Who are you?

My name is Ilona Blonka and I have recently opened Lean Factory, which is a healthy food bistro takeaway in Finnieston.

What does your business do?

Lean Factory provides delicious meals full of goodness. We hope to give our customers a better opportunity of maintaining a healthy diet. Although diet is extremely important, it is also important that the food is always tasty and our focus is on combining the two so that meals are both full of nutrients and full of flavour. We do takeaway or sit-in and can even prepare meals for people to eat later if the prospect of cooking dinner is unappealing.

It is also very important to us that we cater to as many people as possible. Gluten free and vegan diets are very important to people's health and beliefs, so they are important to us. We always have plenty of options available.

Where are you based?

We are based within the Hidden Lane in Finnieston, which is a really trendy place to be set up. The location is ideal, because we are very close to a number of gyms and offices where our message appeals to a lot of people. That said, there are a large number of established fine dining restaurants in the vicinity and it is a little intimidating to an extent, but our aim is to deliver a more affordable, healthy opportunity to this area. We want to be a destination that everyone can visit frequently, instead of always having to pick up a deal in a supermarket. We are certainly glad to have ended up in Finnieston.

How did you get started?

Once I had decided to start it was just a matter of finding a location, but I still remember the day that I realised that I would open my own place. I had been dieting, trying to lose weight (but, you know, it can be very difficult when you are working a lot to take the time to cook nutritious meals) and was quickly trying to find something to eat before work. I was working in a restaurant in the city centre at the time and was still tired from the day before and knew that I had another long shift coming up. Still, even though there were shops everywhere, there was nothing quick and healthy to pick up and eat. I went from shop to shop wishing there was a healthy takeaway with nice food, but instead had to settle for sandwiches, again. I wouldn't say that I knew then that I would start my business, but I suppose that was my eureka moment. Why doesn't someone open a yummy, healthy takeaway? Once you ask that question, it's not much of a step to ask why that someone shouldn't be you.

What is your background? I studied accounting and got a degree in that, but I had spent eight years in hospitality and my passion for cooking and trying new recipes had grown over that time. I started out as a waitress, but worked my way up to being a manager in a Japanese restaurant. The more I would eat out or try new things, the more interested I was in cooking good food for myself and so I found that not only could I do that, but I could make certain that I was putting all the right things into my body.

What is your top tip?

Well, along the way I have learned a number of things, but if I had to say what the most important lesson was, it's that if you put your mind to something then you are capable of achieving it. Of course it doesn't apply to absolutely everything, but if something seems like it could be achievable and you put time and energy into it, then it usually is.

How long has your business been running?

The business has only been open for a few weeks, but it's been so exciting to see it grow a lot in that time. As more and more people learn about us more and more customers appear.

Has anyone helped you get started and how?

To be honest, I did most of the preparation myself with online resources and a lot of research. Towards the end I was given some help by business gateway and went to some meetings where I was inspired by other businesswomen. At that point I was searching for premises and they helped me to stay focused despite one or two delays. There's no doubt that Glasgow Gateway can be helpful to people who are just starting out, but at the end of the day there is only so much that they can do for you.

What was your first deal?

I suppose that depends exactly what you mean. While I was working on my business I began refurbishing a lot of furniture, some of which I sold. Other pieces I became so attached to that I put them into the shop. Hollywood mirrors, chairs, wardrobes. I just needed some extra money because starting a new business can be difficult at first, but now the very fact that I did it has helped me decorate the cafe.

What would you do differently?

I wasted a lot of time and money on a shop in the city centre. A lot of work was to be done on the shop and I had an agreement with the owner that I could have it. This meant that I had to prepare to have the premises and so I got a bank loan and went through my lawyers to make certain that everything was done properly. However, it all fell apart for reasons outside my control. This set me back considerably, but there wasn't much that I could really have done.

Who was your inspiration?

I wouldn't say that I have a single inspiration or mentor, but there's no doubt that a range of different people and ideas have inspired me. Even things as simple as Instagram posts of healthy eating helped to inspire me and to see how it is entirely possible to eat in a way that is good for my body and for my tastebuds. There are definitely a number of people who focus on that sort of thing and when I have seen it, in social media and in life in general, I guess that all of these things have added up to inspire me in terms of what I have created.

=Where do you plan your business to be in five years time? I would certainly like to have more Lean Factories popping up in the UK. In addition, maybe doing some catering at events is something that we could look to move into. Right now, my primary focus is growing where we are and making sure as many people as possible know where to find us.