Sabine Hobbel, Co-Founder of Leaves

8th July 2015

Posted In: Women Who Launch
Sabine Hobbel

Every month we speak to women entrepreneurs who have just launched into the business world.

In the hot seat for July’s Women Who Launch is: Sabine Hobbel, a Dutch health researcher and co-founder of Leaves.

The Elevator Pitch

Leaves creates plant-based excellent food and will launch “Pasta with Benefits” later this Summer: high protein, high quality pasta made from buckwheat and chickpeas.


The Operation

Leaves is a family business run by myself and my husband Nico, an Italian professional chef.

Based in Dublin 7, we currently have three on the payroll and are negotiating for a larger unit from where we will produce our pasta to meet market demands. We have recently restructured our business to focus exclusively on our retail and food service offering (previously we worked as caterers and third party manufacturers).


The Financials

We are backed by FoodWorks – the prestigious programme run by Bord Bia Teagasc and Enterprise Ireland – in our aspirations to reach €1,000,000 in turnover in the next three years and will have at least 10 employees at that point in time. Enterprise Ireland has recently strengthened this position by awarding us a Competitive Start Fund.

We have put in loans from Bank of Ireland twice, and an InnerCity Enterprise loan once. We have won various grants including a LEO employment grant, an innovation voucher and feasibility study from Enterprise Ireland and a marketing grant from Bord Bia.


Target Market

Since household penetration of pasta is at 92%, and health and wellness pasta is currently growing rapidly in all western markets, we believe that we have enormous potential for growth. We will initially focus on Ireland and the UK and then other selected EU countries.

Our target consumers can be divided into:

– those who love fitness and who eat to achieve better athletic results;

– those who love food and are interested in cooking with new and healthy ingredients;

– and parents of young children who want them to have the best start in life.


Biggest ‘win’ to date

We just had a beautiful week in June in which we found out we had made it to the final round of the prestigious FoodWorks programme, as well as having been awarded the Competitive Start Fund of €50,000. Getting stocked in almost 100 stores nationwide only a few months after launching and seeing our products being received so well was an enormous victory for us as well. Personally, it was also amazing to have the honour to receive the title of Best Female Entrepreneur of the Year by LEO Dublin City just recently.


Biggest ‘slap in the face’

We have been lucky to be mentored by great individuals who have helped us avoid many mistakes that start-ups make. We have had some misfortunes along the way, but nothing worse than packaging arriving later than expected or not being able to find a replacement for an employee during holidays. I believe this is thanks to our strong network and advisors.


Are you Social when it comes to Media

Social media is extremely important for our brand, we have always been active on Twitter and Facebook and have just created an Instagram account. It is vital to have a place where your community can share and engage with the brand, to have any questions answered, and from our side, to show what is happening behind the scenes.


If you had a blank cheque

We would build a larger production space; we would launch into all markets that we have identified through extensive research simultaneously with the help of key account managers; and we would invest heavily in promotion, both online and offline.


Your Traits – Good and Not so Good!

My best traits are: my resilience – I always work hard and find alternative solutions; my competitiveness – I like to succeed in whatever I set my mind to; and my empathy – it is easy for me to relate to others.

Traits that don’t always serve me well are: my desire to research everything, which can slow me down at times; and my focus on manners – it is hard for me to hear the message when a person is impolite.


Best advice to pass on:

Surround yourself with people who understand you and your goals, both professionally and privately. In this way, it will be easier to open up about whatever you need help with, giving you better results faster.