The Russian Food Company Ltd is set to ‘fuel growth and expand into new markets’ after being named as the winner of the Y-Accelerator 2018 initiative,  receiving a £25k equity investment from UK Steel Enterprise (UKSE).

Founded in April 2017 by entrepreneurs Leeza Murina and Steve Jones after spotting a gap in the market, the Sheffield-based food manufacturer created the “Bunza”®, a modern twist on the traditional Russian pie. A cross between an artisan pie and a gourmet sandwich, the product has become a huge success with ‘foodies’ at farmers markets across the UK.

Judges at the Y-Accelerator event – which marks the end of a 12 week development initiative offering small business owners access to expert advice, specialist workshops and mentoring – said the £25k prize was awarded to the 19 time British Pie Awards winner because of its future growth potential.

The Russian Food Company Ltd was one of eight local companies to ‘pitch’ as part of the initiative final, which took place at Gripple’s Glide House on March 28th in front of an audience of prominent local business professionals including representatives from UK Steel Enterprise and the Sheffield City Region Growth Hub.

Co-founder Leeza, said: “Food unites friends and family and is a huge part of people’s lives, and with the British taste buds becoming ever more sophisticated, we are seeing increasing demand for something different; our handmade Russian food ticks that box.

“Following our initial success at independent farmers markets across the UK, the £25k equity investment will help us to expand our reach and deliver to smaller retail outlets such as farm shops, independent restaurants, cafes and delicatessens; growing our customer base with the view to eventually working with larger retailers too. With this in mind, we have already had a great response from Ocado, Selfridges Food Hall and Virgin Rail, to name a few.”

The UK Steel Enterprise Y-Accelerator initiative is a collaboration between private and public sector organisations including Rotherham Investment and Development Office (RiDO), Sheffield City Region Growth Hub, UK Steel Enterprise, Sheffield Hallam University, University of Sheffield and a number of private firms.

Alan Stanley, Regional Executive of UK Steel Enterprise which invests in growing companies locally, said the quality of the entries to the competition was ‘very impressive’, with several of the businesses in question having already secured support from growing numbers of customers.

He said: “The Y-Accelerator is a unique initiative that brings together various forms of support to create an intensive incubator for entrepreneurs with start-up ideas.

“The process was designed to help validate ideas, develop strong business models and provide people with the tools and skills to launch new businesses, and The Russian Food Company really demonstrated existing capacity for growth and expansion.”

The team at UK Steel Enterprise, a subsidiary of Tata Steel, commented on the calibre of pitches, which made choosing just one winner a very difficult decision.

Alan continued: “The eight businesses who made it to the final pitch event have been through a challenging programme forcing them to demonstrate the viability of their products time and time again.

“The quality of the final pitches reflects very well on all those who supported the entrepreneurs and in particular I’d like to thank staff at RiDO who led the programme.”

David Grimes, Growth Hub Manager, said: “The Y-Accelerator is a great opportunity to support entrepreneurs or early stage businesses with a great business idea. Not only do participants have the opportunity to access funds for investment to help get the business off the ground, but they will also have access to business support and advice.”

Talking about the Y-Accelerator initiative, Leeza said: “I found the Y-Accelerator to be an extremely useful experience because it has given us the focus and dedicated space and time to work on developing our business.

“The team at RiDO have the incredible ability to enable you to see your business through the eyes of the consumer, so I want to thank them for all they have done throughout the 12 week programme.”

Other finalists in the Y-Accelerator programme include:

  • Tickets For Good – charitable event industry donation programme;
  • Grobotic Systems – designer and manufacturer of plant growth chamber for use in plant science research;
  • Slanted Theory – Sheffield-based augmented reality company;
  • Cyan Security – GDPR advice consultancy;
  • Care Products Direct manufacturer and supplier of care products for the health and social care sector;
  • Food Circle Supermarket – online retailer of surplus healthy food and drink;
  • Paws and Presto – designer and manufacturer of products to solve ‘doggy problems’.