Can the McVitie’s heir repeat his family’s success by selling gourmet gummy candy?
Made in Chelsea star Jamie Laing is flippant.
He recently went cycling around London, butt naked. He also convinced tourists outside Buckingham Palace that he is Prince Harry’s cousin. Not to mention the time he pranked his mum to believe he got a girl pregnant.
So where does the 27-year-old’s confectionery brand Candy Kittens fit in this frivolous scheme of things?
Besides tattooing the words “Candy Kittens” on his hip bone, Laing launched a crowdfunding campaign in November last year to raise £300,000 of capital to grow his business.
Currently, Candy Kittens is stocked in more than 1700 stores across the UK, in retailers including Waitrose, Sainsbury’s, Topshop and Tesco.
Laing’s ultimate goal is to become the “Willy Wonka and Hugh Hefner of Chelsea” and achieve a £2.5m turnover by 2017.
But why would a TV star launch a sweets business, you might wonder? Laing’s great-great-grandfather, Sir Alexander Grant, invented Britain’s favourite tea dunker, the digestive biscuit, some 120 years ago.
So can the McVitie’s heir repeat his family’s success? And how much has TV profile helped his business? We caught up with Laing to find out:
Q. Tell us about the big plans you have for scaling Candy Kittens in 2016?
We of course have big plans for Candy Kittens, we would like to go across the ponds and become big in the States but at the moment our focus is on getting our Vegetarian range in Supermarkets around the UK.
Q. Tell us about your experience with crowdfunding for Candy Kittens?
Crowdfunding has been an amazing experience! We’re hoping to raise £300,000 to invest in national brand awareness and crowdfunding itself has proven to be an excellent marketing campaign. We’ve had well over 300 investors and that number will continue to rise before we close – the Candy Kittens family is growing.
Q. What are the biggest challenges you’ve faced and milestones you’ve achieved with Candy Kittens?
Biggest challenge for me personally was making sure the sweet tasted right as we wanted to make everything from scratch and not just packet any old sweet into bags. My biggest milestone would have to be the first pop-up shop we had because that was the moment Candy Kittens became real, as well as getting into Waitrose.
Q. From Selfridges to TopShop, how have you managed to get listings with big players?
We’ve managed to get listings with big players from producing a great product and brand. There are many people out there who I’m sure think the only reason we are selling in these big retailers is because of my profile but that is not the case. These big retailers are looking for exciting brands with longevity.
My TV career could end tomorrow and if the only reason Candy Kittens is successful is because of me then it would end too. Candy Kittens is a standalone brand with exciting potential, these retails have spotted that and that’s why they are stocked where they are stocked.
Q. How easy was it to start exporting? Have any key advice for small businesses?
So far we have been very focused on the UK market but have been lucky to pick up export customers in an increasing number of countries. All of these customers have approached us directly which I believe is a great testament to our brand and the appeal that British products have around the globe.
Q. Does Made in Chelsea drive customers to Candy Kittens?
Of course being on a television helps drive some customers to our range of sweets however there are many people in the UK and abroad who have never seen the show and have no clue who I am, but they still buy our product. Yes it helps but one can’t rely on Made In Chelsea viewers to just buy our sweets.
Q. You once said you want to be “the Willy Wonka and Hugh Hefner of Chelsea” – how many years will it take for you to get there?
[Laughs] Two of my heroes, one owned a sweet factory and the other an iconic brand. My dream is to blur the two together. Someone once asked me how I determine success, I believe that success is when you reach a point where you are respected in your field of work. That’s what we’re trying to achieve.
Q. Your great-great-grandfather, Sir Alexander Grant, invented Britain’s favourite tea dunker, the digestive, in the late 1800s. What key lessons have you learnt from his success?
The lessons I have learnt from him, I suppose, are not only doing everything yourself but also being patient. I was always told; business is paid in two currencies, cash and experience, take the experience first because the cash will come later.
Q. Any thoughts on the sugar tax?
I think the sugar tax is a ludicrous idea. We’ve always known sugar in mass quantity is bad for you like many things in huge sums are bad for you. But Candy Kittens is a treat it’s not a everyday meal. If we start taxing sugar should we not then start to tax processed food or even gluten?
Q. TV or business – which industry do you prefer and why?
Impossible to say, that’s like asking me who my favourite sibling is. I’m so fortunate to be able to dip into both with the help of others. Both have taught me amazing lessons but given the choice I could never choose, I would always try and juggle both
Q. What’s the best/worst thing about doing business in London?
The best thing is the energy and the passion to achieve. I believe passion in a business is one of the most important elements to have. The worst is the traffic because it always makes me late for meetings
Q. Tell us that one secret about Made in Chelsea that no one knows about?
Hmmmm… It’s actually all-real and people think it’s not!
Q. What’s the best and worst part about being a part of the show?
Best part is that you are given a golden ticket into this amazing industry and you get to hang out with your friends all day everyday. The worst part is having to hang out with your friends all day everyday.
Q. We saw your wine tasting pics, what made you do it? Tell us about the craziest thing you’ve ever done?
Wine tasting was amazing and of course with me I always end up doing something silly. My aim is to try and experience everything and have as many adventures as possible when we’re young. This is the time to make the stories so that when you’re older you can tell them, therefore I’m still waiting on the craziest thing I’ve done.
Thanks for your time Jamie.