Healthy Vending.ie is Ireland’s first company to provide healthy snacks through vending machines and has steadily built up business since its inception in 2007. Managing Director John Howley talks about how the Sligo County Enterprise Board’s Tradelinks Programme has helped the Company grow and develop. Healthy Vending came onto the Tradelinks Programme in 2011 and is expanding nationwide. The County Enterprise Board’s Tradelinks Programme is funded by the European Union’s INTERREG IVA Programme.
John explains the work of the company: healthyending.ie is the first Irish Vending Business to specialise in healthy options. It was launched to satisfy the growing demand for healthy vending. Most of our clients opt for a good variety of traditional and healthy options in their machines. I started the business on a part-time business initially, and went full-time as soon as the expanding client base allowed for this. The company now employs two people.
The Tradelinks Programme has supported the company in a range of ways. As a new business with minimal resources, the professional support provided by the Programme has clearly benefited us. We worked closely with business mentors in assessing the expansion prospects into the Northern Ireland markets. Within the healthvending.ie we have now have an infrastructure that facilities us going into new markets. This had been achieved by looking at how business is done and how these new markets work.
Looking to the future of the company, John outlines his plans: healthyvending.ie targets workplaces and centres that have at least 500 people on the premises each week. In the future we see scope for further expansion into hospitals, schools and any place that wants a health vending machine. Tradelinks has been particularly helpful in giving us an insight into how the Northern Ireland market operates. This is particularly important in moving to the public sector in the Northern Ireland market, as the structure is different to what we deal with in the South. Using mentors from Northern Ireland, we got the inside track and are now poised to turn this research and planning phase into to new business.
Healthyvending.ie will be the first Irish Vending company to place calorie counters on our machines. There is significant scope for expansion. If you look at somewhere like Japan, there is one vending machine for every 27 people comments John.
Gaining and maintaining customers is the backbone of our business. Tradelinks mentors have worked closely with us in looking at ways to market our product and give added value.’
John has the following advice for anyone developing a business: ‘Be persistent and don’t get discouraged easily. You don’t have to be an expert in everything, but have your research done.’