Alex Matheson, the 2018 Heropreneur Awards Entrepreneur of the Year, launched Fuel10k into the food market in 2013.
Alex left the Royal Scots Dragoon Guards after seven years of service following tours in Kosovo, Macedonia and Iraq, he then worked in Food and Drink export before going it alone to co-found Fuel10k in 2013.
The initial product range has expanded considerably since its launch, to now include breakfast drinks, porridge pots, granolas, wheat biscuits, multigrain flakes and new Complete Meal powders. It is the UK’s fastest growing breakfast brand and one of the front running challenger brands in the food sector.
We caught up with him to ask 10 important questions to find out more about Alex and Fuel10k.
What have you been up to since winning the Heropreneurs Entrepreneur of the Year in 2018?
It has been an extremely busy few months. We have gone through a complete brand refresh, the results of which are just starting to hit the shelves now. It is exciting to look again at what the brand means and how it projects itself to those who are regular consumers and to think about how we can attract new people to the brand. We have made sure that the essence of the FUEL10K brand is maintained while adapting the look and feel to be a little more inclusive.
What was the most important thing you have learned in the last year?
Innovation is the life blood of any young challenger brand but not every great idea lands in the way it has been dreamed of. The importance of failing fast is often cited. This can be hard to bring yourself to do when the project has been your baby but focusing on relevance and growth of the core of the business must remain main thing. Then when innovation lands well it is an additional boost to the whole business.
Have you always felt the pull of entrepreneurialism or has it developed over time?
Growing up on a farm and then spending 7 years in the Army I have always revelled in having a significant degree of responsibility as well as control and influence over what I am doing and how it is done. Shaping and building a team to collectively solve problems and achieve goals that will enable the group to achieve has lead me down this path rather than it being a deliberate aim. Now, I would not have it any other way!
When you were starting up, how did you get your idea or concept for the business?
In a crowded market place to be successful there has to be a gap that you can fill and an ongoing need that you can satisfy. We identified that breakfast sales were in decline in the major supermarkets because habits were changing especially amongst the young. Sit down family breakfasts were reserved for weekends and an increasing number of people were craving quick and convenient solutions. By appealing to a younger demographic we were targeting the people being lost from the supermarket aisles. Then by formulating a healthy, tasty and convenient or on the go range of breakfast products FUEL10K aimed to provide the very people who were no longer buying from the supermarket with a breakfast solution that appealed directly to them.
What is the best part about working for yourself?
I enjoy the responsibility, challenge and flexibility that it brings.
What has been the hardest part about setting up your own company?
It is a huge decision to quit your job and go it alone but once that decision is made no one thing is particularly difficult. The major challenge comes about because there are so many different things to attend to and problems to resolve simultaneously. Much like eating the proverbial elephant…. one step at a time and refusing to give up or be put off is the key.
Any mistakes you have made along the way that you wish you could change with the benefit of hindsight?
There have been many mistakes. I don’t see this as a bad thing, if you are not prepared to make mistakes, progress and ambition are stifled. The important thing is to learn the lessons those mistakes can teach you and take those learnings forward into the next phase or endeavour.
Who was the best boss that you’ve ever had. What did you like about them, and why?
I learnt a lot from the many of the commanders I had whilst in the Army. The best of them were able to knit a team together from a group of experts in a variety of fields and end up with true synergy.
What do you do to unwind outside of work?
Keeping active in the outdoors whether it be skiing, cycling or water sports has always been my go-to. Combining this with friends and family by encouraging them to come along with me is the perfect recipe for time off.
If you had one piece of advice to someone just starting out, what would it be?
The whole experience is a rollercoaster that you need persistence and a level head to make the most of. If you can always remember that “Nothing is ever as good or as bad as it first appears” your feet will stay on the ground in the good times and you will avoid losing heart when things get tough.