It's no truffle at all - the idea that led to a success story

Luigi is a 45-year old businessman from Tour du Mont in north Italy.  Tour de Mont is famous for it's truffles, truffles so rare and so difficult to find that the sensitive snouts of pigs or dogs are required to sniff out their special scent. Luigi has been in the food and hospitality industry for a number of years, but had always dealt with local people. If you'd ever met Luigi you would see a stocky gentleman, pretty tough, pretty rough, with hands that show evidence of a lifetime's work. He is not a ‘smoother’ , more of a hands-on guy, someone you could easily picture working in the field.

Luigi is not your academic type and is in fact quite introverted, not someone you could imagine talking to clients, or talking to anyone much at all. Imagine Luigi at family celebrations being the older dad who sits there, enjoying the wine, observing the festivities, saying nothing throughout. Having said that, once he gets started on those truffles he never stops, he has lots of little tips and anecdotes, and that's when you truly see Luigi's passion come out.

Discovering the business idea

Luigi travelled to London for the first time, with his wife in 2007. He is not really into travelling, so this was his first major trip outside of Italy for many years. The trip was intended as a gift to his wife for their silver wedding anniversary- 25 years of marriage. Luigi himself speaks no English at all, but his wife speaks a little as she used to work in hotels in Italy.

On this trip Luigi soon realised how expensive truffles are in London. Truffles are expensive in Italy, but are much more expensive in London, especially in restaurants. Whilst there Luigi and his wife naturally took walks around the Italian delicacy stores and specialty food shops there -  such as Harrods -  and was surprised to see truffles were sold at extortionate prices. It occurred to Luigi that that this is where his knowledge and contacts in the truffle farming industry could really become lucrative.

Starting the business

As soon as Luigi got back to Italy he got started on his business idea very quickly. Just as his personality would suggest,  Luigi was never into writing business plans or thinking about concepts; he was and still is pragmatic, hands-on, gets on with things straight away. He used his contacts in London - friends from Italy who also worked in the hotel industry -  and they put him in touch with a local food purchasing manager. He also hired a junior partner, his nephew, who speaks a little English.  Together they liaise with potential clients and showcase their products, flying from London to Turin and back. The buyers loved Luigi's superb quality truffles, so fresh and tasty.  They could be reassured that these truffles had come directly from the seller himself, a niche that hotels quickly jumped on, what a nice touch and a top quality product.

One step up

Luigi worked this way for a while but as his customer base grew and grew he soon realised he would need to change his business model to deal with his brand new customer base. This, luckily, was the right observation to make - it was important for Luigi to see that because his customer base was growing, the business could no longer be run as a cash business, and they needed a solid and proper set-up. Once Luigi realised this, and after a long discussion with his nephew, Luigi came to the conclusion that he would either have to set his business up either in Italy or in the UK. After some laborious research both Luigi and his nephew could see that setting up a business in the UK would be far easier. There was a lot less bureaucracy, it was cheaper, more flexible, and more local to their clients, which meant he had the convenient ability to write cheques, transactions were straightforward and simple, and no international banking was involved.

Finding St Matthew

With this in mind, Luigi and his nephew did some more web research and came across St Matthew's website.  At this point they could see that we at St Matthew deal with a lot of Italian clients. They contacted us, got a free consultation with our Italian consultant and very quickly realised that we provided the solution they need. One should bear in mind that Luigi and his nephew were both inexperienced with business set-ups and formalities, so they needed help with everything: setting up a UK Ltd company, dealing with taxes, opening bank accounts, bookkeeping and everything else we do as part of our standard package for clients. Furthermore, we could also provide advice on how the Italian taxing system would affect their business and how best to go forward.

The business now

Over the years the relationship between St Matthew and Luigi has become something more than just bookkeeping. Whenever Luigi and his nephew come to London they bring truffles! The business is doing really well considering it was never intended as a major organisation, in factLuigi generates around £50,000 a year! They produce they buy is comparitively inexpensive which helps achieve high profit gain.  There are no ambitions or plans on making this into a huge business, a simple website with the Italian name is all they need to get the custom they want. The whole exercise with St Matthew saved them significant amounts of money; firstly in comparison to Italy in terms of tax and administrative efforts and secondly in the UK as there is a fixed fee approach. Equally as important, they have received, and still do receive, a lot of support from our Italian consultants, providing a friendy service along the way.