Childhood friends Edward and Richard set up Doisy & Dam in 2014 with just £11,000 in savings. It’s now stocked in Planet Organic, Ocado, Whole Foods Market and Selfridges & Co – to name a few. They share their journey and top business advice.
Edward and Richard – can you introduce us to Doisy & Dam: where did the inspiration come from, how did you go about launching the brand and what makes you special?
Hello! Yes, of course. Quite an expansive question to start with… Rich and I started Doisy & Dam nearly three years ago with the aim of using superfoods to make guilt-free indulgent food. We had real jobs, working all hours of the day, and our waistlines were rapidly expanding. We still wanted our treats though, so we started creating superfood-infused snacks and we got a pretty enthusiastic response to our chocolate.
We moved in together to save our dwindling supply of money (how cute is that!) and set about getting our superfood chocolate onto shelves as soon as possible. It took us three months; to begin with, it was totally illegal packaging, but also totally delish, so we got away with it.
What makes us special is we make better tasting chocolate, using better quality ingredients with added superfood nutrition and no nasties.
Chocolate and superfoods aren’t always an obvious combination. Have you faced any challenges in convincing people that it works – and tastes amazing? And did any key strategies help with this?
Correct! There is definitely an educational part to our superdelish journey. We use superfoods for their taste, texture and nutritional prowess. If you were to take away the nutritional side of them, you’d still be left with a crazily tasty bar of choc…
There are plenty of people who need convincing, but we’ve found that once we get them to try it we usually get attacked for more samples. Okay, maybe not attacked, but certainly prodded. Once we noticed this pattern, we thought the best way forward was to run samplings as often as possible through all our stockists.
There are plenty of people who need convincing, but we’ve found that once we get them to try it we usually get attacked for more samples… once we noticed this pattern, we thought the best way forward was to run samplings as often as possible.
When you started off, you had just £11,000 in savings to begin your brand and did a lot of your initial deliveries by bicycle – then earlier this year, you crowd-funded for £150,000 on Crowdcube (and raised almost double that). Should a lack money ever put people off starting their own brand? And what financial advice/top tips would you give – whether it’s investment, general budget management or cash flow – to other entrepreneurs?
Hell no! If the idea is good enough and you work hard enough, then a lack of money shouldn’t be an inhibitor.
Starting with limited funds was a great way to train us to be financially responsible and to teach us that you can get almost anything by hustling. We couldn’t afford accountants so Rickie learned how to run our cash and accounts. We couldn’t afford designers, so I learned how to design packaging. Everything in between came from asking people for advice and favours – it amazed us how generous successful people are willing to be with their time and energy.
If you can, start with a small concept with high unit costs but low total cost. This allows you to get feedback from customers and iterate quickly without large investment.
If you can’t, network your ass off to get as much advice from people before raising money. Then look at what investment route suits you and your business best – angels, private, crowdfunding, debt or larger institutional investors.
Starting with limited funds was a great way to train us to be financially responsible and to teach us that you can get almost anything by hustling.
What have been your greatest challenges since launching the brand and how have you overcome them?
I suppose the greatest challenge we’ve faced is entering into a heavily crowded market, with very rich and established competitors, with very little money and no experience. Haha, that sounds like such a bad idea now I’ve said it. My mum told me to stick to my real job. Sorry mum!
Weirdly, it might be that same lack of experience that’s got us at least to this point. Every decision we made was based on weighing up the facts as we saw them, so we never considered what would be traditionally done in each situation as a food brand.
When we designed the packaging it was simply based on what we thought looked good and would stand out, not on communicating marketing messages to customers or eliciting chocolate-y vibes. Our packaging has been one of the things that’s stood us apart from the market and contributed to getting to this point. There are plenty of other examples of this, but not knowing what you’re doing can be powerful.
You were school friends before you were business partners. How do you find it working as a duo? Is there anything you have learnt about working as a partnership? And would you recommend working with someone you already know on a business idea?
We were; we’ve been friends since we were little tikes. He’s all grown up now but you should have seen Ricardo’s gangly legs when he was a kid…
We’ve always been friends first and agreed that if work ever got in the way of that, we’d drop it immediately. But we grew up together and have always been hyper-competitive, so working together is just a continuation of that competitive spirit. I try to outsell the amount of choc he can produce! Working together has only brought us closer, and our skill sets match up nicely.
Aside from Rick and I, having a co-founder has been invaluable to our growth so far, and my mental health. You can debate things, share emotional burdens, share the blame for bad decisions and fight over the glory of good decisions. You’ve also got a lot more time to apply to your business, so can get a lot of work done.
Having said that, working with a co-founder isn’t for everyone. There are plenty of success stories of single founders in the food biz… check out Pippa from Pip & Nut, Harriot from Mallow & Marsh and Rahi from Virtue. All single founder badasses!