From Business Student to Food Entrepreneur
DropChef is a healthy meal-kit delivery service founded by Ryan Scott, Sam O’Byrne and Roman Grogan. Having launched their business four years ago in Dublin, DropChef founders have already won the Regional Final of Ireland’s Best Young Entrepreneur 2018, the Regional Final of InterTrade Ireland Investor Readiness Competition 2018 and they have been listed in the Sunday Independent 30 Under 30.
We caught up with Ryan Scott, who completed BBS here in DCU Business School, who told us how he found university life and how it helped prepare him for running his own business.
I knew that I wanted to study business because I wanted a diverse set of skills that wouldn’t pigeon-hole me to one particular role, job or industry. I wanted something that would open more doors for me. Once I had made that decision – I chose DCU because it’s quite a modern university with novel teaching methods. It was also well renowned – I had been advised that it was one of the better business programmes in Ireland.
I thought it was a really great degree – there was a lot of industry engagement, from guest speakers to the INTRA work placement – that gives you a head start when you start looking for jobs or looking to start your own business.
DCU really is a university of innovation and entrepreneurship. That was also quite a significant part of making the decision to come to DCU as well – I knew that I wanted that specific skill set. One of the unique things about DCU is that it does foster that entrepreneurial spirit.
In final year you have to come up with a new business idea – New Enterprise Development (NED) – and develop a complete business plan that’s investor ready. We were taught how to work together with other students and with other colleagues, how to put into place the business, management and economic practices and principles that we were learning. This was one of the most useful elements for me in going on to start my own business. You essentially start a business and pitch it to a panel in a Dragons Den type environment at the end of the year. That’s really helpful and it’s also very similar to actually starting a business – it’s like a dry run. It gives you a lot of the skill set, a lot of the discipline – it gives you an understanding of the importance of research ahead of launching a business.
How was your experience here?
My experience here at DCU was phenomenal – it was the best few years of my life, I had so much fun here. I learnt a huge amount and really enjoyed it. I was heavily involved in Clubs and Societies the whole way through – I was always on campus and I built great friendships here.
I was on the committee for the Surfing & Sailing Club and was captain of the sailing team. I skippered a team which brought the university to the Student World Yachting Championships and the Student Match Racing Championships in two consecutive years, the latter of which we won in 2013.
Do you think that that experience or the overall degree experience – did that help you with making the leap into setting up your own business?
The experience I got from the degree and from university as a whole, definitely helped me in starting the business. In DCU, even if you don’t study business, there are so many stepping stones that you can take along the way – so many people do start businesses or social enterprises or a new club or society, something like that. Any sort of leadership role is definitely a stepping stone in the right direction towards starting your own business. So I had already taken a lot of those steps and I was comfortable with doing my own thing. That paired with the practical learning from BBS went hand in hand and gave me the perfect platform to start from. It gave me the relevant business skills and knowledge, and also the confidence in knowing that I was qualified to do this.
How did the idea for DropChef come about?
We did some market research in the area and the feedback from customers was that their main problem of not having the time, skills, creativity to cook healthy meals in the evening after a day’s work was not being addressed. Out of this feedback we refined our product to try and address this need and developed the solution which was to help people cook a healthy dinner from scratch in just 20 to 30 minutes. We do that by delivering all the ingredients you need to cook a healthy dinner along with an easy to follow recipe card.
Myself, Roman and Sam were working on the business straight out of college – it’s a slow process – its only when you look back you can see how much you have achieved. We definitely found that once we started working full time on the business we were putting into practice a lot of the learnings from our degrees.
We’re starting to grow quite quickly. It has taken a lot of hard work to get to this stage but now we’re at the point where we can begin to scale. We’re able to handle all of our distribution nationwide from one location in Dublin, which is key to our ability to scale more rapidly than other food businesses. The fact that we don’t need to acquire new properties gives us a competitive advantage.
The company is up and running just over 4 years now. It feels like it’s a PhD in something!
What advice would you give to somebody else just starting out – someone on a similar path to yourself?
For someone coming into the course – my advice would be to make the most of it – really engage with everything – student life, lecturers, engage with the course as wholly as possible. It’s a really good course – it’s one of those programmes where the more you give it the more you get out of it. Likewise with student life, the more you put in the more skilled you will be when you’re leaving and also the more valuable you are going to be to an employer.
For someone looking to start their own business on leaving university the more you’ve done in university and the more you’ve been proactive, eg started up different clubs, societies, businesses, or taken any level of initiative throughout university, the more of a head start you’ll have when leaving college.
My main piece of advice would probably be to work towards a mission you’re passionate about, to find a problem that you think is worthy of a significant investment of your time.
The Business Studies degree course is designed to give you an introduction to the foundations of business and guide you to a specialisation in economics, management, finance, marketing or HR. The four-year course includes an optional 11-month paid work placement that gives you the opportunity to experience working in a real business environment.
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