Founder Focus: Ed Smith of Doisy & Dam
Doisy & Dam was founded by Ed Smith and Richard Wilkinson, childhood best friends, with a passion for the sweet stuff and on a mission to ignite the tastebuds of the nation with their exciting and unusual flavour combinations. Creating a new era in the world of snacking, Ed and Richard are upgrading coffee breaks and commuter munchies across the country with a range of grown-up treats which are filled with better ethics, better ingredients and better chocolate. We sat down with Ed, to find out just how the pair went from idea to show-stopping brand.
What was your eureka moment?
Our first moment of realisation was after we had decided to set up a food business with what we thought was a better approach to making chocolate. We were in the research phase of developing our first products and we started noticing just how much crap is included in foods (not limited to, but including chocolate) that didn’t need to be there. Don’t get me wrong, these ingredients all serve a purpose, but they’re often unnatural and none of them are there to improve customer’s experiences of the products – they’re there for the producers.
What is your elevator pitch?
Delicious dark chocolate confectionery with no palm oil, using single-origin Colombian cocoa across a range of fun and interesting products. Doisy & Dam allows the kid in you to eat the products you used to love but with your grown up taste buds and the comfort of knowing you’re doing no harm in the process.
How did you test your idea?
Friends and family at first. They were all we had access to and we’ve been blessed with sometimes distressingly honest people around us. Lots of ideas were canned and the ones that went forward formed the core of our range. We still use this crew of testers but we add on a layer of focus groups to make sure we’ve got a representative group.
What advice would you give someone thinking of starting a business on their own?
Go for it! It’s tough but rewarding, you get to create things which to me is most of the fun and you can define your impact on the world through the products or services you’re delivering. Get as much help as possible, nobody knows how to do this when they first do it.
Do you have a mentor or are you one?
We’ve always had a large group of people who through promises of teas, coffees and beers we persuaded to help us out. We contacted a large group of people who we’d never met who had experience in the food industry and they were all willing to give us their time and expertise. It was a pretty amazing thing to learn. Since then we’ve learned that people in the food industry tend to all be passionate about food and so love helping new people with new ideas.
What’s your plan B?
Do this again. Maybe not with chocolate, maybe not in food, but I think creating great customer-facing products (while they don’t always end up great…) is such a brilliant way to spend your time. It’s rewarding, challenging and fun. So, this please, my plan B would be this.
What is the most worthwhile investment that you have made?
Spending time with people who know more than you, asking them for advice. That, and a management course, I was a terrible manager and I always underestimated the importance of it. I’m probably still a terrible manager but I’m aiming towards being an average one.
What one failure are you glad you experienced?
Over-forecasting and therefore overproducing stock, then being faced with having to pay for products you’re almost certainly not going to be able to sell is a pretty scary thing to be up against. Needing to come up with a scary chunk of money certainly makes you sweat and work out your problems quickly. We’ve applied a few ‘tweaks’ to our approach to forecasting after that which I hope will leave us a little less scared of manufacturers breathing down our necks in the future!
What is coming up for Doisy & Dam?
We’ve just released a range of absolutely delicious new chocolate snacks and we’re about to launch our first seasonal range this Easter with Holland & Barrett! I think these are the most fun and interesting products we’ve released yet.
What is the book you would recommend that everyone reads and why?
Why We Sleep by Matthew Walker. Sleeping is great and now I know that it’s apparently very important. How and why we do it and how best to do it is something Matthew knows a lot about.
How do you find balance in your daily life?
I work with one of my closest friends and we’ve been pretty successful over the years at leaving work at work and having fun outside of work. So, make sure that if you have a co-founder, don’t take the professional side too seriously and certainly don’t take it out of work. That and sleeping well and exercising is what keeps me balanced. Richard, my co-founder, has been using dance a lot recently as a way to let off steam.