10 things you need to know about Chiller Box

10. It all began with burgers

The creation of Chiller Box was borne out of Marios Poumpouris’ frustration at attempting to open a gourmet burger restaurant in 2004. He explains: “Although in the end I couldn’t find premises I had been talking about a package of equipment that was worth about £70,000 and yet I didn’t even have one supplier phone me up and say, ‘you know that quote we have given you, how are you getting on, anything we can help you with?’ I thought ‘there is something wrong here’. Poumpouris got talking to his cousin Michael Michael, a fridge engineer by trade, and the pair launched Chiller Box.

9. Standing out from the crowd
From the start, Chiller Box set out to make sure its brand got noticed and anybody who has seen the company’s colourful vehicles on the road will be aware of its efforts in that regard. “We have always tried to be very innovative in everything we do, particularly our branding and our marketing and that is what I think has allowed us to make the biggest splash,” reflects Poumpouris. “We have come in with a fresh approach, a fresh brand, very bold. We try to instil a sense of fun into our branding but we are very serious about the business behind it.”

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8. Dealing with the downturn
After meeting all its financial targets during its first four years of trading, the global recession came along and pulled the rug from under Chiller Box’s feet. But Poumpouris believes the company has emerged from that difficult period as a stronger outfit. “We have sailed the stormy waters and taken every challenge on the chin all the way through,” he comments. “We haven’t necessarily grown financially, but we have become better, more efficient and gained a more productive team. We also started getting our trade accreditations, so we became a member of Cedabond first, then we joined CEDA, got our Gas Safe accreditations and became a member of the FCSI.”

7. Pushing the public sector envelope
Chiller Box cut its teeth on equipment projects primarily involving independent restaurants, coffee shops, delis, food retailers and butchery shops. In more recent times it has expanded into other markets, including the public sector. “We were just pushing into the public sector when the austerity cuts came into play and everyone was panicking, but we were doing very little anyway so whatever we could cream out of the public sector was extra for us,” says Poumpouris. “We carried on pushing in that department and it is paying dividends because we are getting the work.” The company now counts the likes of Haringey Council and the London Borough of Islington Council as clients, as well as Petchey Academy in Dalston and Queen’s Park Academy in Bedford.

6. Not all roads lead to London
It might be based a stone’s throw way from Tottenham Hotspur’s White Hart Lane stadium but the suggestion that Chiller Box only serves the London market is well wide of the mark. While much of its business does come from the capital and South East, Poumpouris says the firm will go wherever the work takes it. “One of our reps works out of his home in Newbury, so he tends to cover anything west of London, the M4 corridor and the Birmingham area. But we have done work down in Brighton, up in Spalding, Lincolnshire and we are currently doing some stuff up in Cambridge.”

5. Overseas ambitions come to the fore
Although it is coy about its exact plans, Chiller Box is currently exploring the possibility of expanding its business into overseas markets in order to grow the company. “Without saying too much at this stage, we have signed up to the UK Trade and Industry programme and we are looking at export opportunities in emerging markets as we speak,” reveals Poumpouris. “We have taken a view that recovery over here has obviously been slower than expected, so while we are a lot of fishermen trying to fish from a pond that has not got a lot of fish in it, maybe we should go to a smaller pond with more fish and less fishermen.”

4. Following the leads
When it comes to measuring the success of the business, Poumpouris likes to use a number of indicators. “Obviously it is about the level of work that comes in and what you secure, but also the margin you make on it, the number of new enquiries and the quality of those new enquiries,” he notes. “We monitor those very closely and track where they are coming from.”

3. External investment on the agenda
Chiller Box is considering ways of attracting external investment as it looks to embark on its next phase of growth now that the market is emerging from the downturn. It wants to get the business back to a year-on-year growth rate of at least 20%, and Poumpouris admits that is going to require outside support. “We are potentially looking at external investment to assist with that growth plan,” he reveals. “It is still relatively early days but we are considering angel investment perhaps, although when I say external investment it might or might not be financial investment — it could mean a non-executive director coming on board to give us steer and strategic guidance to help make that happen. We are constantly looking at our options.”

2. Achieving an FCSI first
Poumpouris last year became the first allied distributor to join the executive committee of the FCSI and he now represents the interests of distributors within the society. “It has been really interesting and a great experience,” he says. “You are sitting on the executive committee of an industry body and you are trying to help shape the future of that part of the industry. Obviously the FCSI is very specific in what they do and the kind of work that they are involved in, and it is a sector that we, by joining the FCSI, are actively looking to push into.”

1. Playing with the big boys
As a small business, Chiller Box still draws inspiration from its more established counterparts in the dealer market. Poumpouris says: “We realise we are still the little boys, but we are trying to play with the big boys. We are being knocked around a bit at the moment in terms of trying to make our mark, particularly in that consultant-led sector where you are in the playground with the C&Cs, the ScoMacs, the Shines, the Carfords, and the Courts. They are big, established businesses — some of them second or third generation — and they have got more buying power and a lot of them do their own in-house fabrication. So it is a different league, but that is what we are aiming for.”

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