Two years ago I used to be busy climbing the corporate ladder on the trading floor of a large investment bank, when the banking crisis helped me to decide that it was time for a change. I started Lavolio Boutique Confectionery with the desire to create a new, memorable and taste-boggling experience.
With nuts, fruit, chocolate, a tiny business hat, a lot of hard work, creativity, luck, an amazing team, a few pounds gained, many new friends and supporters, some sleepless nights, some celebratory champagne, this rollercoaster ride is proving to be quite a delicious challenge!
If you are thinking of following your instinct and starting a business, well done! Here are some of the tips that have helped me along the way during my start-up journey, of which most of them have been passed on to me by very experienced entrepreneurs and professionals. If you would like to have a chat, I am always happy to help at: firstname.lastname@example.org
Some things happen faster than you think, but creating a business from scratch takes time and a lot of commitment. In the last 2 years we have been growing organically at a gradual pace. We started selling around London’s farmers markets and then launched at Fortnum & Mason in less than a year. I still would not want to grow too fast, I am very patient and aware that it will take a bit of time. I’d like to think that we have ambitious plans to expand our brand, but it is also important to keep a realistic mindset at the same time.
One day I would love to open our very own Lavolio Boutique Confectionery store in London. It would be a dream come true! But I am not scared of waiting for the right time.
reach out and bore people to death
You can’t do everything yourself! External support is vital to any business idea. It’s up to you to drive growth by continuously knocking on people’s door. You might not necessarily be interested in “just” selling your product, but also listening to their ideas and getting feedback. In my experience so far, other people’s involvement has made such a considerable difference as they have helped Lavolio wholeheartedly, because they believed in my project. I’m very grateful and feel humbled by the amount of support that has been poured into Lavolio, it lays at the foundation of where we are now.
don’t underestimate your passions
You need to take into account that there are so many aspects into the business that do not necessarily match your dream-like idea of being an entrepreneur, but the core of the business should be chosen to match something you are truly passionate about. It is this passion that then becomes your drive, your responsibility to move things forward.
This tip came from a very senior colleague back in my banking days. I believe that every kind of business decision is ultimately down to ‘people’ and how they relate to each-other. It is still what I repeat myself in my head in the few scary minutes before an important meeting. Maybe I am unsure, or maybe I feel inadequate, but together with being honest, I find that it is very important to be “charming”. What I mean is a combination of body language, how to look assertive, and to recognise what type of person you are dealing with and adapting to their character.
to-do lists should be short
No point in having an endless list. Write down only 5-10 tasks that can actually be accomplished in your working day, keep big time-consuming projects in a separate list (or, like we do in the office, on a pin board). For example if you write “make a new website” it is not going to happen by just writing it in a to-do list, but “approve design of new logo” “choose e-shop platform” should be in the accomplishable tasks.
No matter what stage you’ve reached, keep in mind that your resources are limited, and be very mindful on how you choose your battles. There are some wonderful (and expensive) PR agencies, trade shows, event sponsoring opportunities that will be available to you, but at a considerable cost. When faced with this difficult decision it’s better to check with other entrepreneurs first if they have invested, and what feedback they received.
don’t be afraid to… learn
Remember you are on a learning journey. Even if my initial idea was based on a lot of research into the food industry I could not even imagine what it would be like to start a business from zero. I could probably visualise our product, but the actual steps needed to make it into a viable business are hard to predict. I have been learning about the different aspects of starting a business mainly by sharing my idea with other entrepreneurs and mentors, who have provided a huge amount of expertise and support. Don’t be afraid to ask questions.
don’t be afraid of being a woman
Sorry, I am pretty sure you will be confronted at some point (hopefully not too much!) by a situation where you will question yourself as “just” a woman in a men’s world. I would love to tell you that it gets easier as a business woman, but it does not, it’s hard to always remain sure of yourself and emanate the self-confidence that you need to show how competent you actually are. My only advice is to embrace your feminine side, even if it means showing your vulnerability at times. Just remember to always be yourself and don’t be afraid to speak up!!
don’t be afraid to… Google
This is by far the most important practical tip. It’s a huge resource for businesses and it is making all kinds of information available through savvy internet research. Invest time into researching online, before you ask questions to experienced entrepreneurs. Try to be as informed as possible. Google is a wonderful resource to research companies and look up people on Linkedin, we always make sure we are well prepared before entering a meeting.
Just do it
And don’t forget to smile!
by Lavinia Davolio
Founder and Director of
Lavolio Boutique Confectionery