Founder Interview: How I am Building A Brand Online and Offline

CHOC_CHICK_logo_+strapLaunching a product involves a lot of planning. Galia Orme, founder of CHOC Chick methodically plans for setting up her business, launching her product and building the brand online and offline. She tells The NextWomen how she does it. Her tagline: Love Chocolate? Make Chocolate!

Learning about the retail buying process has been a huge learning curb for me. Getting a meeting with buyers and getting them to commit to ordering our Kits has been my biggest challenge.

How did you plan your Business Set up and Why 'Raw Chocolate'? Aren't their easier products to market?
I started working on CHOC Chick in April 2008 after leaving my job as Business Development Manager for an internet marketing agency in Brighton. I spent three months researching the product, sourcing the importers in the UK and making and developing raw chocolate recipes. As my background was in internet marketing, my first aim was to simply set up an online business.

I then spend 6 weeks doing market research, looking at what there was on the market at the time and analysing who was buying and who would be interested in buying raw chocolate products. It soon became clear that there was no raw chocolate making kit available that was accessible to the mainstream market.

Raw chocolate products were mainly sold online and in a number of health food and organic shops and was very specifically marketed as a vegetarian/vegan product.It was considered a rare and expensive product and the market for it was indeed quite limited. My aim became to make this product accessible to all and not limited to a specific raw food market.

How did you position your brand?
I enlisted the help of a fantastic branding expert and we identified how we could differentiate our product and developed a brand that we felt was authentic and would appeal to our main target market of women aged 30-55. This guided the development of our packaging, logos, straplines and ultimately our website/online shop which went live in September 2008.

I felt that the way to market our raw chocolate making kits was to position our chocolate making kits as an accessible, fun and new way of enjoying chocolate. We stress not only the healthy properties of unprocessed cacao but also the creative aspect of making and discovering new raw chocolate recipes.

As a completely new product on the market, it is potentially more difficult to promote and market raw chocolate making kits, however the chocolate and confectionary market is saturated with chocolatiers and new ready-made chocolate products so the fact that there is currently nothing like our product available has proved to be an advantage.

We seem to have entered this competitive market at a time where more and more people are into home baking and making their own food so an easy to make chocolate making kit that is also good for you seems to tick all the boxes.

Our main challenge is raising awareness of a completely new product and I’ve attended many food fairs, trade shows and retail outlets to demonstrate raw chocolate making. The good thing that we found is that once people see how easy it is to make raw chocolate and taste the chocolates made, they generally buy a CHOC Chick Kit for themselves or as a gift idea and spread our brand by word of mouth.

How did you form your team?
In the first year of business I did everything myself. By year two, I moved to a small shared warehouse and had part-time help to pack up the Kits and help out during food fairs. In year three, I outsourced all the packing and distribution to a dedicated company in Gatwick that deals with all my online and retail orders.
How did you fund it, with how much money, and what is the business model? Any info on turnover?
CHOC Chick’s business model is the development and sale online and through retail distribution of raw chocolate making kits and ingredients in the UK and worldwide.

From September 2010 our CHOC Chick Kits will be found in John Lewis Food Halls, Holland and Barrett, Whole Foods, Planet Organic and a number of independent shops and deli’s throughout the UK. Our Kits are also stocked in specialist deli’s in Sweden, Denmark and Spain.

I funded the company myself initially with an investment of £10,000. Our turnover for the first year was £15,000 and £30,000 in our second year and are projecting £70,000 for this year.

How does your day looks like?
Galia Orme
It’s a mad juggle of being a mother and running a business. I’m up at 7am with my eldest daughter Maia and help her get ready for school while preparing school lunches, sorting out the laundry, tidying up the kitchen and feeding the dogs! Once she’s off to school I wake my youngest daughter up Ella, get her ready and take her to school.

I’m back in time to start my work day at 9:00am, read emails, chase buyers and concentrate on the days sales and orders. I work straight through till 3:30pm when my youngest comes home from school and have a short break with her and get back in front of the computer until around 6:00pm. I then rush around getting dinner ready and try and relax in the evening with my family but can often be found back at my laptop around 10:00pm. I work mainly from home as it’s important for me to be there for my daughters and being a mother has always come first for me.

How do you get the most orders?
We have two sales models, one is direct to customers through our online shop and the other is selling to buyers of retail outlets and distribution/wholesale companies.

60% of our sales currently come from our online customers and 40% come from retailers, however from September 2010, we anticipate a significant increase of retail sales as we will be stocked in John Lewis and Holland and Barrett for Christmas 2010.

To encourage online sales, we have optimised our site and use social media to create a loyal following. Our newsletter goes out monthly with new recipes, competitions and special offers and we encourage repeat business which represents around 60% of our online sales. The retail sales are mainly face to face, meeting directly with buyers  to secure sales and then in store demonstrations and tasting days with customers to introduce our Kits and drive business to the retailers.

What is/was your biggest challenge and how can other start-ups learn from that?
Learning about the retail buying process has been a huge learning curb for me. Getting a meeting with buyers and getting them to commit to ordering our Kits has been my biggest challenge.

It took 6 months of regular phone calls and emails to get a meeting with the John Lewis buyer and even after he agreed to stock the kits, it has taken a further 8 months to confirm a launch date!

I’ve had meetings with buyers who after agreeing to stock our products had subsequently left and I had to start the whole buying process all over again. The main lesson is perseverance and not giving up, if you genuinely believe in your product you cannot let delays hold you back.

Any role models or mentors?
I genuinely believe in feminism, in furthering opportunities for girls and women and in ethical business values so my role model would have to be the late Dame Anita Roddick, the founder of the Body Shop.

She was an exceptional business woman who pioneered ethical and sustainable business practices, human rights and had a real impact on the way people do business today.

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