Virgin StartUp Foodpreneur Fest – The Workshop

Virgin StartUp Foodpreneur Fest is back for 2015, and we’re getting just a bit excited. It’s time to celebrate the awesome startups that make the UK food scene such an exciting place! It’s not just all about the competition, though. One of the most important parts of the day is the workshop, where a group of foodpreneurs – or those dreaming of taking the foodpreneur plunge – will learn how to start up and grow from some of the UK’s top food experts.

The workshop is now SOLD OUT, but we'll be filming the workshops on the day so that everyone can benefit from the wisdom of our speakers - keep your eyes peeled.

Featuring the theme ‘Scaling Up’ and presented by Jim Cregan, founder of leading UK coffee brand Jimmy’s Iced Coffee, the topics and the first speakers for the morning's panel are revealed below...

Panel session one: Production

How do you create an amazing product – and one that meets all health, safety and legal requirements? How can you find the right suppliers? How can you keep your costs down? These are just a few of the problems faced by producers. And even if you’re not directly creating the product, how can you maintain standards and keep control of the process?


Ben Mason

Ben Mason is the founder of Mason's Beans, producing gourmet beans - because, as he says, “Your toast deserves better.” Featuring fresh and delicious ingredients such as ham hock, they’re definitely not the sad baked beans of student life. Ben was also the winner at Foodpreneur Fest 2014, winning both the Tastiest StartUp award and the People’s Choice award. Since winning Foodpreneur Festival 2014 Masons Beans have gone on to be stocked in Ocado, Fortnum and Masons, and more.

david franks

David Franks is the founder of food consultancy Glacia, advising food businesses on how they can improve their products or services. David started his career as a trainee chef and worked in restaurants such as Caprice, Empress and Ecu d'France before joining  the family business, which he helped grow to five restaurants in the heart of London along with four butchers/fishmongers and greengrocers. He was then approached to run a division of Europa foods and set up a food factory preparing packed meats and cooked meals for the 100+ retail supermarket division, before going on to launch the Whistlestop train station cafes, which were soon franchised. David oversaw operations and at the same time was seconded to Birleys wholesale sandwich factory in which he soon did a management buyout, rebranded, and operated until he sold it 10 years later.

David has since set up a food consultancy, advising companies such as Annabel's, Marks Club, Harry's Bar and Georges, as well as caterers, wholesale manufacturers, restaurants and retail operations. David is a  Growth Coach for the Growth Accelerator programme, and a Virgin StartUp mentor.

Charlie Thuillier is the co-founder of Oppo Ice Cream, a ground-breaking healthy ice-cream made with coconut oil, stevia, superfoods and fresh milk, rather than the sugar and cream found in traditional ice cream. They made it to the semi-finals of Pitch To Rich, smashed a £100,000 crowdfunding target in minutes, and are stocked in Waitrose and Ocado.

Panel session two: Branding

Branding is essential to making your business stand out – but how do you build one that stands out from the crowd, one that makes someone choose your product over the one next to it, one that’s instantly recognisable?


Martha Swift

Martha Swift is the founder of the legendary Primrose Bakery, which she started up in 2004 with a friend from their North London kitchens. Their home-baked confections kickstarted the UK trend for all things cupcake, and they became the first people to supply Selfridges Food Hall from a home kitchen. After supplying a few delis, Selfridges, Fortnum and Mason and Liberty, they opened their first shop in bustling Primrose Hill in 2006. This was followed by a second shop in Covent Garden in 2008, and a third shop in Kensington in September 2015. Martha now owns the business. The bakery's fifth cookbook, Primrose Bakery Everyday, comes out on October 8.

Jamie Combs_New (2)

Jamie Combs is the founder of Natural Balance Foods, the unorthodox American entrepreneur, activist and educator behind the industry-leading NAKD wholefood brand, which he created in 2005. A former Strategic Development Manager of a $150m European venture capital fund, he left corporate life to pursue his passions and lead social change.

