Every business is faced with its individual challenges, but, with the right partner, a challenge is by no means a barrier to success.
Third-generation food entrepreneur, Ernesto Coppola, and his wife Maria Suleymanova didn’t always have aspirations to run their own food business. Born into a traditional Italian family with a heritage in food production dating back to 1903, Ernesto had his mind set on trying something different.
After studying in London, where he met Maria, Ernesto spent 12 years working in private equity before he realised his real passion was rooted in his heritage: food. Recognising consumer demand for Italian food in growth markets like South East Asia, Eastern Europe and Latin America, as well as more mature markets like Northern Europe, alongside an opportunity to develop an authentic brand that exports globally, the couple quit their jobs in finance and founded Coppola Foods in 2012.
Now ranking at number 65 in the Financial Times’ FT: 1000 Europe’s Fastest Growing Companies 2018, Coppola Foods is Europe’s fastest growing Italian food company and distributes its premium, nutritious products to over 30 markets. With four offices across the globe, its turnover grew by 1,632% from 2013 to 2016 and the business aims to reach over £5m in revenue by 2020.
But while Coppola Foods was easy to manage in the early days, its rapid expansion generated some growing pains. When it started to sell and distribute its products to large retail chains with lengthy 60-90 days payment terms, paying its growing number of suppliers and staff while also managing overheard costs became increasingly difficult. It soon became apparent that they needed help if they were to remain profitable. The company required access to working capital to fund their export debts and plug the gap while they awaited payment.
These barriers to growth meant the business sought external funding, so Ernesto and Maria partnered with Bibby Financial Services (BFS) to find a suitable solution. BFS structured an Invoice Finance facility, which allows the business to release cash from invoices, bridging the gap between paying suppliers and receiving payment from customers. Listening to the needs of the business, BFS also provides a Bad Debt Protection service, protecting Coppola Foods from customer non-payment through insolvency or default. This type of structure means that while BFS raises the invoices, Coppola Foods continues to handle the credit control and payment collection process.
Ernesto Coppola, CEO and Co-founder of Coppola Foods, commented:
“Securing access to medium/long-term working capital with invoice finance was something we saw as key to supporting our development in the past two years. With this extra working capital, we can invest more in the business and look to exceed our current rate of growth.
“We source our ingredients and manufacture the products in Italy, but our head office is in London. The funding means we can cover our overhead costs, paying both suppliers and staff before our overseas customers pay. It has really helped to facilitate our growth. It’s instilled a better sense of diligence when it comes to following up with customer payments, alongside monthly reporting, both of which are hugely important to us.
“With innovation at the heart of what we do, we have a lot of targets to meet by 2020 and BFS is a fantastic partner to help us sustain this growth around the world.”
Ian Lyall, Relationship Manager at Bibby Financial Services said:
“Coppola Foods is a really impressive business and being able to support them on their growth journey has been a great experience. We have worked closely with Ernesto and Maria over the course of the year, and really understand the business and its individual pressure points.
“Managing cashflow is essential to the success of any business, but Invoice Finance particularly helps businesses dealing with overseas debt due to varied payment terms. Its recent ranking in the FT: 1000 Europe’s Fastest Growing Companies 2018 is evident of Coppola Foods’s ambition and progression as a business."