Shane Ryan

Entrepreneur and Founder of FEED and Nissan Generation Next Select 2016

Last year Shane started FEED with zero experience, zero contacts and zero money, but through his hard work, determination and natural flair for business he has managed to create a successful brand delivering healthy lunch boxes to office workers. FEED has social responsibility built-in and donates one meal to a child in the developing world for every FEED lunch box sold.

Food entrepreneur Shane Ryan remains as determined and ambitious as ever after experiencing another setback on his journey to bringing his heat and eat lunch pot idea to market.
February 20, 2017

Groundhog day! I started the last blog explaining that everything had fallen through with our producer and unfortunately I have to start this entry in the same vein; what a mess!

Everything was all set to go for our January kick off until our new producer announced that they’ve decided to take their own business in a different direction and so wouldn’t be in a position to manufacture on behalf of others anymore.

While I completely understand that it was a business decision it was hard to hear, especially being so close to the finish line. While disappointing, it’s not the end of the world – I’m looking at it as a bottleneck as opposed to a blockage which is simply slowing things down. We’ll still get there, I’m still as passionate today as I’ve ever been and won’t let what is, in the grand scheme of things, a small setback get in the way.

When these things happen, it’s important to learn from them, to figure out what went wrong and why and how I can use the experience as a positive going forward. I learned from the previous producer situation the importance of contingency plans and so we’re not completely at a loss for options.

I recognised early on in this process that I needed help. Yes, I have a great idea and product but there’s a whole lot of skills required to get a product from idea stage to reality and so Enterprise Ireland have provided me with a great mentor who has been in the industry for years and can steer the strategy in the right direction. He’s been invaluable during this especially challenging period.

I’ve been busy visiting all 42 Supervalu stores in Dublin, meeting the management, arranging logistics etc. which has taken a lot of time and energy – my Nissan Qashqai has made my travels all the more bearable and I don’t know what I would do without it.

Just this week I pitched at the AIB Startup Academy Summit in Belfast and won, earning myself the final place on the 2017 AIB Startup Academy. As a young person trying to create something and add value and particularly because I’m alone on this journey, I place a huge value on learning from others and using others experience and ideas to become a better entrepreneur and person generally. The Startup Academy kicked off yesterday with an extremely talented group and I’m excited for the learnings to come over the two month period.

Looking forward to checking in next time with some very positive news!

December Update
January 10, 2017

December 9, 2016

Food entrepreneur Shane Ryan has overcome a series of setbacks to build his business and is now just weeks away from launching his two heat and eat lunch pots.

I’ve learned a lot over the past month, which has been a real test of what it takes to succeed in business. Everything with the producer that I had found fell through at the last minute. Being the eternal optimist that I am I had thought that everything was going to work out just fine but I was left scrambling to put a contingency plan into place when no plan B existed.

It was stressful and frustrating but I came through it in better shape. I managed to find an even better production partner who has come on board as a partner in the business.

With over 30 years of experience in food manufacturing and distributing in Ireland and internationally I couldn’t have asked for a better partner as I step into the next phase of the business.

Understandably a lot of producers are solely focused on margin and thankfully I’ve found a partner who wants to see and help my business become a success so it’s all systems go to get our two new heat and eat lunch pots into production and launched into Super Valu stores on the 16th January next year.

I also won a competition with Ulster Bank and Today FM which gives the business €10,000 worth of radio advertising. We have been working on the scripting and getting the ad ready to air in January to coincide with the launch of the products into Super Valu stores.

I’m currently working on my pitch for the final of Ireland’s Best Young Entrepreneur at local level in Limerick. I’m competing against four incredible early stage startup companies in the “New Idea” category. The boot-camps around that have been great and I love that type of environment. I present to the judging panel next week and I am excited at the prospect of progressing to the regional and national finals.

My work on the ‘New Frontiers’ entrepreneur development programme with Enterprise Ireland is quite intense at the moment with two full days workshops a week. It takes up a lot of my time but it has really helped to refine my business model which is now a million miles away from the traditional model for a food business.

The programme has been invaluable in focusing on creating a lean business that can grow quickly, be export ready and presenting a good prospect for investors. You need investors when it comes to scaling for export and exporting has always been the end goal.

Right now, I am busy preparing for our launch in January. There won’t be much time for that after Christmas so I need to make sure I have all my ducks in a row. I am excited about 2017 and seeing the product on the shelves. Once FEED is out on the market the hard work really starts and I’m extremely excited to get cracking!

Exciting product news!
September 7, 2016

Shane has some very exciting product news, he’s also been covering lots of kilometers in his new Qashqai!

New products, blind-taste testing and clocking up the mileage!
August 19, 2016

Food entrepreneur Shane Ryan is on his way to launching two great healthy lunchbox products after months of hard work, driving 3,300 kilometres and hosting a blind-taste testing with 40 students that truly tested his nerves.

It’s been a productive and exciting summer working on the development of two new products for FEED which we hope will disrupt the lunch time game. I’ve been focused on this project since April and it’s now at a really exciting stage.

We’re at the trial stage of two new heat and eat lunch pots – they’re the healthy and fun alternative to a boring processed sandwich or bland salad. They’re all vegan, high in fibre, dairy, refined sugar, additive and preservative free with 25g of natural protein.  The protein has been the pain point for the last couple of months; trying to keep the product natural and hit a high protein claim is not as easy as I thought!

I’ve been working with a food laboratory in Tyrone on getting the product spec just right which has been a challenging but rewarding experience. They treat the whole process like a science experiment whereas I’m used to throwing everything in a pot and hoping for the best. I’ve definitely learned a lot though and the team and I have had some serious fun with Peggy, the food technologist supremo.

We worked really hard to get the balance right. It was five months long and there were so many times that I thought we wouldn’t get there but that eureka moment came last week when we finally brought the product to life – we hit the magic number and it tastes delicious!

The next part of the process was to do a blind taste testing with 40 post grad students at UCD. We had them taste our two products alongside our competitors to gauge their reaction and how we sit next to our strongest competition. To my relief the FEED samples came out on top across the board. I was really nervous before and during the tasting. I know how important the feedback is at the point before moving forward but at the same time this is my baby and I’m very protective over it. In the end there were no broken hearts and I left UCD a very happy boy!

The next step is to get the pots into production as we have stores waiting – I’ve set myself the ambitious goal of being in production before my next vlog in order to keep some fire under me. I think at this stage it would be easy to get complacent but it’s only now that the real work starts.

We also did the lunch catering for the Ultimate Frisbee World Cup in Dublin, serving lunch from the back of my beautifully branded Nissan Qashqai. It was the biggest event we’ve ever undertaken and was a great marketing opportunity with the athletes from all over the world raved about their lunches. I’m so grateful to have the Qashqai at my disposal. I’ve travelled 3,300 kilometres in the three weeks that I’ve had it and every kilometre was an absolute pleasure.