Founder Focus: Wholey Moly
Sometimes there is a reason that there is a gap in the market; it is difficult to fill. In this case, the gap in the market was a healthy mid-afternoon treat without the fat and sugar of traditional pseudo-health snacks.
Why was that gap so hard to fill? Because fat and sugar are the very ingredients that give baked goods that delicious, moist texture. Determined to tackle this, Meenesh and Parul Mistry of Wholey Moly spent two years pursuing the perfect balance of crunch, flavour and nutrition.
The turning point came when they discovered coconut oil, the all-important binding ingredient and from here, armed with a range of three irresistible cookie varieties and a growing online audience, secured their first physical stockist, Selfridges.
WHAT WAS YOUR EUREKA MOMENT?
The idea for Wholey Moly came from our frustration working in a corporate office. The 3pm energy slump was always greeted with endless sugary short-term fixes that pick you up, then drop you back to zero an hour later.
We still wanted that sweet treat with our afternoon cuppa – who doesn’t? But why couldn’t it also be good for us? When we looked in the market for alternative healthy options and all we found were sugary snacks masquerading as healthy. We decided to make our own nut and honey bars at home to take to work but work colleagues started asking what we were eating. On trying them they asked us to make more for themselves.
It eventually evolved into a flapjack and then a cookie but as demand at our workplaces grew, we had a light bulb moment and Wholey Moly was born.
WHAT WAS YOUR ELEVATOR PITCH?
At Wholey Moly we are on a mission to prove healthy doesn’t have to be boring, we do this by making healthy cookies which are made from 100% natural ingredients which have all the taste, loaded with nutrition but without any of the junk.
HOW DID YOU KNOW WHOLEY MOLY WAS GOING TO BE SUCCESSFUL?
In the beginning, we took our cookies to our offices to get feedback from our colleagues, further down the line we held focus groups where we got detailed feedback on the cookies and we learned a lot about our customers and how they make snacking decisions.
Finally, just before we were ready to invest our hard earned savings, we popped up at a few farmers market in London to see if people would actually part with cash for our products – we still remember trying to stay cool when we made our first sale and then jumping around like we won the lottery when the customer walked away!
WHAT ADVICE WOULD YOU GIVE TO SOMEONE STARTING THEIR OWN BUSINESS?
It’s never a good time to launch your own business, just get started. We found out we were having a baby 6 months after having the idea but still went ahead with setting up Wholey Moly and haven’t looked back since.
Also, a bit of old fashioned stubbornness helps, stick to your guns and persevere, there will be moments when you doubt yourself and your choices but that’s where you should remember why you started and lean on your nearest and dearest for support. Accept that there will be rejection along the way, just stay persistent.
DO YOU HAVE A BUSINESS MENTOR?
We don’t have a mentor but through various startup communities like Enterprise Nation, Bread & Jam and Young Foodies, we’ve met a great network of entrepreneurs who we often sound out for advice, bounce ideas off and use as a shoulder to cry on – it’s really important to surround yourself with like-minded people who get it.
WHAT IS THE MOST WORTHWHILE INVESTMENT YOU HAVE MADE?
That dreaded word: networking. I can’t stress this enough, the startup community is a very friendly gang and you can learn a lot from others who are in similar positions as you or are a few steps ahead.
WHAT ONE FAILURE ARE YOU GLAD YOU EXPERIENCED?
We ripped up the baking manual and started from scratch, you won’t find any of the usual suspects in our cookies… no butter, refined sugars, empty calories or guilt, just honestly good cookies. There is a reason why traditional baking used these ingredients, it made the cookies taste great, soft in the middle but strong enough to not break at the
change of the wind.
This was our biggest challenge, using completely natural ingredients meant our cookies were brittle – in fact, we did a farmer market in the early stages to test the customer reaction and by the time we arrived at the market all our products had completely fallen apart! Following this we changed one of the key ingredients of the cookies, we’re just glad it happened in a farmers market and not on supermarket shelves.
WHAT PIECE OF INDUSTRY ADVICE DO YOU OFTEN HEAR BUT DISAGREE WITH?
All advice is good but there is no one way of doing things, peoples advice tends to be from their personal experience and every single business and product is unique, whether it is the product, the branding or even the timing you enter the market, don’t get caught up on one piece of advice.
WHAT IS THE BOOK YOU RECOMMEND EVERYONE READS?
If I had to recommend just one it would have to be The Lean Startup by Eric Ries, it’s a must for anyone developing a product or service.