Felipe del Valle chats about his food business Sugoi and how a Start Up Loan from Virgin StartUp helped him on his way.
Explain your business in thirty seconds or less
We take and fuse Latino and Japanese traditions, culture, and flavours to get a new, hardcore street food concept, Noritacos: 100% fresh & fun. Nori + Taco = Noritaco: a crispy seaweed tempura shell with Japanese-Latin-fusion fillings. It is not sushi, it is not a taco, it is Sugoi- which means ‘cool’ in Japanese.
How did you come up with the idea?
Inspired by Piss Alley street food market in Tokyo and Latin America’s Mexico and Venezuela street food stalls, we knew we had to offer an alternative to the over-saturated Japanese food industry in London; something different. We took advantage of our Latin heritage and our Japanese gastronomy passion to combine two of the most popular dishes in the world: sushi and tacos. It took us one year to develop our product. It had to tick all the boxes: unique; original; authentic; affordable; fresh; tasty; good quality; street food-related, and so on.
Where are you based and why is it a good location for your business?
We are based in E2, with Bethnal Green, Shoreditch and Haggerston on our doorstep. This area is located near the City of London and its international financial centre. Bethnal Green is a veritable melting pot of different cultures. The average age of residents is just 29, making it one of London's youngest and coolest areas. It also has a large concentration of pubs and clubs to go out in. The area is now considered a hotbed for creativity, originality and innovation, with more than 15,000 new businesses choosing to settle here, including ours.
Who are your competitors?
As our Noritacos are an original dish, there isn’t a direct competitor for our product. There are, however, a large number of other street food vendors in the area, as well as across London. We also compete with more traditional takeaway sites, as well as online delivery options.
What stage was your business at when you applied for the Start Up Loan?
It was just an idea when we applied for the Start Up Loan.
How have you used it to grow your business?
We used it to improve our branding, to hire more staff, to develop our own delivery platform which we integrated with Stuart (a Courier Company) and bought a food trailer so that we could base ourselves from one of the most popular tap rooms in the area, Mother Kelly’s. Thanks to the Start Up Loan, we were able to increase our sales by 100%. This was much more than we were expecting in our business plan.
What’s your biggest achievement so far?
Seeing people enjoy our Noritacos! Over the last 20 years my wife and I have created and founded several different sushi restaurants or similar concepts in Madrid, Mallorca and Miami and it’s always exciting to see people enjoying the food you create.
What’s next for your business?
Our aim is to make Noritacos as popular as sushi or hamburgers, so we will keep working hard to reach more and more people. We also have some new recipe developments coming down the line.
Who was your Business Advisor and how did they help you get a Virgin StartUp Loan?
Pete Hollingsworth guided us through the whole process; he kept us on the right track, making sure we were in the loop in the nicest, professional way. We have stayed in touch through Instagram - he is really Sugoi!