His innovative NAKD bars are now the best selling healthfood bars in the UK and outperform established multinational giants on a fraction of their budgets. He is an outspoken champion of wholefood, education and exercise as the foundation to sustained personal, social and economic progress. In addition to leading Natural Balance Foods, Jamison devotes time to teaching holistic living, lateral thinking and enlightened entrepreneurism to audiences across the UK.

Meringue Girls

Alex Hoffler and Stacey O’Gorman are the founders of Meringue Girls. Bonding over their love of sweet things, and both with strong backgrounds in marketing and food, they saw a gap in the cupcake-saturated market for colourful, unique meringues – and decided to go for it after a successful appearance on Cooks To Market, a television programme hosted by celebrity cook Gizzi Erskine. Keeping overheads low, the pair initially baked from Alex’s home kitchen in Hackney, establishing themselves as popular vendors within London’s booming street food scene (Kerb, Street Feast).

Since then, the power of social media and word-of-mouth has seen Meringue Girls’s treats stocked in stores including Harrods, Selfridges, and Harvey Nichols. They’ve also caused a stir in the fashion world, with clients including Dior, Chanel, Christian Louboutin, Stella McCartney and more. Their second cookbook Meringue Girls – Everything Sweet was released in July, they have their own bakery in foodie hub Broadway Market, and they run acclaimed weekly meringue and cake baking classes.

Panel session three: Routes to market

So you’ve got an awesome product – but now it’s time to get selling. What’s the best way for you reach your customers? How can you find them? Where should you sell?


tommi tara fisher credit

Photo credit: Tara Fisher 2015

Thomasina Miers is the founder of chain Wahaca, serving up mouthwatering grub inspired by the street food of Mexico. The winner of BBC 2's MasterChef in 2005, she is a cook and food writer whose work has ranged from cheese-making and running market stalls in Ireland, cheffing with Skye Gyngell at Petersham Nurseries, to co-founding the award-winning restaurant group Wahaca.Tommi has written for the Financial Times, the Times and has a regular column in the Guardian magazine on Saturday. She has written and co-edited 6 cookery books (Soup Kitchen; Cook; Wild Gourmets; Mexican Food Made Simple; Wahaca, food at home; and Chilli Notes) and presented various cookery TV programmes.  She shops at her local market, in keeping with her love of simple, seasonal cooking.

Charles Rolls (2)

Charles Rolls is the founder of premium tonic brand Fever Tree. Charles has been a serial entrepreneur since leaving strategy consultants Bain & Co in 1989.  In 1997 he acquired a significant equity stake in Plymouth Gin.  As Managing Director, his team turned the company around, giving a new lease of life to one of England’s oldest brands.   Plymouth Gin was the first to show the way for the hundreds of premium gins that have since followed onto the market.  Increasing its sales 14-fold in four years, it was purchased by Vin & Spirit, owners of Absolut Vodka.

During that period he learned never to mix any quality gin with UK mainstream tonics, all of which overpowered the drink.  In April 2000 he conducted a tasting of all US tonics in New York to select the best to mix with Plymouth Gin.  At that moment he lodged the idea that there was a need for a premium tonic water to enhance, rather than “drown” the great gins. Co-founding Fever-Tree with the premise that “if ¾ of your long drink is the mixer, it had better be good”, and as CEO for 10 years, the business has grown substantially, with City estimates of £48m turnover in 2015.  Now Executive Deputy Chairman, he continues as co-head of the executive team with Tim Warrillow and led the drive to float the business on AIM in November 2014.  Currently the value of the company is over £400m.

Jessica Tucker is the co-founder of Urban Food Fest. Urban Food Fest street food night market is every Saturday in Shoreditch, London and central Manchester and features 15 revolving street food trucks, a premium bar and cocktail bar, live music and seating. Urban Food Fest also creates bespoke corporate events for global brand including Apple, GAP, BMW, Ebay, De Beers and Nike. Jessica is a former City lawyer with a passion for entrepreneurship, street food and creative design, and is also the judge for the #VirginFoodFest competition, Street Food category.

Register for Foodpreneur Festival 2015