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Celebrity endorsement for food entrepreneur

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“I realised early on that journalists were the most opinionated people out there,” she says. “So I sent surveys and food samples to 12 of them, knowing they’d tell me the truth about my business. Within a few weeks, there was a full-page article in the Evening Standard singing my praises.

“Patsy Kensit read it and gave me a call. She loved the idea and wanted to sign up. Since then, I’d say that 90 per cent of business has come from referrals and word-of-mouth marketing."

Irvine grew up on a self-sufficient farm in Ireland. There was no central heating and she had to collect water from the well each day. “It sounds romantic but it was pretty awful,” she laughs. She says that The Pure Package – which delivers daily meals, freshly prepared by nutritionists and chefs, straight to the homes of busy professionals – is “the ultimate in convenience food; a real rebellion against my parents, who grew everything they cooked”.

She’s built the business without a penny of outside investment. “I’ve never borrowed from the banks and I still own 100 per cent of the company. We’ve grown 57 per cent year on year for the past two years. I think it’s unhealthy to grow at a faster pace than that.”

But she is ambitious. “I deliberately named the business The Pure Package because I didn’t want the brand to be too closely associated with food. I want us to be able to move into new areas, such as The Pure Package Holidays or The Pure Package Books. I’m always jotting down new ideas,” she says, pulling out a notebook from her bag, which is full of scribbles.

Irvine also has plans to take the business overseas. “I’d like to have an international franchise up and running by 2010,” she says. “But I know how important it is to find the right partner.

"I recently flew out to Moscow to negotiate a deal. When I asked them to sign a confidentiality agreement, they said it’s not worth the paper it’s written on out there. That didn’t exactly fill me with confidence.”

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