This month’s client spotlight is with Thea Alexander, Co-Founder at Young Foodies – an exciting client and partner that’s providing essential support to the FMCG challenger community.
Tell us the Young Foodies story:
Prior to launching Young Foodies in 2017, myself and my co-founder Chris Green were running operations in competing popcorn startups. While we had both experienced first-hand the innovative energy and passion of a startup, we also understood the huge challenges they face purely because of their size. It didn’t take us long to realise that the future for small brands lies in collaboration, not competition.
So we launched Young Foodies, with the aim of becoming the UK’s leading voice for food & drink challenger brands. We wanted to create a network that would offer small brands the benefits of scale enjoyed by larger brands. If we could do that, we knew they would have the best possible chance for success.
Two years later, and we’ve built a community of over 800 of the most exciting food & drink brands; sharing our best knowledge, resources and services to make the everyday easier and level the playing field for small brands to grow.
What’s the vision for the business?
We believe that the future of consumer goods will be led by exciting, independent, innovative challenger brands, and will be less about relying on the behemoths that have historically dominated the industry. Consumers have changed, are changing, and the industry needs to keep up. We envision Young Foodies being the enabler of change within the industry, creating and influencing a world that will work better for challenger brands.
How we do that is by delivering end-to-end support, not just for startups and scaleups within FMCG, but also for the industry around them.
At what stage in your business did you seek out legal support? What was the trigger?
We contacted lawyers as soon as we began commercialising the business. We needed to ensure that every commercial transaction was watertight, and that we had considered everything necessary so that we weren’t putting our business at risk.
Why did you opt to work with LegalEdge? What attracted you to their model/approach?
As a business we rely heavily on legal advice, from funding and logistics services to recruitment and HR support – plus loads more. So it was vital that we could access a breadth of experience.
LegalEdge understood these needs more than any traditional law firm had before: we were able to dip in and dip out of their services, and they acted like a general counsel for us.
What is your biggest challenge when it comes to legal issues, and how does LegalEdge help you navigate these?
One of the biggest challenges for a fast-growth business is simply being able to address and resolve legal issues as quickly as possible.
Being able to pick up the phone to LegalEdge is fantastic, as it gives us the ability to seek advice even if it’s just a ten minute phone call. They are highly commercial, so we feel absolutely confident that they have not just the interests of our business at heart, but also the commercial interests of the business.
What is your advice to other scale-ups looking to navigate their legal processes?
When it comes to legal support, you can spend an awful lot of money on things you don’t need. Equally, you can try and cut costs on legal support that you really do need and shouldn’t be trying to save money on. When it comes to navigating your legal processes, you need to know where to spend your money and where the biggest risk lies, especially in terms of commercials.
How are you helping the community manage their legal better?
We have collaborated with LegalEdge to offer specialist legal services to our community, under the banner YF Legal. Through that service, they have access to advice on everything from employment contracts and manufacturing agreements, to terms of supply, shareholders agreements and more.
We also offer templates for the most popular legal documents on our online shop. Brands can buy time-saving templates off the shelf and they can also choose to purchase an accompanying consultation. It completely depends upon what they need. Our ultimate aim is to save them both time and money, two things that small brands rarely possess an abundance of.
What’s the biggest legal challenge facing your startup and scale-up communities?
There are four key legal areas that both startup and scale-up brands should always be focusing on:
(1) Corporate structuring:
This is most relevant for startup brands, and includes documents such as Shareholder Agreements, Articles of Association and Enterprise Management Incentive (EMI) schemes.
(2) Intellectual Property (IP):
When brands innovate and bring something new to the market, they (naturally) want to capture as much of the intellectual property (IP) as possible. Unfortunately this is incredibly hard, and can often lead to conflict with the third parties they work with.
(3) Employment law:
It is of the utmost importance that brands know how to ensure that all confidentiality and IP provisions are watertight within each and every one of their employment contracts and contractor agreements.
The biggest legal challenge we see startups and scale-ups facing over and over again comes as a result of not shoring up their manufacturing agreements. This is the greatest risk to be wary of when it comes to commercial law.
Why is it important for both of your communities to include legal planning in their budgets?
Whether you’re working with employees, third parties or shareholders, co-founders or manufacturers, you need to make sure you are protected for the eventuality that things don’t go your way. Legal support isn’t designed for when life is good. Putting aside a bit of money each month to cover for these instances is incredibly important. Working now with over 800 brands, we have seen the same issues happen over and over and over, and they can be extremely damaging for a small business. So when raising money, it’s vital that you set some funding aside. Not only will your investors know that you are taking things seriously, but it will be there for an inevitable rainy day. I’d always recommend seeking legal support from an industry specialist. While FMCG isn’t rocket science, the same issues come up time and time, and it can pay off to work with a specialist.
What’s next for Young Foodies? What are your priorities for this year?
Young Foodies came about to support and nurture challenger brands in FMCG. This year, our priority is to build and prove our services to be better than anything that brands could find elsewhere. As we approach the end of 2019, we’re extremely proud to know that the brands which have used our services are very happy. We also have some quite exciting but confidential plans that we’ll be launching early next year. Watch this space!
Want to enjoy the benefits of bigger FMCG businesses? Young Foodies believe in start-ups – sharing knowledge, experience and access to solutions that make the every day easier for challenger brands. Check out their website here and get in touch if you want to know more.