At CLO PR we love sweet things. Sugary sweetness can make the world go round, right? We were delighted when Lavinia Davolio, founder of Lavolio, agreed to be interviewed as we've been watching her ascension into the confectionary hemispheres with a greedy eye. Have a read of what pumps Lavinia full of energy and passion to build a highly successful boutique confectionary, miles apart from her former career in finance.
1. What's the biggest lesson you've learnt from starting up Lavolio?
It’s something I didn’t know at the start but you need to put the customer at the centre. This sounds like marketing spiel but it’s not. You need to create a product that people love when they try it. Your product needs to be good enough to convince them to become ambassadors so that they can help tell your story.
2. What's the one piece of business advice you wish you'd been given when you started?
A mentor down the line once told me to choose what you’re going to be - as a brand - and stick to it. It’s been the best advice – you need to be the brand - live and breathe it everywhere. It’s all about consistency and brand awareness isn’t easy. Even the clothes I wear reflect Lavolio. People coming into my shop will notice that my scarf matches the wallpaper. You should see my car!
3. Was there ever a point when you wanted to give up?
No. It’s a rollercoaster ride and you feel the times when things go badly. You need to be an optimist. Resilience and persistence are key. There are moments when things aren’t going well, when I’ve made mistakes and changed direction. What helps me is to have a long term goal (rather than shorter monthly goals) where it’s not clear where the road will lead but I have the understanding that things will go wrong. I get a lot of clarity from listening to the customer experience.
4. What's been the biggest milestone for the business so far?
Six months in the making I was stocking in Fortnum & Mason. This created a lot of credibility and reach. A lot of other things have happened. It’s not magic and it’s hard work. We care about every single customer and we try our best to be better than the big guys. Opening our brick and mortar store in Parsons Green was momentous because it’s centred on listening to customers and wanting to give them that first hand experience. The store gives us a base to add on new services, such as personalisation where people can build their own box of treats.
5. Who is your inspiration?
Many different people inspire me in different ways. I reach out to people who I admire. You’d be surprised at who will become a mentor or sounding board if you ask. Everyone I admire have a lot more experience and have been successful and as an entrepreneur the one thing you don’t have is experience. In my case I wasn’t always in food and I’ve had to learn new skills such as digital marketing and brand building. It never gets easier as I’m always learning to do new things.
6. What keeps you motivated?
I’m driven by the desire to create and see something that was an idea becoming real. The shop existed in my mind - I could visualise it - while customers have helped it become a reality in various shapes. For me, a goal is a dream with a deadline.
7. What business or brand do you look up to?
When it comes to understanding brands I do a lot of research into trends. My previous career was in finance, which required me to know a lot of things. I used to read The Economist, now I read The Grocer! My friends make fun of me – they say I am an encyclopedia (my previous career in finance demanded me to know a lot of things). I take different levels of inspiration from different brands. For example, fashion and luxury for Lavolio’s communications. We are an alternative to chocolate but people like chocolate so we take inspiration from chocolate brands. The inspiration comes down to what the goal is.
8. If you weren't doing this, you would be....
This isn’t a job I got, I invented this job to reflect who I am. If it wasn’t creating chocolates I’d still probably be cooking because it inspired Lavolio. I’d be doing more writing and cooking.