Today we're moving away from the digital world and into chocolate (or raw chocolate to be precise!). Meg tells her story of making a personal decision to give up sugar, right through to winning a Great Taste award. Read about how she built an exciting brand and the challenges of setting up a business whilst working a full time job.
Raw Halo - The Journey
Tell me about your background prior to Raw Halo.
I studied HR Management at university and always assumed I’d climb the corporate ladder. I moved from Derbyshire to London about three and a half years ago to focus on my HR career, unbeknown to even myself at that point that a few years later I’d be changing careers completely and launching my own raw chocolate brand.
How did Raw Halo start? Where did the inspiration come from?
I’ve always had a real passion for all things chocolate. I took the decision to cut out refined sugar from my diet nearly three years ago, which back then meant no more chocolate – until I discovered raw chocolate. Having not tasted anything remotely sweet for about 6 months, you can imagine my excitement – I loved it! From there, I started making my own chocolates using raw cacao combined with my favourite superfoods. With such positive feedback from friends and family, I knew I needed to explore the possibilities further.
When did you realise you were onto something?
I knew that I could bring variety to the market and offer something which tasted delicious that was refined sugar free. The idea continued to evolve, experimenting with different flavours and perfecting my craft until Raw Halo was launched earlier this year. Leaving a successful career in corporate HR, there was always going to be that apprehension but seeing my growing online sales, new stockists coming on board, and receiving such lovely feedback from customers at events has removed any doubt I had. For what I’d thought would initially be a mostly London centric customer base, I’ve been surprised to receive orders from so many international customers. That’s such a rewarding feeling to know that news of a brand and product I’ve created has spread so far in such a short space of time.
Progress & Launch
How has your role changed and adapted as you've grown?
I only launched Raw Halo in May this year so it’s still early days. Initially, as you can imagine, there was so much focus on set-up – getting my branding perfected, my website designed and built, and all those admin things that seem never ending at the time. Now the focus is much more production and sales orientated; whether that be through growing my online channel, my stockists, and my social following. In time, I hope that by expanding my team, I will be able to focus even more on business development to really accelerate the growth of Raw Halo.
And, how has the business changed and grown?
Raw Halo is still a young brand at the start of what I’m sure will be a long journey. I’ve already seen considerable changes in the past 3 months especially around the priorities for the business. What was a focus on setting up, is now a focus on building a brand – whether that’s sales, marketing or production.
What does your average day look like?
It varies so much at the moment. The past few months have been very focused on business set-up and preparing for events and trade shows. On the days when I’m making chocolate, it’s long days and long nights in the kitchen preparing my batches, tempering, moulding and handwrapping my bars. Days where I’m not producing are a little less hectic – that’s where I tend to have a bit more time for yoga in the morning, dealing with my suppliers, meeting new stockists, managing my online orders, and working on marketing.
Achievements & Challenges
What do you feel is your biggest achievement to date?
It has to be the Great Taste Award I recently won for my Pure Dark chocolate bar. Having my chocolate judged by a panel of leading experts in the food industry and receiving such a prestigious accolade is a very proud moment for Raw Halo.
Within Raw Halo what has been your biggest challenge(s)?
I would say juggling the business set-up alongside a demanding full time career was the most difficult time. Let's just say there were many late nights. I quickly realised that launching 9 different chocolate bars and superfood packs was quite adventurous as it meant that the packaging design itself became a pretty large project. Luckily I found a great printing company who helped me bring my packaging to life.
If you were starting Raw Halo from scratch tomorrow, what would you do differently?
There’s definitely been lots of things along the way that, at the time, I wish I’d done differently but looking back, I’ve learnt so much from those situations and they’ve definitely helped build my personal resilience and experience of managing my own brand. For those reasons, right now, I wouldn’t say there’s one thing that particularly stands out that I’d do differently.
Advice & Final Thoughts
What is your advice for anyone just starting out in business?
Find something you’re really passionate about as there’ll be so many challenges along the way, you’ll need the passion to drive you through the tough times. Celebrate the small wins and make sure you have somebody you can trust for a second opinion on those important decisions.
What is your vision for the future of Raw Halo?
My hope is for Raw Halo to establish itself as a leader in the Raw Chocolate market. Over the next year I'll be focusing on my online presence and building upon my growing list of stockists. I have my favourite shops here in London and also back home in the Peak District and I'll be working on getting Raw Halo stocked in all of them. Most exciting for me, I hope to expand my range to include more flavours - the hard part will be deciding which ones!