In the first instalment of our ‘Disruptors’ series, we sat down with Candy Kittens Co-Founder Ed Williams, to talk about how he came to launch one of the UK’s fastest growing sweet brands, and share his experiences with the next generation of disruptive thinkers and entrepreneurs.
How did you come to launch Candy Kittens?
It started when myself and Jamie met through mutual friends whilst at University. He (Jamie) approached me with his idea of wanting to start a sweet brand, called Candy Kittens. After a lot of research and debate, we saw a massive opportunityto build a sweet product that was modern, engaged with Gen-Z and Millennials who we wanted to cater to, and offer them something that was radically different to what was available at the time.
We were young, and wanted to create a product that spoke to consumers of a similar age to us. We knew from the very beginning that we didn’t want to create just another middle of the road sweet brand. We wanted to bring innovation to what has largely remained a fairly untouched industry for decades.
With our understanding of this huge gap in the market, and the opportunity to re-invent the meaning of what candy sweets could be, we launched the brand in 2012 and have been locked on to our goal of becoming the nation's favourite ever since.
What's the journey been like so far since launching the business?
We’re 8 years in, whilst we have a long way to go to in achieving all that we set out to accomplish, there’s no denying that it’s been a hell of a lot of fun.
We’ve had a great time building a sweet brand that has disrupted the industry, offered consumers an exciting alternative that is brilliantly quirky, and built a range of products that are just as much an act of self expression, as they are a cheeky sweet treat.
We’ve never shied away from taking risks. We continually innovate and shake up what we do so that we can resonate with our consumers, and offer them something new, exciting and different.
What’s your proudest or ‘stand out’ moment looking back?
The first retail customers we brought on board, such as Waitrose and Selfridge's.
Those were the moments where you really had to pinch yourself. I was very much like ‘hang on a minute, are we really going to do this?’
I visited those shops with my parents and now we were selling sweets there. I still can’t believe it that people love and buy our products. It makes all the hard work we put into creating the new recipes and flavours worthwhile, and it’s always great meeting them and getting their feedback on how we can do better.
What is the biggest financial lesson you’ve learnt since startingCandy Kittens?
Managing cash as if it was your own heartbeat was really important. Cash is king, is the ultimate cliche but it’s so critical.
A lot of businesses fail on this notion alone. Their inability to manage cash and cash flow quickly causes issues, and typically leads to disaster if you don’t have an understanding of what you have coming in and coming out. If you don't have a handle on things, it can get pretty hairy, pretty quickly.
In the past we’ve had really challenging moments where we have had to suddenly find 10’s of thousands of pounds in a single day. Those were certainly no fun at all, but we’ve come through those challenges every time thanks to the brilliant team we’ve built, and our ability to plan ahead and ensure we spot any issues before it becomes a bigger issue.
One tip for those looking to start their own business?
Be incredibly clear on what it is you are trying to achieve. Where do you want to get to? Why are you doing this?
In our case we knew from day one that we wanted to take the likes of Haribo off the shelves of Tesco and Sainsbury's. That’s something that stays at the forefront of our minds as we make decisions and develop our brand. We want to be clear that the actions we are taking day to day, align with our values, and allow us to get ever closer to achieving our goals.
Whilst the phrase is often over used, finding your truth and remaining focussed on what that means for you will inevitably drive you closer to the success you want to see in your business. Once you have that clarity of thought, and an understanding of what your roadmap looks like I would supplement that with an unwavering commitment and determination to make your vision come to life.
In business there will be set backs. You need to be willing to be persistent in the face of challenges and not give up. We could have given up many times over the past 8 years, but through determination and a belief in what we wanted to achieve we always came through the other side. The road might be bumpy, but it will certainly get you there if you just keep on going and remain true to yourself and what you want.
“Don’t give up ten metres before the finish line. The next phone call, or next meeting could be the one thing you’ve been searching for.”
What does money mean to you?
Money plays an important part in all our lives, that’s an inescapable fact. When we have enough of it, it can give us precious time with family and friends, and offer the freedom to do the things we most want to in life.
I’ve been really fortunate in my position to have earnt enough money to go travelling, and spend time doing the things I most enjoy alongside the business. I recently bought a house and I’m planning to get married later this year, so there’s a lot happening.
I very much see money as an enabler. It’s not something that rules my everyday thinking, but it has helped me to achieve some of my goals and provide a sense of security.
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