Meg Haggar's chocolate brand Raw Halo was launched out of a tiny east London flat where they ran grinders through the night to meet demand. Two years later, they have outsourced manufacturing, are leveraging a large social media following and are shipping over 20,000 bars per month.
We caught up with the founder to find out what's next in the latest of our The Investibles profiles.
1. What is your investment status?
Our first round of fundraising took place on Crowdcube in November 2016, raising a total of £150,000 for 15% of the business.
2. Describe your business in one paragraph; what’s its vision and what problem does it solve?
Raw Halo aims to become the world’s most loved luxury raw chocolate brand. Whilst luxury chocolate often means it’s filled with sugar, cream and milk our approach is different. We choose to use the finest raw (unroasted) cacao, combined with healthier sweeteners such as coconut sugar and superfood inclusions.
Our products are inclusive in that they can be enjoyed by all customers, including those on vegan, dairy-free, gluten-free, refined sugar free and raw food diets.
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3. How did you come up with the idea for your business?
After turning to a refined sugar free diet in 2013, I struggled to find much good quality chocolate that tasted and had the same luxurious texture as traditional chocolate. I began experimenting at home, making small chocolates, developing recipes, which luckily for me resulted in a lot of chocolate tasting! I made my first orders in the summer of 2015 and quickly found Raw Halo being sold in such incredible stockists as Planet Organic.
4. What’s your addressable market?
Part of the success of Raw Halo is that our chocolate appeals to four market sectors, which are all growing incredibly quickly. Organic, Vegan, free-from and luxury chocolate are all increasing their market share as consumers move to health-friendlier versions, utilising better quality, organic ingredients.
5. What’s great about your team and do you have a mentor?
We’re purposefully maintaining a small team, keeping the business as lean as possible, whilst utilising the expertise and skill of outside agencies, and third parties in those areas we need assistance.
In little over 18 months, we’ve gone from producing a few hundred bars to over 20,000 per month.
Whilst the business is still growing rapidly, it’s important that our team are each disciplined in a number of key areas – and that’s been crucial to our success. As for a mentor, we’ve preferred to forgo that option for now, with a view to this being more beneficial when the business is larger. Instead, we’ve focused on developing our relationships with successful brands in similar sectors that we really admire, who’ve been happy to share their advice and insights. This has been hugely beneficial for us.
6. What key challenges have you faced and how have you overcome them?
Many of the main challenges we have faced to date have been focused on production, mainly scalability, installation of new machinery and production staffing. In little over 18 months, we’ve gone from producing a few hundred bars to over 20,000 per month, which certainly brings its own challenges.
Last year we took the decision to outsource our production. Luckily we found ourselves in the fortunate position of finding a partner who we could work with to produce our products to our exact requirements. Now we have true scalability and, without the day-to-day issues of running our own production facility, we can focus our team’s efforts back to sales and marketing.
7. How have you funded your startup and why did you choose this route?
When I launched Raw Halo, we used the savings my partner and I had put together over the course of a few years. We saw the potential and knew if we worked smartly and accomplished many things ourselves, we could launch on a relatively small budget. Luckily that worked out, which enabled the business to become profitable very quickly – without large debts.
In our second year, we were keen to accelerate our growth and to do that required outside investment. We considered individual private investors, however, we preferred the option of a crowdfunding set-up. Our Crowdcube campaign quickly reached our initial target and went on to overfund in only three weeks.
8. How do you market your business and how successful has it been so far?
We market Raw Halo mainly through digital channels which have the greater ROI for us due to their low cost of operation. Social media has been integral to the growth of our brand, for both B2C and B2B channels. Since we increased our efforts, Instagram has grown to the largest following, where we’ve just surpassed the 10,000 follower mark. This has been helped by running collaborations with synergy brands to tap into their audiences too.
Whilst we focus on digital, we certainly aren’t ignoring traditional media, where we enlisted the help of a PR agency last year. Being featured in such great publications as The Sunday Times, Grazia, and The Telegraph, is truly amazing and we see the uplift almost immediately in our online sales.
9. What are your plans for the future?
The next few years hold a lot for Raw Halo. This year we’re focusing on building our growing list of stockists and distributors, whilst increasing our range of products with a few new ones (all top secret for now!). We’re seeing significant growth in our business overseas, so that’ll be a focus for 2017, with more distributor across Europe.
Since our successful crowdfunding, we have the opportunity to exhibit at additional trade events, relaunch an improved website, and invest in additional marketing.
10. If you started again, is there anything you would do differently?
I’d have to answer no to that. Each time I’ve felt the business has taken a wrong turn, it’s opened up both learning and other directions, which have proved to be more successful. The first few years of any new business are often centred around discovery and for Raw Halo that’s created the brand it is today.
11. What advice would you give to entrepreneurs that are starting a business?
Follow your dreams and make things happen. If you have an idea, develop it and work out how you can turn it into a viable business later. Don’t worry about failure, and be flexible to turn the direction of the business towards success – even if that means the business becomes something slightly different to your original plan.
Watch Raw Halo's November 2016 crowdfunding video below.
Journalist and editor with nine years' experience covering small businesses and entrepreneurship (ChrisGoodfellow.net). Follow his personal twitter account @CPGoodfellow and his events business @Box2Media. He has written for a wide range of publications in the UK, Ireland and Canada, including The Financial Times, The Guardian, The Independent and Vice magazine.