Entrepreneur Series – Interview with Samir Edwards

November 28, 2017

This month, we had the pleasure of getting to know Samir Edwards, Managing Director of KK Fine Foods, an innovative, profitable and multi-award winning frozen food manufacturer based in Deeside, which Bluebox Corporate Finance recently had the pleasure to sell to Belgian food group Ter Beke.


1. How did you start you career with KK?

At University, I studied Chemistry and Law with the idea that I would eventually go into Law. However, after a period of time, I realised that Law was not for me and following a brief spell travelling, I then started working in the family business

I was always passionate about food and cooking and the fact that it was food manufacturing business made it very exciting to me and kept my interest.


2. What roles have you undertaken since joining KK?

Every role! I’ve worked in the factory, in the packing area, in distribution, in technical, in sales so every single role within the business, I have undertaken at some point.

That’s the best way to learn how the business operates isn’t it?

This gave me a real understanding of the business and at the end of the day, the activity is happening on the shop floor so there’s no point in me sitting in an office and not understanding how each area of the business operates. This has been key to driving the business forward I believe.


3. How has the business evolved since you joined?

When I first started we were probably only turning over a couple of million pounds, so we were very much a small, family owned business. Leyla (Samir’s Mum and Co-Owner of KK) was still doing multiple roles and wearing lots of different hats and as time went on, the business expanded and with that expansion you have to focus in specific areas of the business and break the roles up.

We then started to put a management team in place, and I think that’s the most interesting growth I’ve seen. Since then, the business dramatically grew and then become more about people. I know this is a cliché but you really do learn the importance of having well trained people within your business who are knowledgeable enough to make decisions on your behalf (however I still struggle with delegation at times!)

How many people were you when you started?

We were about 70 people onsite in the early days, but today we have between 350 and 450 as it’s very variable in terms of the peak seasons.


4. Who comes up with the ideas for the ready meals and do you ever get input into the recipe and ingredients for the dishes?

Well in the early days a lot of it was driven initially by Leyla and then I took over the sales and Product Development role so a lot of it was then led by me. Nowadays it’s very much about the chefs presenting ideas to our Head of NPD who now ensures that the products come up to the expected KK standard; I have stepped back and let them take control but I still poke my nose in though as it is hard to lose that passion for a great product!


5. With so much recent focus on organic, low GI, gluten free, vegan and generally healthier foods, have you seen a difference in food trends and what consumers want from their food in the last few years?

Absolutely, it’s been phenomenal actually! I would say that organic isn’t that relevant for us within ready meals but within fruit and vegetables (produce) it would be. In terms of gluten free, vegan and vegetarian products, this trend has been huge and in high demand. People’s eating habits have changed purely on the basis that people really want to understand what they’re eating from a health perspective. People are much more conscious of looking after their bodies and themselves. We see it on nearly every brief we get that we always need a gluten free, vegan and vegetarian product as well as the normal demand for mainstream products but this is a popular area which will continue to grow over the next few years.


6. What is it like working in a family business and how easy is it to draw the line between business and pleasure?

In the early days it was quite challenging. I came into the business with my Sister and we had to learn the boundaries of what is work and what isn’t and how you communicate with each other in both a family environment and a business environment.  We now have a ‘no work’ rule outside of the office as you need to be able to have fun and relax with your family too.


7. How did you and your family come to the decision that you wanted to find a strategic partner and what were the motivations behind the exercise?

We arrived at a natural point in the business where we recognised that we needed to invest if we weren’t going to stand still. The problem with standing still is that you will probably end up going backwards and it’s our belief as entrepreneurs that you’ve got to keep investing in your business and pushing things forward.

If we wanted to go forward and expand the business it would be a very significant investment for us, in the region of £10-15million. As a privately-owned business, it would mean finding the investment ourselves and this would have taken a number of years to execute. We felt we needed to take a bigger step and bring an investor into the business to help accelerate the growth process more quickly which were our motivations behind the exercise. That is exactly what Bluebox helped us do so elegantly.


8. Britain is currently in negotiations in Brussels over Brexit, what was the biggest negotiation point when you were selling KK to Belgium based company Ter Beke and how did you work through it?

I wouldn’t say that there were any huge sticky negotiation points. Ter Beke were looking for a company that could compliment their skill set, which is automation and standard products as they didn’t have a huge product range at the time. Our business is all about innovation and a wide portfolio of products and Ter Beke loved the idea of adding our skill set to their existing business which was not necessarily a negotiation but it’s part of what attracted them to us and visa versa.

In terms of negotiations between Ter Beke and other suiters, it was very important for us that any partner had a culture perfectly aligned to ours.  It was as important as price.  In Ter Beke, Bluebox identified a partner that was a family business with very similar values to ourselves.

Do you think Ter Beke got a better deal with the pound being weaker against the euro?

Yes absolutely – they had been looking to invest into the UK for a number of years and in terms of timing that helped with the sale price and getting the deal completed.


9. What advice would you give someone thinking about selling their business?

Don’t take anything personally. In terms of Due Diligence, work through it as a process and don’t get emotional.  It can be a very emotive time especially for entrepreneurs who have built the business up from the start.

It is also important to carry on the day job and not take eyes off the ball.  Leave the experts to do the job of securing the deal with your investor and work as if it is business as usual. Nothing is guaranteed until completion day and the deal is signed!!


10. Post deal, you remain at KK as Managing Director, where do you see the company going in the future?

There is a focus on more strategic development within our current client base but I think the area that is of interest to us is expanding into Europe to create new international opportunities.


11. If you had the chance to start your career over again, what would you do differently?

Coming into the family business, I had to learn in my own way without a direct mentor. I would have liked to have learnt from someone who had done it all before me as a lot of my experience came from learning the hard way. ?


Quick fire:

Home cooked food or fast food?

Home cooked – as long as I’m not cooking! Mums Moroccan meatballs

Bucket list must?

Go scuba diving in Galapagos Islands

Favorite blue thing?

The sea

Life motto?

Be happy, it’s not that bad

Favorite thing about Christmas?

Wrapping presents for my daughter…..and mince pies !


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