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Alumni of the month – August 2014

Sally Preston
BSc (Hons) Food Science, 1988

Robert Humphreys

Sally Preston is a successful entrepreneur and founder of The Kids Food Company, an innovative and fast-growing food business that creates healthy frozen meals for children and toddler snacks across the UK and internationally under the brands of Babylicious, Kiddylicious and Munch Bagz.

Like many successful start-up businesses, the idea first came out of necessity. When Sally was mother to her two babies, she found that she didn’t have the time to cook and puree food. She soon found out that no-one was offering healthy, convenient baby food and conversations with friends soon revealed there was a gap in the market: “When I had my babies I was an experienced Food Scientist working for respected UK retailer Marks & Spencer in the ready meal department. I had spent my career developing tempting, great tasting, good quality food that was convenient and ready to eat in minutes. So I wondered why mums had to choose between offering their babies bland, sterilized jars and cans or spending time making baby food themselves?”

Sally soon decided that since she could not buy good quality, convenient meals for her babies, she would develop a range herself and the Babylicious brand of frozen baby food was born. The company soon grew to include healthy snacks for young children (Kiddylicious) and they recently introduced a range for kids aged 4-11 years old. Today, the Kids Food Company is now one of the top two children’s snack brands in the UK and has now expanded into overseas markets including the USA, Spain and South Korea. When setting up, Sally beat off competition from over 500 businesses to land the £20,000 top prize at the HSBC Startup Stars Awards along with a host of other business accolades.

Sally’s journey to successful business owner began when she enrolled on the 4 year BSc (Hons) Food Science course at LSBU, then known as the South Bank Polytechnic. Attracted by the prospect of studying in London and South Bank’s high-quality resources, her time at the University proved pivotal in her professional development: “The quality of the facilities was fantastic, which included biochemistry and microbiology laboratories. It was also great living in London with everything on my doorstep if somewhat expensive as a student!”

South Bank’s reputation for its strong links with industry enabled Sally to secure a work placement at multi-national sugar manufacturer Tate and Lyle’s laboratory, as well as a the top placement of eight months at Mark & Spencer’s head office during her industrial placement year. This paved the way for a successful 15 year career at M&S as a Food Technologist in the ready meal department: “I was offered an unconditional job at M&S after qualifying which was fantastic. This in turn made me realise I definitely wanted to work in retail and I am now providing new and innovative products for the retailers.”

Sally now presides over a business she grew from nothing to retailing £8million and with a growth of 50% year-on-year. As Founder and Managing Director of the company, there is no typical week: “I work closely with all of my teams, including the finance, sales, marketing, product development and logistics divisions. I like to involve my whole team and get their input and work collaboratively, but I ensure as the leader of the team that we are clear on our direction and solutions to any problems.”

Her immediate plans are simply to grow the business further by expanding its ranges and becoming a strong contender in the international markets. Above all, she hopes to enjoy the process and advises LSBU students and recent graduates to do the same: “Always try to work in a business you enjoy. Furthermore, working in a small company will give you the opportunity to understand working in a fast paced environment and experience the total dynamics of a company. Be a big fish in a small pond and you can progress a lot quicker than in a large company.”

Find out more about The Kids Food Company