Virgin StartUp of the week: Dark Matters
Things are pretty delicious here at Virgin StartUp HQ right now, what with #VirginFoodFest hotting up - so we decided to feature another brilliant food startup as our StartUp of the Week! Introducing Gemma Lewis and her mouth-watering brownie company, Dark Matters.
We choose one Virgin StartUp company to be featured on Virginstartup.org each week. We ask our startups of the week to deliver the ultimate elevator pitch. What would they say if they had one minute in a lift with Sir Richard Branson? Please answer the questions below, keeping each answer to five sentences max.
Ground to floor 1 – Explain what your business does
Dark Matters produces decadent artisan chocolate brownies in flavours that range from the traditional to the unusual, baked in small batches for sale at markets, events and online. We are a cool, fresh and quirky brand, striving to inject some excitement and innovation into a bakery market saturated with frilly aprons and cupcakes.
Floor 1 to 2 - Where are you based?
Poole in the beautiful county of Dorset.
Floor 2 to 3 – What’s the business model?
Baking brownies at their best for sale at markets and events, in cafes and online.
Floor 3 to 4 – Who are your competitors?
As we are predominantly market and event-based, competition comes from any other traders with sweet treats. Online, there are several popular brownie-ordering companies.
Floor 4 to 5 – What’s your USP?
Dark Matters' aim was to embody style AND substance. We want to be an alternative baking brand, with a strong, eye-catching image, but with phenomenal products that don’t need to hide behind clever marketing. Our focus will always be on the chocolate, only using 70% dark couveture in all our recipes, giving customers the ultimate chocolate hit that no other brownie can touch.
Floor 5 to 6 – Where did the idea come from?
Working in various café and food retail positions in London and the South I found that there was a somewhat untapped market for die-hard brownie fanatics who, like me, would stop at nothing on their quest for the perfect brownie. I always knew I baked a mean brownie, so did a couple of test markets and tinkered with some unusual flavour combinations, both with huge success - and the rest is history.
Floor 6 to 7 – How much funding did you receive from Virgin StartUp?
Floor 7 to 8 – How are you going to use it to grow your business?
It has enabled me to become fully mobile, to travel to larger, more profitable events, as I passed my driving test and bought my first vehicle within a month of receiving the loan. Being event-based, having the cash-flow to pay in advance for events is sometimes an issue, and having the loan acted as a bit of a cushion for all the scary months. The ‘Dark Matters’ brand image was very important, so we’ve now been able to get a sexy new website built, which will be launching very soon, and some professional photography (no more iPhone pictures!).
Floor 8 to 9 – Who’s your Virgin StartUp Mentor?
Floor 9 to 10 – What’s the best tip they’ve given you?
If I’m having a busy week I sometimes have difficulty seeing the bigger picture, so he helps me gain perspective and gets me to ‘think outside the box’.
Floor 10 to 11 – What’s your workspace like?
Floor 11 to 12 – Where will your business be in 12 month’s time?
We are already on the look out for a workshop/kitchen space that we can finally expand into to keep up with brownie demand. This will enable us to take on a part-time assistant or apprentice from the local college for help in both the kitchen and at markets. We're also looking to launch our new website and venture into the online gift market in time for Christmas. Summer 2015 will bring larger, multiple events, spanning across the neighboring counties, at which we will hopefully be presenting an award-winning brownie (or two!)