A young couple who have turned their passion for vegan food and healthy living into a successful small business are set to spread their wings with the help of a five-figure investment from the North East Small Loan Fund Supported by The European Regional Development Fund.

Rebecca and Luke Tonks set up Nourish Bud last year after quitting their jobs in accountancy to travel round the world in 2018 and being inspired by the varied plant-based diet options they saw and enjoyed in South East Asia and Latin America.

It provides a full daily menu of vegan meals which can be tailored to customers’ individual tastes and requirements and delivered to addresses in Tyne & Wear, South East Northumberland and the couple’s home area of North Tyneside.

But now, after working with regional fund management firm NEL Fund Managers to secure a £25,000 investment, the business’s delivery radius will be growing around ten times larger, with major conurbations including Leeds, York, Durham and Darlington on its target list.

The couple’s goal is to keep scaling the business up by capitalising on the UK’s increasing enthusiasm for vegan food and to make it a truly national retailer by the end of next year.

Up to now, Luke and Rebecca have worked on every aspect of the business themselves, including developing marketing campaign and packaging designs as well as creating and making all the meals.

But as part of the investment, a full-time chef has been recruited to free up more of their time to manage and develop the business’s operations.

More new jobs are expected to follow as the business grows.

All Nourish Bud’s meals are made using only vegan and whole foods, with around 80 per cent of customers who try them coming back to place repeat orders.

The business is part of the Scale Up North East programme, which is aimed at supporting North East-based businesses that can demonstrate both the hunger and the potential to achieve high levels of growth, and was referred to NEL Fund Managers by Scaleup North East partner Jon Symonds.

RTC North is delivering the Scale Up North East programme, which is part-funded by the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF), in conjunction with the North East Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP).

Luke Tonks says: “We’ve always had a passion for healthy eating, well-being and nutrition, and the ways in which plant-based diet options, fresh vegetables and spices are integral to a healthy diet and lifestyle in the countries we visited really captured our imagination.

“We’re the first UK business to focus solely on delivering a full daily menu of prepared vegan meals, which gives us a significant competitive advantage over others who might want to do the same, and we’re learning lessons all the time about the best ways in which to develop what we offer, both in terms of our meals and how everything is set up.

“We’ve had a fantastic response from our customers during our first year, a great many of whom are not vegans, and to have such a high proportion of them making repeat orders suggests we’re doing something right!

“We’re going to be managing Nourish Bud’s growth carefully, testing and reviewing everything we do to ensure the model remains both scalable and true to everything that the business is built on.

“Being part of the Scale Up North East Programme has helped us get a lot of useful information about developing the business, while the NEL investment team were hugely supportive as we refined and finalised how we wanted to make use of their investment.”

Jonathan Armitage, investment executive at NEL Fund Managers, adds: “Rebecca and Luke have built on their passion for health, food and fitness to quickly create a really impressive business and they’ve now got every opportunity to realise their growth ambitions.”

Jon Symonds, partner at Scaleup North East, says: “Having worked with Rebecca and Luke to develop the execution to deliver their strategic plans for growth, it was evident that working capital to drive some of the strategic execution was essential. I am delighted that NEL Fund Managers could assist us to achieve this.”

Part of the £120m North East Fund and aimed predominantly at smaller SMEs, the £9m North East Small Loan Fund typically offers loans of between £10,000 and £100,000 to businesses in Tyne & Wear, Durham and Northumberland.

It is designed to assist with the creation of over 1,200 new regional jobs in more than 320 SMEs over the life of the fund.

The overarching £120m North East Fund will provide financial support for more than 600 businesses, creating around 3,500 jobs and delivering a legacy of up to £80m for further investment into the region.