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Trading Places  Interview

standard, but when it comes to dealing with the health inspectors or registering a business, dealing with revenue and all of that stuff – it all had to be done through Swedish,” he says. “I was lucky, I spent two months studying and had a little bit better than basic understanding, but it was pretty hard. The tax code and everything, the employment code, the way employment contracts and everything work over here, it’s a lot different, I think, to how they work in Ireland, so I had to learn on my feet.” On the other hand, it didn’t take a lot to create some buzz around the business and turn interest into footfall through the doors – helped by a stroke of good fortune. A restaurant critic from the Metro newspaper turned up one day, enjoyed the experience and gave them a great review. Turnover doubled overnight and that success carried the business through its first year, a key time for any start-up. And TomTom’s has gone on to bigger and

Turn Back Time I ask Chamney whether there’s anything he would change, given the chance to hop in a DeLorean and rewind the clock five years. His mind jumps back to those early days, trying to take his concept off the ground while grappling with the intricacies of the Swedish language. “If I’d had a Swedish partner in the business from the start, it would have saved an awful lot of time and an awful lot of mistakes that I made at the beginning,” he says. “You get a request from some Government agency, I’d have to get all of those documents translated because I couldn’t afford to make a mistake.”

better things from there. One restaurant has turned into two, accompanied by a catering element and a food truck. The latter is quite weather-dependent and sees more use at festivals, events or for corporate or private catering – Chamney explains how the Swedes tend to forgo outdoor food if the sun isn’t out, and the weather in Gothenburg is quite similar to Ireland. “If it’s even overcast, it could be 30 degrees but the sun isn’t out, you’re just not going to get that many people interested,” he says. “So now, I tend to focus the food truck more on doing festivals and concerts. We do a lot of our catering through the food truck, we drive out to an office complex and feed the workers, things like that.” So what’s next for TomTom’s? Chamney has more than one eye on the future and, with the second outlet reaching capacity, he plans to develop a roadmap for the business in the coming months – a choice between a franchising business model or extending the network of stores in which he plays a direct role. It’s clear that he favours the latter. “There’s probably a demand in Gothenburg for one to two more outlets. The city is kind of spread out over a relatively big geographical area,” he says. “We’ll have to look at more locations, but it’s not something that I’m going to rush into, because it is only me running the business, I don’t necessarily have partners. It’s probably something I need to work on – if I have a better management structure [it can] take some of the load of the day-today off me so I can look at these questions.” Business in Gothenburg is clearly going well, but what about life beyond Mexican cuisine? Chamney describes the Swedes as a more reserved people, more difficult to network with in business, and on a personal level, lacking what he refers to as the joie de vivre that’s almost embedded in Irish culture. The tax burden is high, he adds, but the difference is in the value for money. “I have two kids in childcare and I pay maybe €150 per month for that because it’s supported by the State. It’s swings and roundabouts,” he explains, adding that – on the whole – he believes he has acquired a better quality of life in Sweden than he might have had he remained in Ireland. “Life here is pretty good in that sense. My kids are well-looked after, you have healthcare and all of that stuff... Life is pretty good, I can’t complain.” SFA | BETTER BUSINESS 61

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Profile for Ashville Media Group

Better Business Q3 2018  

Official magazine of Small Firms Association

Better Business Q3 2018  

Official magazine of Small Firms Association