MY JOURNEY WITH SANTANDER UNIVERSITIES – SO FAR!
Since starting Fodilicious, I have entered a lot of enterprise competitions for business start ups in order to raise awareness of our brand, our cause, and to seek funding too!
ENTERING THE COMPETITION
I graduated from Queen Margaret University, Edinburgh (QMU) who have been extremely supportive throughout my entrepreneurial journey. I applied for the Santander Universities UK competition with the support of QMU, which is a competition which supports innovative business start ups where you can win up to £25k, gain an intern, and receive lots of benefits including mentorship programmes. I submitted my application in May, and was delighted to find out I had made it through to the semi finals for Scotland, Ireland and Northern England. I had to pitch to an audience at Strathclyde University, Glasgow, and was ecstatic when I found out I had made it through to the UK National finals!
In preparation for the UK National Finals in November, Santander invite the 20 finalists across the UK to attend a 3 day workshop in London called ‘Accelerator week’.
I travelled to London from Edinburgh on 7th August on the first flight at 6.30am. My IBS was playing havoc on the plane, however I had a green tea on the flight which calmed my stomach down thankfully (I always struggle when travelling). I arrived at Luton airport and got the train to Kings Cross Station, and walked to the venue which was at University College London BaseKX.
The first day was really interesting and I met lots of other entrepreneurs (who are also my competitors) which was great to hear all about their varied business ideas. We had talks from marketing specialists, and had lots of group work sessions too.
After a long day at the workshop, I went back to my accommodation which Santander book for you. Little did I know it was in Student Halls! Considering I have never stayed at student halls (I’m a bit of a home bird) I got a slight shock when I realised there was no hair dryer in my room and it was a bit empty…
The second day was so exciting and this was my favourite day. We visited Microsoft Accelerator in London, near St Pancras. Microsoft Accelerator is a start up incubator and programme for new businesses, mainly technology start ups, who require support and mentorship when scaling up. We met CEO, Warwick Hill who has previously been featured on The Apprentice as a judge, and we listened to other entrepreneurs and their successes and challenges when starting up their own businesses. Here’s me at Microsoft, with my hair up since I had no hair dryer!
After we visited Microsoft, the Santander team took all of the finalists out for dinner and we visited Pizza East. I was so apprehensive because although I LOVE pizza (that’s what happens when you work at Pizza Hut for 6 years..), pizza sauce usually has onion and garlic. However, I later found out that most of the pizzas here are actually low FODMAP which was exciting! The bases used are sourdough, but you can request Gluten free bases too. All the pizza sauce is free from onion and garlic, so you just pick which toppings you like. It’s such a cool little place as well, I highly recommend it.
Day 3 involved lots of more entrepreneurial advice, such as visits from Intellectual Property Specialists, and discussion panels with the Santander team providing financial advice. After an insightful 3 days, I headed back to the airport, excited to put everything I had learned into practice. I’m attending a pitching day in London at Microsoft again in October… I can’t wait!
MY IBS JOURNEY
A lot of people ask me why I started Fodilicious, and the answer is – it’s a long (and exciting) story! So I thought I would combine my IBS story along with the beginning of my new entrepreneurial journey into my first blog post for all of you as part of the FodClub.
Where it all began…
I have had a ‘dodgy’ tummy since I was young. I always remember going on holiday and getting awful stomach pains and the urge to go to the loo when in-flight meals were being served, and the smell of coffee always made me feel ill! In my late teens, I started to notice that I was constantly running to the toilet after eating certain meals, such as Spaghetti Carbonara and heavy traditional meals like Steak Pie. At this point, I had no idea I had IBS and merely thought I just couldn’t eat certain things so avoided them entirely.
Stress & IBS
At 16, I got my first job at Pizza Hut as a host – the person who welcomes you to the Hut and sits you to your table! I then became a waitress, and throughout my time at University, I was promoted to shift manager. I studied Business Management at Queen Margaret University in Edinburgh, and would attend university during the day and work afterwards at night. Throughout this time I was stressed when meeting deadlines at Uni, and I ate a lot of (what I thought were healthy) ready meals. My stomach was playing havoc during this time, and I really put it down to being stressed and having a hectic lifestyle. It was around this time that I realised I had IBS. I visited the doctors, briefly explained my symptoms (running to the toilet) who basically informed me that I had ibs-d, and told me to take immodium for whenever I feel is necessary. This helped me in awkward situations, however I hated taking medication for something I thought could be managed through diet instead.
After graduating from university, I took a big step and at the age of 21 I became a General Manager for an Edinburgh City Centre restaurant for Pizza Hut. It was such a great opportunity and I learned so much throughout this role, however working in the hospitality and retail industry is long hours and the job did come with it’s stress! I was still eating a lot of ready meals on shifts, and finally after around a year in this role I decided I had to do something about my IBS and that I couldn’t keep going on the way I was going.
Discovering Low FODMAP
After a lot of research, I found the low FODMAP diet which was discovered and studied in Australia and decided to try it. Through eliminating high FODMAPs from my diet, such as garlic, onion, gluten and dairy, I was able to identify my trigger foods and started to cook (with the help of my mum) low FODMAP meals at home. However I couldn’t find any low FODMAP convenience foods in any supermarket or online, and was constantly checking ingredient labels for traces of onion and garlic in products. After doing this for a few months, I had an epiphany one day last year and thought “If I create low FODMAP products for the UK market, it would solve a problem for people like me!” and with the support of my parents who thought my innovative business idea had great potential, created Fodilicious in August 2017.
It has been such an amazing journey over the last 11 months and I can’t wait to continue to grow Fodilicious to help raise awareness of IBS, create tasty low FODMAP products and to most importantly, help other people like me to hopefully live a better quality of life. :-)