Few British brands are more iconic than Cadbury's - so we're thrilled to be helping James Cadbury, a descendent of the original founder, to start up a new chocolate business that looks firmly to the future. Love Cocoa allows you to send high-quality chocolate gifts through the post. We asked James a few questions.
1. Explain your business in thirty seconds or less
Love Cocoa is an online gift and subscription chocolate service that conveniently delivers chocolate boxes through customers' letterboxes. In just a few clicks users can send friends and family chocolate boxes, along with a customisable card.
Our luxury chocolate bars are handcrafted in the UK using organic, fairtrade, single-origin cocoa from Dominican Republic and Ecuador. We combine the chocolate with inclusions sourced from premium independent British producers we partner with. The company was launched on 30th June 2016 by myself, James Cadbury – a descendant of George Cadbury of the Cadbury confectionery company.
2. Where are you based and why is it a good location for your business?
Being a new business we work from home and out of coffee shops. With the business being predominantly online, it doesn’t matter as much where we work, and we are keen to be as lean as possible in the early stages.
3. How did you come up with the idea?
I was searching for an online service through which I could post a chocolate gift directly to my Mum for her birthday last year, but I couldn't find a service which was next day and that fitted through the letterbox. Most retailers require items to be signed for…that ruins the surprise.
I looked everywhere, but in the end I popped a handmade card and some chocolate in the post. "What if I could do this from the comfort of my own home?" I thought, and I knew I’d spotted a gap in the market for premium letterbox-friendly chocolate gifts.
4. What stage was your business at when you applied for the Start Up Loan?
We were still at the pre-launch stage, and about a month or so away from launching. We felt we were not ready for external investment, which would have meant giving equity away.
5. How have you used it to grow your business?
The loan has been used to allow us to get some economies of scale on purchases, as well as give us a slight cashflow buffer. This buffer has meant we're able to experiment with marketing tactics, and also means we're not lying awake all night waiting for cash to come into the business.
6. Who is your Virgin StartUp mentor?
Nick Wilkinson is our Virgin StartUp mentor, and he has provided great support so far. He is always there if we need an opinion on something, which is just what we want at our stage of the business. He is flexible and doesn’t push any unnecessary meetings, so we only meet when there is something important to talk about. This suits both of us really well.
When applying for the loan, I worked with business advisor Jonathan Spanos. He was a really great sounding board and picked holes in the business plan, which was a useful exercise.
Also, the post-loanstage has been great. We get emails now and again inviting us to everything from parties and launches to pop-up store competitions.
7. Biggest achievement so far?
Getting the business off the ground, from the six months since I left my full-time job to my first order.
I previously worked as a trader for an investment manager, so setting up an e-commerce chocolate gifts business was completely new to me and it took some hard work and late nights. I really enjoyed the journey though, especially on the branding side (as well as the chocolate tasting part!)
8. What’s next for your business?
To continue to grow the online side of the business. We have had some really encouraging signs, with 20% of customers ordering more than once in the eight weeks since launch. This has encouraged us to launch a monthly chocolate club, which is likely to start in the new year.
We are in advanced talks with companies in Germany, Dubai, Japan and the US, who have all approached us to stock our product. We weren't expecting the exports part of the business to take off so quickly, and it's really encouraging that people are interested in what we have created.
We have also been approached by corporates who want to send our chocolate as a gift. We feel this could be a great sales avenue for the business and are looking to beef up this arm of the operation.
Now we're at a stage where we'll need some external investment and are looking to crowdfund in the next couple of months, allowing small investors to invest in Love Cocoa. This will allow us to expand the business quicker, increasing our marketing budget, as well as product development. We hope to find investors who really like the product and will act as brand ambassadors.