How Becky’s ready meal business is thriving amid a digital transformation

Becky Erwood

Becky shares the story of FED, a meal delivery business that is thriving despite skills shortages and supply chain delays due to its strong digital presence.

At a glance

Here’s a snapshot of the advice from our interviewee:

  • Ready meal service FED thrived during the pandemic – but not without some flexible thinking and resilience.
  • For FED Co-Founder Becky Erwood, one of the biggest challenges is going up against larger, and more digitally advanced, competitors.
  • When it comes to getting ahead in the digital space, listen to your customers – it’s “the number one thing businesses should focus on”.

A few years after moving to New Zealand from the UK, Becky Erwood identified a gap in the market waiting to be filled. 

Although her home country boasts a robust ready meal market, ready meals simply weren’t evident to the same extent in New Zealand. 

To address this, Becky joined forces with two other food entrepreneurs, Beckie Pilley and David Pilley, to create the ready meal business FED. As co-Director and Head of Marketing, Becky oversees FED’s marketing, communications and sales, while her fellow co-directors handle the food production side of the business. 

Ahead of her appearance at the digital transformation webinar organised by Prospa, in partnership with BusinessDesk, Becky shared FED’s story operating in the digital space and thriving in spite of skills shortages and supply chain delays across the industry.

The power of small business resilience

The pandemic impacted small businesses in many ways but, in some industries, businesses have actually seen a boost in sales. 

“Being in food production and meal delivery, it’s been very good for our business,” says Becky. “Everywhere in the world, people have turned to online meal delivery, so the COVID effect was actually a very positive one on our business in terms of demand for our products.” 

At the same time, being in the delivery industry meant that FED’s workers were unable to work from home during lockdown. 

“Rules were changing very quickly,” says Becky. “You obviously had a responsibility to keep your staff and customers safe, and make sure everybody in your supply chain was operating safely. The big challenge over the last couple of years has been navigating that constantly changing regulatory field around COVID. Off the back of that, there have obviously been supply chain issues.” 

Adapting to these changes was helped by the fact that the FED team is a tight-knit crew. 

“We’ve got quite a lot of space in our kitchen, so making sure that we maintained two-metre boundaries, wore masks, had good ventilation – all of those things really helped us,” says Becky. 

The implementation of the correct health and safety measures helped FED to remain relatively unaffected by staff shortages – and that’s down to persistence and resilience, Becky believes. 

“If you gave up at the first sign of trouble, you wouldn’t have a business,” she says. “When people were being shut down and nobody knew the rules, you had to be plucky and do everything you could.”

How to manage the shift to digital

“A lot more people have gone online,” says Becky of the impact COVID has had on the small business – and consumer – environment. 

“They are much more capable of understanding how online ordering systems work, and they’ve got very high expectations. While there are a lot of opportunities that come from being a tech-enabled business, the pace of change, and the number of businesses now operating online, have made people’s expectations very high.” 

Luckily for FED, the business lacks a shopfront – meaning their service offering has always been online. 

“All we’re ever trying to do to improve our customer experience online,” she says.

“We just have to be amazing at customer service, and we have to deliver a great product.”

One major challenge for FED as a participant in the food delivery sector, however, has been grappling with larger and more digitally sophisticated competitors, such as HelloFresh. 

Businesses with more resources to invest in digital tools can leave some smaller businesses struggling, says Becky. 

“Customers have an expectation that your tech will mirror the tech of HelloFresh. HelloFresh is a massive global business with unbelievable digital capability – and we are not that. 

“It pushes you of course to do better. We just have to be amazing at customer service, and we have to deliver a great product.”

Recommendations to bolster digital growth

Here’s a snapshot of Becky’s advice for how small businesses can thrive when operating a digital-centric environment: 

  1. Strike a balance between business goals and customer feedback – “Being customer focused is the number one thing businesses should focus on. Things have to work for you as a business, they have to be profitable operationally, and it has to be easy to implement. But at the same time, if you don’t listen to what your customers want, you won’t have a business.”
  2. Be tenacious “If there’s something that you want to achieve and you believe in it, you need to find a way – because there will be hurdles. Businesses who break those barriers down will have a competitive advantage.” 

Need funds to take advantage of a growth opportunity? Speak with a Prospa small business lending specialist about a funding solution that keeps your small business moving.

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