£25,000 boost for Sheffield’s The Russian Food Company

The Russian Food Company has been named as the winner of the Y-Accelerator 2018 initiative, with the Sheffield-based food manufacturer receiving a £25,000 equity investment from UK Steel Enterprise (UKSE) that will help the firm fuel growth and expansion into new markets.

Founded in April 2017 by entrepreneurs Leeza Murina and Steve Jones after spotting a gap in the market, The Russian Food Company created the “Bunza”, a modern twist on the traditional Russian pie. A cross between an artisan pie and a gourmet sandwich, the product has become a success with ‘foodies’ at farmers markets across the UK.

Judges at the Y-Accelerator event – which marks the end of a 12 week development initiative offering small business owners access to expert advice, specialist workshops and mentoring – said the £25,000 prize was awarded to the 19-time British Pie Awards winner because of its future growth potential.

The Russian Food Company was one of eight local companies to pitch as part of the final, which took place at Gripple’s Glide House on March 28 in front of an audience of business professionals including representatives from UK Steel Enterprise and the Sheffield City Region Growth Hub.

Co-founder Murina said: “Food unites friends and family and is a huge part of people’s lives, and with the British taste buds becoming ever more sophisticated, we are seeing increasing demand for something different; our handmade Russian food ticks that box.

“Following our initial success at independent farmers markets across the UK, the £25,000 equity investment will help us to expand our reach and deliver to smaller retail outlets such as farm shops, independent restaurants, cafes and delicatessens; growing our customer base with the view to eventually working with larger retailers too. With this in mind, we have already had a great response from Ocado, Selfridges Food Hall and Virgin Rail, to name a few.”

The UK Steel Enterprise Y-Accelerator initiative is a collaboration between private and public sector organisations including Rotherham Investment and Development Office (RiDO), Sheffield City Region Growth Hub, UK Steel Enterprise, Sheffield Hallam University, University of Sheffield and a number of private firms.

Alan Stanley, regional executive of UK Steel Enterprise, said: “The Y-Accelerator is a unique initiative that brings together various forms of support to create an intensive incubator for entrepreneurs with start-up ideas.

“The process was designed to help validate ideas, develop strong business models and provide people with the tools and skills to launch new businesses, and The Russian Food Company really demonstrated existing capacity for growth and expansion.

“We are therefore delighted to be continuing our relationship with the company through the £25,000 equity investment and looking forward to working with Leeza and Steve as they continue to build on their success to date.”