In this quickfire Q&A we welcome the co-founder of Doisy & Dam, Richard Wilkinson. Doisy & Dam chocolate is packed with nature‚Äôs superfoods (sourced from all over the world) to create a unique, indulgent treat that provides the perfect balance between health and taste. You can find their chocolate in a variety of outlets including Whole Foods, Ocado and Planet Organic.
How do you identify a real business opportunity?
I think it comes down to instinct ultimately. Before we started Doisy & Dam we went through hundreds of ideas. We almost launched a totally different product but this one just felt right. We were both passionate about it, there was an obvious opportunity for the product and we really felt we could give it a good shot.
I’d say there’s no fool proof method of identifying an opportunity and a lot of people are put off for that reason which is a shame, because ultimately it’s a leap of faith and a big part of that is having belief in yourself that you can make you idea work.
I’d say that the best thing to do is to launch your idea with the minimum viable product and see what people think and not wait too long trying to perfect your idea before anyone else sees it.
What skill or ability is most important for an entrepreneur and why?
Determination probably. Starting your own business is really hard (laughs). It’s stressful, there’s really long hours and you’re risking a lot. The peaks and troughs when you start your own business are far higher and lower than if you’re in a normal career but that’s what makes it so rewarding when you get to those peaks.
I think you need to be able to deal with those negatives and to push on without losing faith in your own idea. You need to have the determination to break down doors to speak to whoever you need to and I guess you need a thick skin to deal with the criticism that comes that way.
If you have that determination along with an in built passion for your product I think you’ll go a long way towards success whereas negativity is infectious and if you’re negative about your business it’ll translate to others.
You know someone who wants to start a business but fears leaving their job. What do you say to them?
I’d say just do it. It’s a really tough piece of advice to give, telling someone just to do it because it’s such a risky thing to do but I don’t know a single entrepreneur who regrets their decision. And that includes people who haven’t been successful and have had to return to work because they all went back into the world of work with better cv’s and more skills.
I think that as long as you’ve thought carefully about how you’re going to sustain yourself and your finances are in place I’d say go for it because you’ll always regret it if you don’t take that leap of faith. We launched ourselves head first into an industry we knew nothing about and just learnt on the job, which was a really steep learning curve but was hugely rewarding. We could of sat for another 20 years going through ideas but we just took the plunge.
Are there people who start a business for the wrong reasons?
Anyone who starts a business wanting to make a fortune quickly without loving their product. If you’re looking to get rich quick it doesn’t work that way, unless you’re maybe Mark Zuckerburg. It’s not easy, it won’t be easy and it’s not necessarily going to be fast so you’re just not going to have a good time unless you love the product you’ve created.
What are the most important lessons you’ve learned?
To ask for help. Ask for help from anyone and everyone. We’ve created a kind of pseudo advisory board of retail experts who we buy a coffee or a beer for now and again so we can pick their brains, and without their advice we’d have never survived.
Another lesson we’ve learned is definitely to choose your business partner carefully. We’re so lucky in that we’re old friends who get on really well, we can shout at each other without it being a problem. Also, we have complimentary skills. My background’s in finance and business and Ed’s is in sales and marketing so we split those roles early on and it’s really helped us to become as efficient as we can be.
Can you recommend any books or resources that have helped you along the way?
There’s two books that come to mind. One is Tessa Stuart’s book called ‘Packed’. That’s something that I read when we just started out and it’s just a really good, simple guide to how to start out as a food business. It’s nice and short but also quite comprehensive.
More recently I just read a book called ‘Purple Cow’ by Seth Godin which is just a really fascinating book on how to make brands interesting and remarkable.
What’s the best part of your job?
The fact that I get to work with chocolate every day. I love the products that we make, we’re really proud of them and it’s a fantastic feeling when we see them on the shelves and even better when we see someone pick it up to buy it.
I also love developing new products, we’ve got a really big product launch coming up in September and we’re just constantly developing and trialling new ideas. The people that work with us are just as passionate about Doisy & Dam as we are so it’s fun to be in a creative environment like that.
What’s your biggest fear?
Well, snakes but there aren’t many of those in London othewerwise I’d say…probably not being able to create all the products I want to create. There’s so many more things I’d love to do with Doisy & Dam but at the moment I just don’t have time. There’s so many other businesses I’d love to start. My dream is to be able to just start a business as soon as the idea comes into my head but time doesn’t really work like that, so ideas just slip away and that’s a real shame.