Together with his younger sister Roopa, Rawal set up the company in 2012. In the last 12 months the siblings have seen sales increase by 100 per cent, with a growing number of customers hailing from overseas markets in Europe, the US, UAE and Japan.
Since growing their business online via Amazon Marketplace, which helps SMEs grow their businesses online by selling products on the Amazon website and mobile app, the company is now on course to make £100k this year.
Expecting demand for their top sellers – vegan chocolate, and prosecco and gin and tonic-flavoured truffles – to be greater than ever this Easter, Real Business spoke to Jay just as he and Roopa prepare for a sales boom.
Who are you and what’s your business?
I’m Jay Rawal, co-founder of The London Chocolate Company, a luxury chocolate brand specialising in prosecco and gin and tonic-flavoured truffles.
My sister and I started the business four years ago in 2012, around the time of the London Olympics and the Royal Wedding. At that time, the demand for British memorabilia was at its peak, and we spotted a gap in the market for a London-based chocolate brand.
While there were many successful British chocolate brands, we saw that there wasn’t one which really captured the spirit of London, so we set about creating a range of truffles that captured some of the city’s glitz and glamour.
Where did the idea for the business come from?
My sister and I decided to give it a go after she’d finished university. Her passion had always been baking and cookery, and she’d qualified as a chocolatier. She was thinking about what she wanted to do next, while I’d recently sold my previous business and was looking for a new challenge.
I asked her if she thought this would be something she’d enjoy, and she said yes! So, we took the plunge and set up The London Chocolate Company. The way it works is that Roopa develops the recipes, and I take care of the feasibility side of the business.
What was key in terms of getting started?
At a very early stage, we managed to secure a large corporate order from HSBC, and I hastily accepted it, thinking Roopa and I could figure out how to meet the order later. We were working out of our family kitchen at the time, so it was a struggle.
It wasn’t long before I realised we weren’t able to meet large orders without significant investment in premises and equipment. Around that time, I attended an entrepreneur’s networking event at the British Library, where I met one of the founders of Innocent drinks. I asked him whether he thought it was worth investing tens of thousands of pounds in our business, given the early stage it was at, and he advised to try to find a third party to produce our products for us.
It just so happened that the company that made our packaging was also making the packaging for Harrods’ chocolates. That firm subsequently put us in touch with Harrods’ chocolate makers, and we struck a deal with them to begin manufacturing our truffles too. We handed them our homemade recipes, and over a three-month period worked with them closely until we became comfortable that our truffles were being made the way we wanted them to be.
What’s it like working as a brother-and-sister team? Do you ever get on each other’s nerves?
Not as much as you might think! We work well together because we know each other’s characters very well. There’s no or façade or fakeness between us. We know each other’s skills and weaknesses and are both happy to let each other handle our own areas of the business.
Roopa is much better at the creative side of the business than I am, for example. She came up with all our unique recipes – whereas I’m more business-minded. It’s a balance that works well because we both instinctively know what our priorities are.
Describe your Easter marketing technique. What strategies do you use at this time of year?
A big part of our marketing strategy has always revolved around social media, with Facebook and Instagram being the platforms we use most. These allow us to create a customised online audience, who we know are interested in gin or prosecco, for example, based on their preferences. We’re then able to fine-tune that group and target advertising at those individuals we know will be interested in our products. This strategy has proved very effective.
Before we launch a new product, we’ll spend a few weeks posting Facebook and Instagram adverts to gauge user’s’ response. Next month, we’re launching our new collection of gin truffles, and we’ve already been posting images of the truffles in production, and of them being packaged up. We’ve found that people engage a lot more with our brand online this way.