The story behind Innoveat with founder Heerum Fleary

It’s time for a new and exciting Behind the Biz interview.

Today I’m chatting with Heerum, the founder of Innoveat – a virtual marketplace for food and beverage buyers around the world.

Tell us about Innoveat

Born in 2016 Innoveat set the pace, establishing itself as the UK’s premier food & beverage network geared specifically within the specialist travel and leisure before metamorphosising towards the back end of 2020 into the UK’s largest online food & beverage marketplace that now encompasses wholesale and food halls.

What sparked the idea?

It dawned on me how much I raced around Europe looking at all manner of amazing food & drinks ideas targeting the travel sector, that if I created the right event they might support me and head in my direction instead (thankfully they did!).

Where did the brand name come from?

I can take no credit’ it was a spontaneous ‘lightbulb moment’ that came courtesy of my husband.

How did you hook up with customers in the first instance?

Both the exhibition and food & drinks communities are tight-knit fraternities with significant crossover. On the proviso that you forge a robust reputation around transparency & integrity, constant evolution, industry wisdom and an infectious enthusiasm to travel the extra distance to support and assist incumbent/prospective customers, you’ll be fine. There’s a lot of intrinsic goodwill in these interest groups, so if you give, you’ll receive in spades. 

Please tell us about life before Innoveat?

I worked as a buyer within the highly frenetic airlines and travel sector. 

What has been your biggest learning from lockdown?

There’s always a fantastic opportunity beckoning when you least expect it!  We all know that online meetings, zoom calls and virtual gatherings are nothing new but the advent of Lockdown provided extra impetus to take this positive trend mainstream. I’d been thinking about a more significant online offer for some while but with the traditional exhibition circuit and unlikely to ever return to what it once, I knew had to a) not only to move fast but b) go the extra distance to create an all-encompassing offer that tackled uncertainty and inevitable suspicion head on.

Did you always plan to be self employed?

Yes, I’ve always had a restless mind that looks for ways to improve current situations, work practices….and in all honesty it was the best way to navigate a career whilst bringing up 4 boys.

What’s got you most excited in Food & Drink?

The opportunity to shape and influence young brands as they start out on their own precariously unique ‘life journeys.’ Over the 5 years the Innoveat team has made various suggestions for line extensions/brand evolutions & improvements that have enabled young, impressionable (sometimes established & learned) brands to make tentative yet game-changing footholds in new food sectors. You don’t exist in our industry without seeing/sometimes making a number of ill-judged decisions. Anything my team and I can do to help others dodge glaring banana skins makes sense. 

Share a business high with us

There are 2 that come to mind:

  1. It was an ‘early doors’ listing success with British Airways (that brought commission in each month) that enabled me to pay for my first employee who proceeded to stay with me for two years. 
  2. Seeing young ‘diamonds in the rubble’ take shape, evolve and ultimately succeed. Brands I’ve helped nurture (Joe & Sephs, Ollys, Tyrells, Darling Spuds, Salty Dog & Olives et Al remain very close to my heart.

Best advice you’ve received?

Make the most of any situation and never be afraid to adapt!

Check out the Innoveat site and show support over on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.

I want to say a MASSIVE thank you to Heerum for getting involved with Behind the Biz. I hope you all found the interview as motivating and inspiring as I did.