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Riverford


Husband-and-wife team David and Emma Shulman took on their St Albans Riverford franchise in April 2016, after they left the global telecoms industry looking for a change


Why did you join the food and drink sector, and why Riverford in particular? We decided it was time for a change and we had long thought about starting our own business. Already customers of Riverford and massive advocates of ethical and sustainable living, we heard that our local veg man was retiring and selling his business, so decided to look into the opportunity. It felt like a natural move, knowing what we did about Riverford founder Guy Singh-Watson and the quality of the produce. A franchise would give us the feel of running our ‘own’ business but with shared risk, plus we felt our values aligned with Riverford. The application process is thorough and


we were given plenty of opportunity to fully research the business to ensure it was right for us. We met with and spoke to as many other franchise owners as we could, went out on delivery rounds and attended marketing events. We were guided and supported through the entire process by the franchise team.


What training and support is available? We receive an enormous amount of support. We were introduced to other franchisees to understand how they run their businesses, these have flourished into relationships in which we support each other and share ideas. We’ve also built great


relationships with the team at the farm and can call on them when we need support, which is always forthcoming.


What do you enjoy most day to day? What have the high points been for you? You are in charge of your own destiny – and we love it. Also, it’s about balance. We get to spend time with our family, which was always so difficult before. In fact, we’re not working any less now than we were then, it’s just more balanced. You put in the effort when it is your own business… we love what we do and we’re able to put our own enthusiasm, creativity and engagement into it. It goes without saying that this job is very different to sitting behind a desk and can be quite physically demanding! But, our business is in healthy growth and we won the coveted Franchisee of the Year award at Riverford’s last conference, for which we are proud and grateful.


What are the benefits and challenges for franchisees in the food sector? Everybody needs food, it’s a massive industry. For us, we benefit from the strong brand presence Riverford has, being the largest veg box delivery company in the UK. The challenge for us is overcoming the perception that organic equals expensive – it doesn't and the health benefits, quality and taste far outweigh any cost implication.


What qualities do you need to run a successful food franchise? To be successful you need a clear business plan from the outset. We pride ourselves on being a friendly, family-orientated, local, reliable service, one that is customer focused, and being quick to respond to issues, ensuring that we always put them right. We only ask our staff to do what we would be prepared to do ourselves and we are exceptionally passionate about our produce.


Are you managing to maintain a healthy work-life balance? We've got our lives back in balance. It's hard work running your own business, but the benefits always outweigh the drawbacks. We are so passionate about the produce and about living both sustainably and ethically. We are now able to not only manage that better for ourselves and our young family, but have also become local advocates for the movement through our business, which is very fulfilling and rewarding.


What are your plans for the future? We want to maintain the steady growth we are enjoying, working with Riverford for the foreseeable future. We also aim to continue to test new ideas and make refinements that will help us keep on top of things. l


Top Five Favourite cuisines in the UK 1. Traditional British 2. Italian 3. Indian 4. Chinese 5. Thai BUSINESSFRANCHISE.COM 41


Welsh Lamb commissioned survey, 2016


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