Philip Linardos ShelfNow

Name: Philip Linardos

Age: 29

Job title: Co-founder and CEO

Company & location: ShelfNow, London                    

Education: Royal Holloway, University of London – BSc Biology; Cass Business School – MSc Management, Entrepreneurship

Why did you decide to go for a career in food? Though ShelfNow was born out of frustration with an inefficient, expensive and unfair existing wholesale distribution model, I have first and foremost always had an appreciation for good food quality. As someone born and raised in Athens, I was exposed to a rich collective cultural enthusiasm for food and produce, with Greece being a country that has held food in the highest regard for a long time. It will always be synonymous with family and happy memories to me.  

However, my decision to go into the food industry was far more circumstantial rather than pre-planned. It was while I was at university that I began to explore entrepreneurship as a possible career path, thanks to the opportunity I had to meet and socialise with fascinating people who had a knack for entrepreneurialism. When I finished my studies, I wanted to get experience in the field and subsequently joined startups and venture led businesses. 

After conducting extensive research about distribution within the food and beverage industry, I wanted to bring about change to the traditional wholesale model in order to solve its glaring inefficiencies and allow for more food brands to enter the market (especially the smaller, non-mainstream players). My previous experience of being exposed to tech-enabled marketplaces, deep tech and some venture capital made me want to fuse the two areas of business I am enthusiastic about, using tech to optimise a dated business model and applying it to the food and drink industry. It was through these networks that I met my ShelfNow co-founder Sajid Ghani, who offered years of experience in retail, data analysis and food and beverage SME consulting respectively.  

“I wanted to bring about change to the traditional wholesale model in order to solve its glaring inefficiencies” 

Explain your job to us in a sentence (or two): At the company, I look after all things commercial development, fundraising and shaping the company’s vision which is aiming to establish ShelfNow as the leading marketplace for small and medium-sized food and drink brands and buyers. To be more specific I am involved in sales, marketing, partnerships, product development and fundraising. I recognise the need to perfect the right business model and attract the right people that ShelfNow can associate with who can realise this vision, whether they be employees, investors or commercial partners and advisors. 

What does a typical day look like for you? My day starts officially at 8am, when I enjoy a morning coffee to set me up for the day. I prioritise looking at emails for the first 30 minutes, as well as catching up on any messages from colleagues. I like to use my mornings to action urgent emails and also reflect on what I have coming up in the rest of the day. While I’m feeling refreshed, I like to make sure I respond to emails and complete other tasks that require more brainpower. 

Lunch is usually on the go as my day is busy. I like to organise meetings in the afternoon after I’ve completed the time-sensitive tasks for the day. When possible, I like to take calls while walking in order to get some much-needed steps in my day and improve my productivity.

My workdays rarely finish at the same time and can vary greatly in length. However, I usually make sure I wrap up officially by 8pm in order to enable time for some evening exercise before dinner. Sports and exercise are a passion of mine and I usually spend three to four evenings a week exercising. Though being an entrepreneur can mean that you can sometimes find it hard to switch off, I feel grateful and lucky to be in a job and wider industry that I am passionate about. 

Tell us how you went about setting up your business: ShelfNow was born out of the frustration of SME retail buyers and producers within the food and drink industry. When I looked at the way food was being distributed between these producers and buyers, I realised that there were significant inefficiencies with the middlemen involved in this process, relating to high costs, limited transparency and lack of intelligence guided decision making. This problem ultimately had a negative impact on consumers, the quality of food production and our environment.

SME buyers and producers are expected to expand their businesses by accessing larger networks of procurement and sales channels. However, the inefficiency of wholesalers limits the width of their distribution potential, making the whole process expensive and cumbersome, as well as often involving multiple resellers who are frequently remunerated with between 25%-55% of the product value as commission. The existing model, therefore, makes generating a profit extremely challenging for these SMEs.

My experience working in tech companies led me to realise the need to bring more efficiency and optimisation of processes, and eventually reduce costs as a consequence. It was also at one of these previous jobs that I met my co-founder and friend Sajid. We were both determined to cause an eventual upheaval in how manufacturers and trade buyers interact, and this resulted in the creation of a shared vision in ShelfNow. It took many hours of researching the food distribution market to be able to found a business that would be viable in such a challenging industry. From this original vision, what we now know as ShelfNow was born.

What’s the best part about working in food & drink? One aspect of working in food and drink that I find invigorating is the dynamic, ever-changing nature of the industry. Innovation and the brainstorming of new ideas with my team is such a rewarding process for me as an entrepreneur. There has scarcely been a more exciting time to be working in the food and drink industry. Innovating effectively as a business is all about responding quickly to the demands of your customers. We have seen in recent years that consumers are much more invested and interested in where their food is sourced from. This is a trend that has been especially exacerbated by the global pandemic, which has led to people thoroughly scrutinising their nutritional intake and how it affects critical elements of their health such as the immune system. 

I have always enjoyed being ahead of the curve on the latest trends in the food and drink industry, such as people wanting to buy more plant-based products, functional and no & low alcohol drinks, and more sustainably sourced and packaged products. ShelfNow has always been transparent, sharing contemporary data about these trends where possible so that we can help small, independent suppliers and retailers. SMEs are the lifeblood of our economy and it is a pleasure revolutionising the way producers and buyers trade with each other, with innovation and efficiency always at the forefront of my mind.

What’s the biggest misconception people have about working in food & drink? I would say that the biggest misconception I’ve come across is that the food and drink industry is predominantly about the mass production of brands by large multinational corporations. Of course, an element of this exists, however, small independent businesses are crucial to the wellbeing of both a local community and the wider economy. People may assume that ShelfNow makes its money by delivering big brands to large retailers and supermarkets, but in reality what we actually aim to do is the opposite: empowering smaller suppliers to trade with SMEs that include cafés, restaurants and delicatessens. We’ve seen plant-based, no & low alcohol and other artisan products featured prominently on mainstream television shows like Gordon Ramsay’s Future Food Stars. That it is an exciting time to be working in the food and drink industry is self-evident, and the excitement is not exclusively reserved for Waitrose and Walmart.  

What advice would you give to other young people looking to get into the food & drink industry? I was once told that in business it’s important to ask yourself, “what am I good at, and what am I not so good at?” Throughout my career and especially since I co-founded ShelfNow, I have found this advice to be invaluable. Making sure that you are focusing on what you do best is key along with identifying your needs. Once that’s established, you want to start attracting, hiring and associating yourself with people whose strengths and influence complement your ability, like fitting the correct pieces of a jigsaw together. It is essential in business to coalesce the right individuals, each with their own backgrounds and skillsets, and all capable of contributing their own unique ideas to realise the shared company vision.

What’s your ultimate career dream? My goal with ShelfNow is to not only disrupt but also make a permanent positive mark on the food and drink industry, through ShelfNow’s business model. I want to establish ShelfNow as a leading online wholesale marketplace, by revolutionising the industry with technology to make food and drink much more friendly to the interests of small independent enterprises. My ultimate dream with ShelfNow is to make the online marketplace a household name in B2B trading. This will take hard work, determination, ambition and constant readiness to innovate, but we are well up for the challenge nonetheless. 

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