Innovation and enterprise blog

27 September 2016

How Patrick Drake gave up the rat race and co-founded HelloFresh

Patrick Drake wanted to pursue his love of food full time – as a result he co-founded the UK's leading recipe box service. Patrick and his team wanted to give everyone great ingredients and the knowledge to cook fantastic meals and viola HelloFresh was born! We caught up with him before his appearance at the British Library’s Inspiring Entrepreneurs: Marketing Maestros event, which you can watch on BIPCTV.


Patrick drake

What were you doing before you co-founded HelloFresh and what drove you to start your own business?

I used to be a lawyer at Clifford Chance before I moved to Goldman Sachs and then decided enough was enough. I wasn't interested in helping someone else build their dream. I had my own to pursue. Cooking was something I always loved, but beyond that, I love to teach people. That's when I decided I wanted to work in food and have my own TV show. So I worked in restaurants for free to improve my skills and started a Youtube channel to practice being in front of the camera. Many twists and turns later (including a little stint in the mind-blowingly cool Fat Duck in Bray) I met with the people who were to become my co-founders of HelloFresh in the UK. It was November 2011 and then in January 2012, we packed the first 10 bags of shopping in my living room. It's grown a bit since then. Last month we delivered 8.5 million meals globally and I got the TV show too. 

What steps did you take to it started?

We could have spent months in research and development before launching HelloFresh only to find that we'd created something the market did not want. So instead of doing that we launched as soon as possible with a prototype. The product was really, really basic but it gave us a starting point and live feedback from real customers (rather than the misplaced encouragement of friends and relatives). We also tried every way possible to market ourselves, from dressing up as carrots in Waterloo station (we got asked to leave by security) to running a speed omelette challenge at food events to whip up excitement. What we learned along the way is that there's no substitute for the personal approach and that you get out what you put in. You could start a business thinking the best form of marketing is a massive billboard in Piccadilly Circus. But if people haven't heard of your product or your concept before, you need to put a passionate salesperson in front of them and show them why your business should become a part of their life. It's old fashioned and its labour intensive, but it works.

What obstacles, if any, have you faced along the way?

The greatest obstacle we faced was to educate a market that had never heard of recipe boxes before. People had happily been buying all their ingredients from the supermarket for decades, so why did they need a service like HelloFresh in their lives? We needed to show people that HelloFresh wasn't an extra line of expense in their monthly budget, but that it could be a replacement for their usual weekly shop. It's not easy trying to turn such a large ship around but through a combination of television advertising, strong PR, speaking to people in person and any other touchpoints we could find (you may have seen our smiley team at London tube stations!) a new course has been set. 

If you had one piece of advice for anyone thinking of starting their own business – what would it be?

Just go for it! It's been said that an entrepreneur is someone who jumps off the cliff and builds the plane on the way down. Clearly, some market research and a viable product are important but, as I said, don't spend months trying to make your first iteration perfect. It's never going to happen and if you are being honest with yourself you are probably just procrastinating for fear of judgment and failure. Failure is merely an indication that you need to correct your course, so embrace each failure as another indication of which direction you should (or shouldn't) take. It's like Thomas Edison said: "I haven't failed, I've just found 10,000 ways that don't work."

Check out Patrick's latest on Instagram: @patrickdrakechef

We caught up with him before his appearance at the British Library’s Inspiring Entrepreneurs: Marketing Maestros event, which you can watch on BIPCTV, sharing his innovative marketing strategies.