By now most people’s 2014 New Year’s resolutions have fallen by the wayside, but the commitment to eating better is one that lasts a little longer. We’re becoming increasingly aware of what we put into our body and we’re putting a greater emphasis on leading a healthy lifestyle. This emphasis on taking care of our body has grown parallel to the pace of our lives, leaving the door wide open for businesses that can help people lead a healthy life… on the move. Matt Wilson, founder of Sydney-based readymade meal distributor The Gym Kitchen, not only recognized that open door and sprinted through it, but slammed it shut by becoming an industry leader almost immediately.
Three years ago a 22 year-old Wilson was a personal trainer in Sydney’s Bondi beach when he recognized his clients’ desire to eat healthy but inability to make it happen. At his training sessions he’d give out recipes and dietary plans, only to discover the next week that nobody had used them. One week he offered to cook the meals for them and found himself cooking nutritious and delicious meals for over fifty people…
He identified the demand: Nutritious meals that taste good for people who don’t have the time to cook.
“At the time we [with his business partner Tim ] felt like we’d had a look in into the future and identified this massive gap in the market, which we had. The only thing was, so had plenty of other people and in the six months after we launched about nine other businesses in Sydney started doing what we were doing. So providing nutritious and delicious readymade meals wasn’t enough anymore,” says Matt.
With an initial investment of less than $5000 and having to juggle their new venture with existing jobs, the boys recognized the key to their success was going to be how they branded themselves and communicated with their customers, along with solid backend systems that would easily scale.
We separated ourselves from other “gym junkies” who had the dietary know-how but lacked in effective communication. Strong branding and consistent messaging set us apart.
“We’ve had a brand manager from day one and I think that’s what set us apart. We’re really strict with what we put out there and how we say things. Because we were re-investing as we grew, rather than starting with a big budget, we had to find other ways to talk to our customer and social media was a big part of that. Nothing goes out unless it matches who we are and what we represent, which people have responded to really well,” says Matt.
Of those nine who started up in the first six months, only two remain alongside The Gym Kitchen. Matt insists that once people have tried the product – whether it be through a gym where they’re stocked or the online store – their customer retention is high. The key has been getting them to give it that first go, which has been achieved through highly-considered communication and strong online content.
Once a select few had tried the meals it had a snowball… or should we say gluten-free meatball… effect. Within a few weeks of moving into the kitchen of a small restaurant in a town three hours out of Sydney, The Gym Kitchen team had to hire the staff full time and eventually move into an industrial-sized kitchen. Now the boys are securing a $500,000 investment to see The Gym Kitchen supplied in supermarkets nationwide.
“The challenge for us right now is making sure we’re spending enough time on stuff like growth and expansion, rather than administration and operations. What it comes down to is having the right tools and the right systems in place so those things flow naturally.
We invested in TradeGecko pretty early in the piece and we’ve found it to be perfect for our business. We’ve had to move offices or move kitchen as we grow, but we don’t have to worry about TradeGecko as it’s built for growth and just keeps getting better.” says Matt.
The Gym Kitchen is still operated by only three full time members, Matt, brand manager Tim Nagle (26) and chef Brian Cook (29), as well as a handful of contractors and contributors. Even though the operation is massive and already looking to take it up another level in 2014, Brian says the lesson has been to work with other people’s strengths and believe in your idea.
“You know there were tonnes of people who told us we couldn’t do this or it wouldn’t work and whatever. Granted I couldn’t have done everything on my own and made it into what it is, neither could Tim. That’s why we’re in it together because we bring different stuff to the table and make our ideas happen. How we see it now is there’s nothing too big for us to conquer.”