Willie Biggart explains that growing up, his father ran an engineering firm, “and I think he was quite keen for me to come into the family business.
“But I suppose there was part of me that wanted to prove to myself that I could actually grow something, and here I am doing it again.”
Having previously started up a marketing agency, he has co-founded software-as-a-service business Spoonfed, which offers end-to-end, drop-off catering software for outside caterers, sandwich retailers and franchises.
“At this stage in my career, it’s been a great learning curve and that really drives me,” he says, explaining that the business now has more than 50 customers, equating to well over 100 outlets across the UK, North America and Australia.
It came about after he decided to invest in a catering firm delivering meeting room food to offices, but found that while it was a lucrative market, worth £33 billion globally, there were countless operational hurdles.
He found it “total chaos” with no systems or processes, with catering seen as “low in priority but very high in expectation” and he learned the hard way that it can be costly if it doesn’t go right.
“I was tearing my hair out,” he says, with the venture “crying out for something”.
He and Murray McNicol, formerly of KPMG, decided to fill the void, with developers hired to create online catering management software.
“It started bringing a lot of efficiencies to our business – I got rid of two freezers overnight. And it gave us total transparency.”
Soon it became evident that the software had a lot of potential, and with the advent of cloud technology, “we thought ‘hey, we’ve got a little niche here’”.
They ultimately sold the catering business and spent a couple of years honing what would become Spoonfed, launching in 2013.
He says it offers complete traceability and accountability, with automated business processing of office catering orders, and takes “all the mistakes and potential problems out of a business” including guesswork. “We’re pain-relievers,” he jokes.
Initially, they thought the product would best suit independent caterers, but then realised it had broader appeal, and a key development was being approached by bakery-restaurant group Le Pain Quotidien, which was interested in the software.
“Suddenly we realised that these quick-service restaurant chains were looking for incidental revenue streams from drop-off catering,” with food retailers able to make use of downtime to prepare corporate orders.
Biggart adds that Spoonfed now has several UK retail chains on board, including Social Bite, with more on the verge of signing up. It even claims to have boosted one customer’s monthly revenue to £70,000 from £7,000, and is also involved in the contract catering sector.
Additional markets of interest include Singapore, and he describes Europe as “interesting” but adds that the US offers by far the largest potential revenue.
“As we grow in America we’ll be taking on more people there, and we’ll be taking on more people here to support the international development.”
The Livingston-based firm currently has six staff, is looking to hire two more, and Biggart says it could easily reach 40 and multi-million-pound turnover.
The company last month announced a second round of funding worth £585,000 from investors including the Scottish Investment Bank, with the aim of boosting global growth and taking the company into profitability.
Biggart says that the focus is now very much on driving and accelerating growth. “We’re certainly going for a dominant market position.”
He notes his previous roles, including serving as marketing manager at both Baxters of Speyside and Tennent’s.
Ultimately realising that he didn’t want to go further down the corporate route, and “wanted to try and carve my own future”, he started integrated marketing agency BD Network.
“I hadn’t a clue what I was doing… I thought, ‘If it doesn’t work, at least I’ve tried it’. Then we just never looked back.”
However, moving from the plc arena into running a business “was a big culture shock initially. But there was also a real feeling of independence – ‘I can shape my future’.”
In terms of Spoonfed’s outlook, he says: “There are a lot of irons in the fire, and come September/October I think we’ll see us moving up to the next stage.
“We’re not a start-up any more – we’re on the growth curve.
“I love building businesses, and it’s nice to be doing it again.”
Born: 1954, Glasgow
Education: Merchiston Castle School, Heriot-Watt University
First job: Management trainee, Lloyds & Scottish (Lloyds Bowmaker)
Ambition while at school: Primary – fireman; secondary – to go to university
What car do you drive: Volvo XC 60
Favourite mode of transport: Train and skis
Music: Fleetwood Mac, Eagles (Hotel California)
Kindle or book: Book
Reading material: One of Jeffrey Archer’s Clifton Chronicles on holiday and Michael Gerber’s The E Myth Revisited is a great business read
Can’t live without: The internet and sadly my iPhone
What makes you angry: Prejudice
What inspires you: People who go the extra mile
Favourite place: The mountains
Best thing about your job: Growing something you have started and seeing customers really appreciate what you are offering