‘Seeing a real change in how people think about food and waste is the ultimate goal’: FoodCloud CEO Iseult Ward on Their Break
With The Pitch, we’re backing business women that are shaping the working world. Women that defy the odds, that believe in their brand and that push their businesses to the top. As part of The Pitch, our partnership with Samsung, we’re shining a light on women who are inspiring others and how they got ‘Their Break’.
Wasting food is a massive problem both in Ireland and abroad, and businesses are increasingly turning attention to ways that we can curb our problem with wastage. FoodCloud, and it’s co-founder and CEO Iseult Ward, have their sights set firmly on a world without food waste. Working to connect businesses with a surplus of food with charities who need food supplies, Iseult spends her days constantly looking at ways to improve our relationship with food and how we consume it. Here, we chat about big breaks, big visions and why the goal is a world without food waste.
What was your big break?
It was probably when we first got Tesco on board as a partner. When we first started working on FoodCloud, we were working on a part-time basis – I was still in university and just shortly afterwards when I graduated and started working full-time was when we began trying to get a retailer on board for the business. Luckily, Tesco agreed to trial with us. Having the backing of Tesco gave us so much credibility and enabled us to get lots of other support from other places. In the early stages, that was what really set us off.
Have you always wanted to run your own business?
Not exactly. I don’t think I really understood what entrepreneurship was and so had never planned on becoming one. Looking back, I was never sure of what I wanted to do but always knew that I wanted to work in something that I was passionate about and where I could meet as many people as possible, be doing something new every day, be constantly learning and doing new things all the time. These were the things I knew I’d look for in a job and entrepreneurship gave me a lot of those opportunities.
What have been your biggest challenges as a female entrepreneur?
When we first started, we were students and had very little experience. This was essentially my first job, fresh out of college. Being in that position, where I had little experience but was very passionate about the job, was a challenge but I was so lucky to have positive people around me who could fill those gaps of experience and knowledge that I needed. Overcoming that gap at the beginning and gaining confidence was a big challenge.
Have you had doubts/ felt like quitting?
There were definitely times where things got very tough. Especially at the early stage, when there’s so much uncertainty about whether you’ll succeed or not. When you’re so new to it and you get negative feedback, things going wrong or people saying that they don’t think the business is a good idea, we were constantly questioning if this was the right move and whether it would work out. But we really had the passion to solve those problems, and the right people around to support us, so that it worked out in the end. Every time you have a knock, you come back with more strength and resilience than before, so it’s important to have them. I think you learn a lot more from failures than successes.
Do you enjoy keeping up with technological advancements?
We have a fantastic CTO who is very interested in anything new in technology, and he does an amazing job of keeping up with the new developments and keeping us informed. Personally, I’ve always been very interested in technology too; we definitely like to keep an eye on the tech that can help us and what’s coming up on the horizon.
What piece of technology is your business most reliant on?
Definitely the internet! It’s how we communicate, both internally and externally with stores and charities here and in the UK. It’s incredibly important that that communication works seamlessly.
What have you found the most rewarding aspect of setting up your business?
Seeing the impact that it has on other people. From the impact it has on the businesses that we work with, to obviously the impact of the food donations on the charities and the effect on communities has just been brilliant. As well as that, seeing all the people who have joined our journey since we started and who are as enthusiastic about our growth as I am has been amazing. It’s no longer myself and my co-founder, it’s now a team of over 50 people who are working towards making FoodCloud grow. To see us go from a small team to a big community has been incredibly rewarding.
What makes you bounce out of bed in the morning?
The opportunity to make a difference and have a positive impact with my work. To get people excited about what we’re doing, seeing more people get involved is what drives me every day.
What does success look like to you?
Ideally, it looks like a world where no good food goes to waste. So, in reality, success would be a world where there would be no need for FoodCloud in the first place! It’s funny to say that success would mean not having to exist, but seeing a real change in how people think about food and waste is the ultimate goal. I think food is an incredibly powerful tool that stretches across countries and cultures and people; respecting it is very important to me. To see companies and charities and people supporting each other through food is incredible.
Where do you see yourself in five years?
Working towards the goal of getting rid of food wastage and changing how people view food is what I hope to still be doing in five years. Developing a solution to fix the food wastage problem that we have here in Ireland, and then expanding that to work internationally is a big goal. We’ve set up two solutions in Ireland so far; one where we redistribute food using technology, where businesses and charities work directly together; and then we have our hubs, which are three warehouses; one in Dublin, one in Galway and one in Cork. We’re constantly looking at improving these solutions using technology and then finding ways to share those solutions with organisations outside of Ireland. We’ve managed to do well in the UK so far, and now we’re looking towards more partners internationally. Hopefully, we’ll see a lot more international work in the next five years.
What do you do to relax?
I do like cycling, it’s a great way to clear my mind. And then obviously, just hanging out with friends and taking time off from work for a while, and thinking about other things.
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