When you're starting a business, you're always juggling other things - often even a full-time job. That's the case for Ama Uzowuru, co-founder of Lucocoa, London's first bean-to-bar chocolate company. Creating her carefully-crafted chocolate from her spare room, Ama knows how tricky it can be when starting up to find balance - but also how crucial it is. Here are her tips for staying balanced when starting up.

How to stay balanced when starting up - Lucocoa

What stage is your business at now?

We have reached a very interesting, exciting stage of the business. It’s a risk starting your own business, especially when your main goal is to challenge the status quo. We want people to taste the true flavours of chocolate rather than the ones we have been told to believe. We have just launched a new bar made from Haitian cacao and launched a brand new hot chocolate, again with Haitian cacao. We have been going for about two and a half years. Throughout this whole time we have been growing, and I have been running the business whilst working full time.

Between your job and your business, how do you find downtime and how important is it to you?

Downtime is extremely important. It’s an easy thing to say, and a really difficult thing to do. But I think over time you start to realise that this is necessary and you yourself are a resource and asset in your business, so if you aren’t okay then your business or work will suffer the impact. I'm a Project Manager, and like all projects there are extremely busy spells. It has taken me a while to create a balance between Lucocoa and my day job, and understanding where downtime fits in.

I have been pretty bad at this until very recently. I made the decision to make that time, and that’s tough as every hour is allocated to doing something. But it has been a good move. I still am tempted not to take this time, but scheduling it to do something that is booked and paid for tends to make you less likely to back out!

How to stay balanced when starting up - Lucocoa

What has been the most challenging aspect of starting up whilst working?

Time! Time! Time! Over the last couple of years I have managed to adapt and get the business into a routine - which is great, until something goes wrong. A few weeks ago we had a sack of beans damaged whilst importing them, and it turned out that the insurance that we thought we had we didn’t have; so this became an issue that urgently needed to be dealt with. Thankfully, before work and lunchtime tends to be when I get a lot of business work done.

What are the benefits of starting up while working full-time?

This is a difficult one, but I would say a top benefit is that whilst working full-time you are testing the concept of your business in various places and with different people before you make that important leap!

What tech and tools help you find balance?

I like to use a gmail add-on called Boomerang which allows you to draft an email, and I can then schedule when it’s sent. Xero is also great to help you keep on top of your accounting and cashflow.

Any other tips?

  • Before work and lunchtimes are great times to get a lot of admin work or phone calls done. Plan what you are going to do in these times, and then you are more likely to do them.
  • For downtime, book something and you're more likely to not back out, unless something really critical comes up.


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