if you are thinking of starting a business in a sector you know nothing about and intend to fake it until you do, Jamie Lang, Made in Chelsea The TV star, who has become an entrepreneur of sweets, believes that you are doing everything right.
“Many young entrepreneurs don’t realize that naivety is your biggest weapon,” says Candy Kittens, a 33-year-old confectionery brand founder with a turnover of £ 8 million.
“When you’re naive, you make all these mistakes and make your way through it without hesitation because you just don’t know anything else.”
Laing and his co-founder Ed Williams started by “google how to make sweets,” he admits. As a result of the search they flew to ISM Cologne, a large German sweet show to find contacts.
“We discovered this huge place, three seven-story buildings filled with every candy company – including Haribo, Rowntrees, Maynard’s. We went to all these different companies saying, “Hey guys, we have a great idea for a vegan treat that we really want to cook!”
The tycoons of the industry were not impressed. “Now I understand what it was like to approach Tesla and say, ‘Can you make the electric car we came up with?’ Knowing now what I know, I would never have done so. But being naive, we just tried. And it often works out that way. ”
Lang will be presented at SMEs XPO, a free two-day Evening Standard conference for entrepreneurs on May 25 and 26 in Olympia. He will share his experience of the last decade turning Candy Kittens into the second fastest growing sugar confectionery brand in the UK with 35% sales growth last year, according to Nielsen.
The reality show Made in Chelsea, which Lang joined in 2011, helped earn his initial success: “When I agreed to do the show, I thought, ‘I have to come up with something that doesn’t mean I am’ I’m just a reality star.” . So I said, “I’m creating this cute company. And since I started talking about it on TV, I had to do something about it. “
Casual connection in another popular TV show “First Date”. Stand up against canceralso played a role.
“My date [on the show] was a Swiss girl named Sophie. In the middle of the night we were done. When I started talking about sweets, she told me that her best friend’s dad kept sweet company. ”
It turned out to be the German giant Katjes, the producer of the hit M&S Percy the Pig. Lang’s TV date hosted a meeting, and the firm became a manufacturer of Candy Kittens and then became its majority shareholder in 2019.
While Laing admits ignorance at the beginning of his sweet venture, sugar in his blood, and one of the reasons he was chosen at Made in Chelsea: Alexander Grant, founder of McVitie’s Biscuit Empire, was Laing’s great-grandfather.
“There is such an assumption [consequently] I have billions and billions in my bank account, ”says Laing, who speaks so quickly that I wonder if he has high blood sugar all the time.
“Made in Chelsea created such a person that I was a billionaire, but that’s not true. We have a third generation curse – the grandfather makes it, the father loses, the son must recover. My generation needs to recover any money we want to have. We were in the same situation as everyone else. “
That’s not quite the case – Laing says Candy Kittens raised £ 200,000 in the early days by “asking family and friends” what the Middle Joe can fight. However, he is adamant, “there are a lot of people who have the money and are willing to invest – it’s just finding a way to get out of your pocket into your business.”
Laing adds: “People believe that participating in a TV show will give you a big jump in [starting a business]. That means you can get an appointment with the manufacturer, say. But it also keeps you from going to the supermarkets because they think he’s that guy from the reality show, there’s no longevity. So it gave us a really small ceiling that we had to break through. ”
What is Lang’s top tip for non-celebrity entrepreneurs just starting out? “To someone who creates a brand, I would say,‘ Never follow logic. Look for areas that people don’t. If no one makes vegan sweets, make vegan sweets. Go against the grain. “
And think as broadly as he does, “We’re on our way to defeating Haribo,” Lang smiles.
Jamie Laing will speak at the Evening Standard SME XPO, which will be held May 25 and 26 at the London Olympia. Find out more at smexpo.co.uk.