The best vegan startup of 2020? We’ve found them!
Meet the team at Caroboo, who have been VERY busy since their vegan chocolate business launched back in November. We chatted to Founder, Charlotte, about all things e-commerce, Veganuary and discussed her top tips for new startups. Enjoy!
Hi Charlotte, firstly tell us all about your amazing vegan startup Caroboo!
The official line is that we make ridiculously chocolatey carobs bars which are suspiciously like choc, but not!
Myself and my husband Darren were inspired on a trip to Australia in 2017 when we came across carob (our superfood ingredient) for the first time. It was one of those moments in life when an idea comes into your mind and you can not shake it for the life of you. At the beginning, it was my idea as I could see a need for healthier but amazingly delicious chocolate in the UK.
After the trip to Australia, we came back and I researched how to make chocolate and bought a tiny tabletop refiner to start my trials. Neither of us has a background in food so there was a lot of trial and error (and many many dodgy batches!) In between our day jobs, having a two-year-old and being pregnant with our son we persevered through finding our manufacturing partners and aligning all the other elements up ready for our launch in November 2020. It has been an absolute rollercoaster, there are no other words that better describe the highs and lows but right now we are in a great place and we cannot wait for the year ahead.
What inspired you to start your vegan startup during a pandemic?
We had been working so hard in the background for a couple of years so it wasn’t a spur of the moment decision to start during a pandemic, but we really didn’t want to miss the train of new vegan products coming to the market. We also read Mintel data that said chocolate and confectionery sales are rarely impacted by recessions, so it gave us the confidence to just get going. So it was now or never!
What were the biggest challenges of launching a new business in 2020?
We had delays in the factories due to Covid-19 which was frustrating. And one thing we couldn’t see coming was the shortage of raw materials for our cardboard boxes. We use home compostable packaging and that had huge lead times as well.
Most of the challenges we have faced have been new startup gripes and not always the fault of Covid-19. The strangest thing has been hiring David, our sales extraordinaire, and not really being able to see him very much in person- but Teams is helping!
Your vegan flavours span everything from coconut to orange – how did you go about selecting these?
We have been asked this quite a lot and I would love to say it was more scientific or well thought out but in all honesty, we just went with our gut! Our coconut flavour is our ‘base’ product and so that is the closest to a ‘milk’ chocolate that we will get, but we knew that orange complimented carob really well and so that was a no brainer. When we decided on mint, it was really surprising because it tasted pretty close to an Aero. So we were really pleased with how the taste profile came out!
How important is e-commerce to your vegan startup?
It was essential for our launch especially during Covid and will play an even bigger part now we are setting up our Amazon shop too!
How did you come across Printed.com?
Jess is our amazingly talented designer (@jessrose_illustrator) and has been with us from our very first concept designs. We trusted her advice very much when she suggested we use Printed.com – you were chosen by a professional!
You guys print our marketing materials that go out in our sample packs to suppliers and influencers; Postcards with our silly tasting notes and personal messages, Folded Leaflets explaining a bit more about us and also A5 Flyers with more information!
Tell us a bit about the packaging side of your vegan startup and how you keep this aligned to your sustainability values?
When we started looking at bringing Caroboo to life, one of the absolute uncompromising areas was the type of packaging we used. We worked really hard to find a partner for home compostable wrappers and we are so glad we did as it really does resonate with a lot of our customers. However, the wrappers were a large part, but not the only element of our business that uses packaging. We use FCS sustainably sourced cardboard for our post boxes and for our product boxes too. We even use vegan-friendly inks on the boxes and they are not laminated so we have no plastic there either! All of the printed materials we use from Printed.com are on Recycled Paper to meet our sustainability values too!
You do a huge amount on social media to engage your customers, what are your top five tips for building a community around your brand?
- We genuinely love interacting with our customers and getting to know them. It’s been such a fun part of the journey to have conversations in direct messages with all kinds of people who are connected by their love of our products. So our first tip would be to seriously engage with people who take the time to come by and say hi.
- We spent a good couple of months before we even launched following and engaging with people who we could see aligned with our business vision and mission. So we would totally recommend researching and following the people you know will enjoy the idea of your business and then eventually your products too!
- Be REAL! Charlotte tries to feature on our stories as often as she can and that is great for people really understanding the faces and families behind the scenes which we genuinely believe encourages people to engage with us.
- Encourage others. We want to use our platform to become more than just a place to shout about our products so we are starting a new feature called ‘Read all aboot it’ – a place where we will be interviewing sustainable and vegan brands that align with our theme for the month.
- Run internal competitions. We run competitions on our Instagram page that are only for our Instagram followers rather than only running giveaways with other companies. We like to reward our community for being so nice!
How are you making the most of the Veganuary trend with your digital marketing?
We are running ads on Facebook and Instagram to help spread the message, but we’re still finding our feet with all the ways digital marketing can work for us. We’re looking forward to seeing where our vegan startup will be in a few months time.
For 2021 what are your top three pieces of advice for other startups looking to succeed?
- You need tenacity. There were many moments where it all felt way too big and too much but we just got our head down and kept taking baby steps in the right direction.
- Rhino Skin! One of my best friends said to me one day that I needed to put on my Rhino Skin when it comes to getting feedback from people. Not everyone will like or understand what you do and that is ok. Don’t let it affect you so much that you can’t brush it off and carry on!
- Ask for help. Reach out to people in the industry you want to go into and you will be surprised how many people will be happy to give you advice for free. We have been blown away by how welcoming and helpful the food industry has been and we love it!
How can people shop from you, or find out more?
You can buy from our website: www.eatcaroboo.co.uk and we are working really hard to build relationships with independent stores too. Make sure to give us a follow on Instagram too so you can follow our vegan startup journey!