Tasty prize for Russian food start-up

The Russian Food Company Ltd has been named as the winner of the prestigious Y-Accelerator 2018 initiative, with the Sheffield-based food manufacturer receiving a £25,000 equity investment from UK Steel Enterprise (UKSE) that will help the firm fuel growth and expansion into new markets.

The UK Steel Enterprise Y-Accelerator initiative is a collaboration between private and public sector organisations including Sheffield City Region Growth Hub, Rotherham Investment and Development Office (RiDO), UK Steel Enterprise, Sheffield Hallam University, the University of Sheffield and a number of private firms.

David Grimes, Head of the Growth Hub, said: “The Y-Accelerator is a great opportunity to support entrepreneurs or early stage businesses with a great business idea. Not only do participants have the opportunity to access funds for investment to help get the business off the ground, but they will also have access to business support and advice.”

The Russian Food Company Ltd created the Bunza, a modern twist on the traditional Russian pie, when entrepreneurs Leeza Murina and Steve Jones spotted a gap in the market in April 2017. A cross between an artisan pie and a gourmet sandwich, the product has become a huge success with ‘foodies’ at farmers’ markets across the UK.

Judges at the Y-Accelerator event – which marks the end of a 12-week development initiative offering small business owners access to expert advice, specialist workshops and mentoring – said the £25,000 prize was awarded to The Russian Food Company because of its future growth potential.

The business was one of eight local companies to ‘pitch’ as part of the initiative’s final, which took place at Gripple’s Glide House last week in front of an audience of prominent local business professionals including representatives from UK Steel Enterprise and the Sheffield City Region Growth Hub.

Co-founder Leeza said: “Food unites friends and family and is a huge part of people’s lives. With British taste buds becoming ever more sophisticated, we are seeing increasing demand for something different. Our handmade Russian food ticks that box.

“The £25,000 equity investment will help us to expand our reach and deliver to smaller retail outlets such as farm shops, independent restaurants, cafes and delicatessens. We are growing our customer base with a view to eventually working with larger retailers too. We have already had a great response from Ocado, Selfridges Food Hall and Virgin Rail, to name a few.”

Alan Stanley, Regional Executive of UK Steel Enterprise which invests in growing companies locally, said the quality of entries for the competition was very impressive.

He said: “The Y-Accelerator is a unique initiative that brings together various forms of support to create an intensive incubator for entrepreneurs with start-up ideas.

“The process was designed to help validate ideas, develop strong business models and provide people with the tools and skills to launch new businesses, and The Russian Food Company really demonstrated existing capacity for growth and expansion.

“We are therefore delighted to be continuing our relationship with the company through the £25k,000 equity investment and looking forward to working with Leeza and Steve as they continue to build on their success to date.”

The team at UK Steel Enterprise, a subsidiary of Tata Steel, commented on the calibre of pitches, which made choosing just one winner a very difficult decision.

Alan continued: “The eight businesses who made it to the final pitch event have been through a challenging programme forcing them to demonstrate the viability of their products time and time again.

“The quality of the final pitches reflects very well on all those who supported the entrepreneurs and in particular I’d like to thank staff at RiDO who led the programme.”

Leeza added: “I found the Y-Accelerator an extremely useful experience because it has given us the focus and dedicated space and time to work on developing our business.

“The team at RiDO have the incredible ability to enable you to see your business through the eyes of the consumer, so I want to thank them for all they have done throughout the 12-week programme.”

Launched in 1975, UK Steel Enterprise supports the economic development of steel industry areas. To this day it has helped over 7,000 businesses with investments approaching a total of £100million, and those businesses have created over 78,000 jobs.

UKSE provides loan and equity finance of up to £1million to existing companies which are growing, particularly those creating jobs. If you are an established business which needs growth finance then please contact UK Steel Enterprise on 0800 915 1188.

Other finalists in the Y-Accelerator programme included:

Tickets For Good – charitable event industry donation programme;

Grobotic Systems – designer and manufacturer of plant growth chamber for use in plant science research;

Slanted Theory – Sheffield-based augmented reality company;

Cyan Security – GDPR advice consultancy;

Care Products Direct manufacturer and supplier of care products for the health and social care sector;

Food Circle Supermarket – online retailer of surplus healthy food and drink;

Paws and Presto – designer and manufacturer of products to solve ‘doggy problems’

Y-acceleratorUK Steel Enterprise