by over 44 per cent on average per year.

In 2017, Around Noon was named Northern Ireland company of the year at the UTV/ Business Eye Awards and was in the Sunday Times Fast Track 100 listing of the fastest growing businesses in the UK. The company also won an unprecedented three awards in the Sammies, the ‘Oscars' of the sandwich industry in the UK.

Having completed an MBO in 2016, Gareth has grown Around Noon's turnover from £2million to almost £25m, through impressive organic growth, as well as through acquisitions of Dublin and London-based businesses.

A food fanatic and a passionate leader, Gareth has a vision to lead Around Noon to £100m in turnover and beyond.

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:: What vision/light bulb moment prompted you to start-up in business?

I watched my parents grow the family business from a kitchen table enterprise into a small manufacturing company. I felt that I could take that original idea and grow it at pace. I completely fell in love with the buzz of business and I couldn't imagine doing anything else.

:: What moment/deal would you cite as the 'game changer' or turning point for the company?

Myself and our chairman Howard Farquhar completed a management buy-out of the business from my parents in 2016. This enabled me to completely reboot the business in terms of ambition and growth and was a complete game changer in terms of Around Noon.

:: What were the best and the worst pieces of advice you received when starting out?

The best piece of advice was given to me by my mother and applies to both business and life. Having worked in the business with my mother Sheila for over 10 years, I picked up some gems. She always said to me "keep it in perspective" and when a crisis lands or something difficult comes along this is what I try to do. I try to contextualise the issue in front of me in the grand scheme of things and then work through it rather than dramatise, flap or get flustered.

:: What is the single most important piece of advice you would offer to a less experienced entrepreneur?

Have a strong vision and know where you are going. This doesn't need to be exact and can change along the way. However, it's important to visualise the future then make it happen. If you imagine what the future could look like for you and your business then you are half way there. Then just start the journey. Don't wait until you have the perfect business plan - just get started!

:: Who has been the greatest influence on your career or who do you admire most in business?

My parents have been a very big and very positive influence. So too has our chairman Howard Farquhar – he has such experience and knowledge of the food sector and is fantastic to work with, I learn from him every day. I also consider Patrick McAliskey of Novosco, who is on our board, to be an inspiration. I met Patrick about five years ago and he was reflecting on how his journey had brought Novosco from Ireland into the English market. He was really helpful in spending some time helping me to digest the journey that I was on. I've been extremely lucky to have had some great support.

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