Paul Moore of Rebel Chilli has two reasons to celebrate this bank holiday weekend, further proof that he made the right decision to go into business for himself straight after graduating in 2014.
On Thursday night, the Bishopstown native won the Best Website for New Business Award at the Cork Chamber Business School’s Digital Marketing Awards. RebelChilli.com tells the story behind the company and showcases the growing range of sauces and relish it produces.
Paul was delighted with the award, describing it as ‘another string to the bow’. He believes social media and their online presence has been crucial to the success of the business.
“I do all the social media, we have Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat and Twitter accounts,” he said.
“That is probably the most enjoyable stuff. We have always had a good and loyal fanbase, they are always very supportive, contacting us and asking us questions which is good. Social media is massively important to us and we post daily.”
It is hard to know where he gets the time to share online, given his increasingly busy business is managed by himself and one staff member.
“There are two of us in the company at the moment. We do have three distributors for the retails and food service industry but we do all the making, packing and sending our ourselves. It is a lot alright, but it is good to be busy.”
True to the Rebel reference in the business name, it is still very much a Cork company.
“We are still making it ourselves up in Farranferris so I think people like that aspect too,” Paul said. “We have a commercial kitchen there so we produce two to three days and then supply to the rest of the country and export to the UK and Spain as well.”
Mentioning the businesses he supplies brings us to Paul’s second reason to celebrate. His range is already stocked in Supervalu, Dunnes Stores and many independent outlets and this weekend another major player is being added to the list.
“We have two products going into Tesco. I have six products in the range but the two that are going into Tesco are the Red Sweet Chilli and the Green Sweet Chilli. They are going into 65 stores nationwide, across the country.”
It is a massive order for the small company: “It is a great one to get, I didn’t initially expect it to be that many stores. But when I found out I was delighted!”
He wasn’t the only one, receiving multiple congratulations from his online following: “When I put up the post about Tesco on Facebook and Twitter it got a great reaction. It is a good news story, people really liked it.”
Rebel Chilli have also linked up with another growing company, the salad bar chain Chopped, the salad bars.
“They stock our Red Sweet Chilli so that was a great account to get," Paul said, but his ambition also extends beyond Irish shores.
“We export to the UK and Spain. In the UK it is to a few independents and one or two restaurants and in Spain it is to independent artisan stores. They carry a few other Irish products, that is a relatively new account.”
Rebel Chilli started as a joint venture with Paul’s brother Ken, while Paul was still in college.
“It was myself and my brother initially, we were operating on a part-time basis, at farmer’s markets and things like that.”
Ken decided to move on to other projects but Paul, newly graduated from UCC, felt it was worth giving the business a chance.
“I graduated with a Business Information Systems degree in 2014, so not food-related. But myself and Ken had started the business by then. How I looked at it was, I had a decent degree and could have got a job, I had job offers. But I had seen small scale success with Rebel Chilli so I felt there was nothing to be lost by giving it a go.
“Worst case scenario, it fails and I get a job with my degree. I’m delighted I did now because it is starting to grow and get a bit more recognition. I always had a love of food and paired that with wanting to run my own business.
“I didn’t plan on running my own business but it came about and and has led to me gaining a huge amount of experience and knowledge in the three years. I probably have learned more than a 25-year-old in a normal job. We are a fully-established company for three years.”
Despite some concerns about Brexit, Paul said it is currently a fantastic time to be in business, particularly in the food industry.
“Right now is the best it has been in years to be in business. When I started a few years ago it was good but it wasn’t as good as right now. The food market and food industry is very hot right now, there has never been more supports than there are right now, from the Local Enterprise Offices (LEOs) and from people who are willing to offer their own advice and support. I think it is the perfect time now for someone looking to start their own company, especially with social media making it so easy to build a brand online.”
He had particular praise for the support of his local LEO, who helped with the decision to take on his first staff member, Fergus Murphy from Mallow.
“I have gotten a number of supports from them down through the years and hiring Fergus was aided by the LEOs. I probably initially didn’t use them enough for advice, but they are very helpful and supportive and they are able to help out in terms of grants and supports.
“I definitely appreciate all the help I have gotten and would recommend them to anyone. Just call them up, go in and sit down with them, they are so helpful and you will find out then what support is available to you. There is nothing to be lost by taking to them.
And the support is not just for startups: “I would say that also to businesses that are established. You can end up doing the same processes over and over but if you talk to someone outside the business, you get a different perspective on it.”
Rebel Chilli’s most recent launch, a mango peach chutney, hit shelves in June of this year and there are big plans for further products in 2018.
“It was our first new product in quite a while and there was such a good response that I definitely plan to release a new product in the New Year, probably in February or March. Adding new products creates a buzz and freshens up the brand so I have a one or two products in particular I am excited about.”
2018 could also mean further recruitment, with growing orders and products creating a need for more staff.
“My way of looking at it is we will do as much as we can for now but it will come to a point where we have to take on someone. I imagine probably next year we will look at taking someone on again, maybe in a sales or marketing role. Fergus was my first hire in May of this year so that was exciting challenging at the same time.
But now I can really see the value of having another person in the business because I was working on my own for so long. When you go from that to working with someone you realise how much better it is to have someone else there.
“I got good at making decisions on my own but it is always good to have someone there, two minds are better than one at the end of the day.”
As two heads become three and the range grows from six products to eight or more, Rebel Chilli looks to have many more days to celebrate ahead.