Gemma Lewis is the founder of Eat Dark Matters, creating delectable brownies and selling them at markets and fairs across the southwest of England, as well as online. Gemma was an early business to receive a start up loan – here’s how it helped her business grow, and what she’s doing now.
In March 2014 I registered our interest on the Virgin StartUp website, but I didn’t think it would amount to anything. By that point I had been running Dark Matters for about a year, whilst also working part-time in café – everything I made was put back into the business.
The next day I received a phone call from Business West, a Virgin StartUp delivery partner. At that point, getting a loan seemed like a big commitment, but as I heard more about what it involved I realised it could really help our business. Soon I was paired with a business advisor who helped me to write a business plan, and within three weeks the money was in my account.
This money allowed us to take steps we hadn’t been able to up until then. We were able to book large (and costly) summer events, buy more much-needed kitchen equipment, and – crucially - finish driving lessons (then pass my test!) and buy our first Brownie Mobile in order to take us to events!
While I hadn’t really thought beyond the money when I registered at first, the support that I received made a huge difference too. From paying for our pitch at Jamie Oliver’s Big Feastival, inviting us to Virgin HQ to flog our brownies to their staff, having us cater their incredible Women In Business events and featuring us numerous times on their blog, they’ve continued to go above and beyond for us.
Now it’s been almost three years since we received the loan, and the business is going from strength to strength! I’m still working at home from my private kitchen, and each week is a juggle of online orders, private and wholesale customers, usually topped off with a couple of days solid baking before a busy weekend of event or market trading. But I wake up every day excited for what it holds and thankful for the fact that I'm the only person bossing me around!
There are big changes going on for us. We've been focusing a lot more lately on developing our vegan range, as not only is this a thriving and popular market at the moment, but also having worked in baking and confectionery for nearly 10 years I am hyper aware of the environmental and ethical impacts of the dairy and egg industries, and I've taken the decision for the business to minimise its impact in these areas as much as possible.
We are also planning a move from Bournemouth to Bristol, both for personal and professional reasons, which is both terrifying but incredibly exciting! This shouldn't affect the business a huge amount, as we'll be transitioning during the quiet months of early 2017, but if all goes well by Easter I'll have a dedicated Dark Matters workspace and kitchen!
Want to take your business to the next level and win a contract with a big business? We're hosting the event for you.
Doing Busines With Big Business is the flagship Virgin StartUp event. This is a full day workshop that will teach participants how procurement works in large organisations allow them to gain an insight into their decision making and learn what organisations are looking for from small suppliers.
The information contained in this website is provided for information purposes only and is not intended to constitute legal advice on any matter. Use of this website is at users own risk and is not intended to create a lawyer-client relationship between Virgin StartUp and any user. Information displayed on this website is provided “as is” and Virgin StartUp does not provide any express or implied warranty or representation concerning the information, including but not limited to the accuracy or appropriateness of the information. Virgin StartUp recommend that users seek their own legal advice before taking (or refraining from) taking any action and do not accept any liability in respect of any actions taken or not taken based on any or all of the information displayed on this website to the fullest extent permitted by law.