Growing our UK team with Alex Kiely

A behind-the-scenes look at the regional growth of our team and user base.
Life at Choco Sep 28, 2022
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One of the most unique aspects of our company is how we tackle new market entry. For us, it’s all hands on deck and in the field. Our Sales Team is anywhere but inside a cubicle. Be it at a seafood market in Barcelona, in a Michelin star kitchen in NYC, or at a food truck in Berlin, Chocorians are hungry hustlers who’ll do whatever and go wherever it takes to get the Choco app in front of chefs and suppliers.

Alex Kiely is a long-time Chocorian who has played a unique role in not one, not two, but five Choco launches - Miami, Madrid, Barcelona, Valencia, and now London. 

We sat down with Alex in Barcelona a few months prior to our UK launch to get his thoughts on Choco’s team culture. Watch the video below to see what he had to say then.

After seeing huge success in Spain, he recently returned to London to lead Choco’s UK market entry.

We met up with Alex, now the General Manager UK, to learn more about the regional launch, what’s next for Choco in the UK, open positions, and the mentality we look for in candidates.

Hey Alex! For context, what exactly is a City or Regional Launch?

That’s a good question. So a launch is probably one of the most special things we do at Choco. Essentially, it’s bringing a room full of strangers together to form a team. The goal is to establish a user base in a city or region by adding as much value for chefs and suppliers as possible.

It's unique because it's quite different from a “normal” job. It's more intense. It's more difficult. it doesn’t matter if a company has a 1.2 billion USD valuation, you’re nothing in a city if you don’t have any users. No one knows who you are. So the mission is to essentially change that. To get everyone to know and use Choco.

When you look back at it, it's something very special, because not many people get the opportunity to start something from scratch. To be part of something big. You build so many connections with your colleagues and become stronger at individual and team levels.

That sounds challenging, but also quite fun. So what role did you play in launching Choco in the UK?

Essentially my role as a GM was to understand and define a vision for what we were hoping to achieve in London and the entire UK.

The next step was to think about what type of resources we’d need to achieve our targets and to hire talent to help us get there. The city launch was very much supported by the entire Choco team: Finance, Legal, People - they ensured we had our entity set up, a recruitment pipeline filled with the best people, and an official office in London. This way, when the new team came in on Monday morning, it didn’t feel like the “first day” - even if we didn’t have an office the day before. [Laughs]

Once the team was together, it was about strategy, onboarding them, setting up the right processes, and enabling them to do their best work. In my view, you can have a killer strategy, but if the team isn’t connected, then it’s not going to matter.

Several Chocorians joined you in London from other offices to support the launch. How did that work?

Yeah. It's quite an international office. We had Chocorians join from the US, France, Germany, and Spain. It was a great starting point because they each brought a wealth of knowledge from previous launches, but balanced it with a humble mindset. We knew what worked previously in other markets and we discussed it, but we acknowledged that we were now covering the unchartered territory.

Having other Chocorians join for the launch also helped create a super nice office environment. So it wasn’t just a group of people in a room who all grew up in the same postcode, you know? Everyone has a different background, experience, and reason for being there - but with a shared goal.

What might a typical day look like for Choco’s Sales team in a new market? Is there a typical day?

We start each day with a morning standup to align as a team and share our daily targets. We do this daily because things can happen and change so quickly during a launch. It’s not like a corporate job where the strategy may be more static, we’re starting from zero and need to adapt whenever necessary.

So a “typical day” really depends. Some of the team could be out in the field while others are in the office chatting away on the phone with chefs and restaurant owners.

Meanwhile, the Supplier Team could be up for an early meeting at a produce market or chatting with a super corporate vendor in their offices. The Sales Team could be meeting with all types of restaurants - from small kebab shops to Michelin Star restaurants.

The day wraps up with everyone back at the office sharing their learnings and wins of the day. So there is a balance between working independently and as part of an incredibly supportive team.

It sounds like the shared experience of being on the field brings the team closer together.

Yeah, exactly. Particularly in the Buyer Sales Team during a launch. We don’t always do an evening meeting, but when we do, it often feels like somewhat of a group therapy session. We discuss how to handle different topics and share how we overcame the same challenge someone is facing today, yesterday. So everyone can connect, relate, and understand one another. It helps build trust and morale within the team.

What’s next for Choco in the UK?

Growth. By the end of 2023, we’ll have 10,000 UK restaurants actively using our app. Yeah, that’s a big number. But ultimately, we aim to work with every single restaurant and supplier in the UK. It doesn’t matter if they’re a small oyster supplier or a corporation selling a huge assortment, we believe that we can help every one of them. So the first goal is to add as much value as possible in London before launching in other cities across the UK. We’re coming to every small town and village. That’s our goal.

Ambitious goals - that sounds like Choco! What positions do we currently have open to help us achieve these targets?

We’re focusing on hiring Executive Sales and Inside Sales talent, Account Managers, and Implementation Managers. We’re looking for people who are hungry and competitive, yet humble and champion team players. People should be coachable and want to learn and grow.

The desire for ownership is critical. It’s really a time when anything is possible, both failure and success. So it’s not for the faint of heart. We need ambitious people who believe in themselves and the product enough to truly build from the ground up.

So if you’re the type of person who translates “you can’t do that, it’s never going to work” to “challenge accepted,” you have the right mindset for Choco. People who know the goal, want to get there and are ready to run as fast as possible to achieve it.

Working in the food scene of London sounds like it’d be the experience of a lifetime. What would you say is the best part about it?

It’s (one of) the culinary capitals of the world. It’s also an incredibly digital city. So if you’re looking to be part of a global food tech scene, there’s no better place to do it.

The restaurants and suppliers here are of the most demanding there’ll be. So they're the most exciting people to work with, in my opinion, because they're willing to take risks in the hope it improves their business.

London is massive and incredibly multicultural. It's basically made up of 20 smaller cities within a big city. Whether you’re interested in going for strolls, trying new foods, or partying, there is something for everyone. It’s a pretty awesome city to work in.


Think you have what it takes to join Alex in London? Apply today!