A cross between a food company and a healthcare service, myAllergy was born out of Mit Sharma’s experience with his daughter, whom when she was a baby had an anaphylactic shock after eating and was rushed to hospital, where it was discovered she was seriously allergic to several major foodstuffs. Business Advice met Sharma to find out about his startup story.
Sharma’s life changed when his daughter’s allergies meant that regular food shopping became almost impossible, so he set up myAllergy as a way to gain knowledge about which foods she could eat and where to get them from. His enterprise aims to give “freedom from food allergies” to food allergy sufferers and carers.
Having worked in the corporate world for most of his career, Sharma found it difficult at first to adjust to running a startup. “There’s a lot of uncertainty,” he said. “You don’t know when the next pay cheque is coming in or whether the business is actually going to make money right away. But the biggest change is that you’ve got to be so much more creative about finance – you can’t just throw money at stuff.”
With the help of KPMG Small Business Accounting, Sharma was able to take the hassle out of the financial side of things and concentrate on growing his fledgling business. The entrepreneur seemed pleasantly surprised at how supportive KPMG had been. “I’ve worked with accountants before and if I found myself chasing them then it’s a warning sign – it should really be the other way around.
“I never expected that one of the largest accountancy firms in the UK would provide services for startups,” admitted Sharma. “If there’s one thing the regulators will get you on its your numbers and finances. Keeping that clean and up to date makes the other aspects of running the business so much easier.
“The best way to describe the cash-rich project management I was working in before was how ‘dirty’ it was. It was very easy to waste money and not do any valuation, any marketing, or do any surveys. I wasn’t under any pressure to ask questions about whether what I was doing added value to customers, and if something didn’t work it just got brushed under the carpet,” added Sharma.
Now running a new business – an environment in which “every penny counts” – Sharma has found it refreshing to have the benefit of a supportive accountant to help make the big decisions needed for growth. “We’re looking to hire people at the moment,” he explained. “I can go straight to KPMG and ask what costs I need to consider.”
Sharma views the close relationship with KPMG as key to the future success of myAllergy, and 2016 is set to be a big year for the venture. As well as expanding his staff, Sharma will be approaching investors and looking to secure a Series A funding round. MyAllergy is launching its first range of products – a three-stage consumer’s guide to what to buy for allergy sufferers – with which Sharma hopes to achieve the brand’s proof of concept. “By the end of the year we want to be in a position where people can buy our products, when consumers can shop for and buy recipes, and get them delivered to their homes.
“I want to launch, gain some traction, then really think about the direction I want to take the business,” Sharma went on to say. “The architecture of the site if designed in such a way that we can add or remove services, and if we want to start growing internationally, we can do that fairly easily.”
Prioritising in the right way has been central to Sharma’s business philosophy so far, and myAllergy has drawn inspiration from Alibaba’s Jack Ma. “The first priority has to be your customers – the people that buy into your brand and services,” he said. “The second is your employees, because when things go wrong it’s going to be them that turn things around, innovate and create new ideas. Stakeholders should come third.”
Despite the administrative and logistical issues challenges that may lie ahead, Sharma sees endless opportunities in front of myAllergy. With KPMG on hand to help, Sharma can prioritise with ease and take his business in the direction he wants it to.
Read on to find out about City Pantry – the online catering company giving smaller food businesses a shot at success.
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