Jamie Laing- you may know him as the self proclaimed party animal, socialite, Made in Chelsea cast member and heir to the McVities throne, something which lends to the nickname ‘Jamie Biscuits.’ However, Jamie is also part of the entrepreneurial duo behind confectionary and lifestyle brand Candy Kittens, producing sweet treats, clothing and gifts alongside his business partner Ed Williams.
Based in Chelsea, London, the company was set up in May 2012, when Jamie decided he wanted to combine both fashion and confectionary to create a “cool” sweets brand.
“At the beginning I had this whole vision of this sweet shop where I wanted to have sweets everywhere and I wanted to connect it with fashion,” explained Jamie.
When Jamie met Ed through a mutual friend just after graduating university, he suggested scaling down the business, and instead creating packets of sweets, whilst maintaining Jamie’s concept for an element of fashion.
“We realised at the time that all sweets were kind of aimed at young children,” Jamie continued.
“What we wanted to do was strip all of that back and make it very clean, make it very cool, make it very fashionable.”
The gourmet gummy candy now has a predicted turnover of £2.5m for 2017 and is currently being sold in big name retailers including Selfridges, Topshop and Waitrose, as well as exporting to the USA and the Middle East.
Alongside his desire to market the product in a sleek, new way, Jamie was also conscious of what was inside the bag too.
Each bag of the kitten-shaped gummies is gluten free, and contains all natural ingredients and fruit juice, with the firm having recently released its first ever vegan product.
For Jamie and Ed, Candy Kittens isn’t style over substance, with the pair both dedicated to making the best possible product for their audience.
“For Ed and I success isn’t making money, it’s about being established in a certain area where you are praised and credited for what you’ve created. Ed and I both love creating things and that’s how we got into this,” explains Jamie.
Perhaps pursuit of the perfect product is down to the entrepreneurial blood running through his veins, passed on from great-great-grandfather, Sir Alexander Grant, who invented the digestive in 1892, or perhaps like his business partner it was the desire to follow in his father’s footsteps- both young men are the sons of successful business tycoons.
“My dad started his own travel business and Ed’s dad has his own business as well so we were always around people who were running their own businesses,” said Jamie.
“So I suppose subconsciously that was driven within me from a younger age.”
Ed added: “I always imagined myself following in my dad’s footsteps in one way or another and I suppose most little boys do growing up. I wanted to work for myself and have my own thing.”
The duo seem to have tapped something unique, with Jamie’s pop culture presence boosting their social media following, boasting 92,000 followers on Twitter alone, along with the fashion arm of the firm, helping to create an exclusive ‘Candy Kittens Gang.’
But the success of the brand is not down to Jamie’s television persona alone, as the pair have proven that hard work and a quality product are huge factors in the company’s popularity.
“Ed works harder than anyone I’ve ever met,” said Jamie.
“Having that as a business partner you can’t buy that, you honestly can’t which is amazing.”
Initially launching its first popup shop on Kings Road, Chelsea, in August 2012, Candy Kittens then made its way to the shelves of Selfridges, Topshop and Harvey Nicholls before tackling the supermarket brands: Waitrose, Sainsburys, Tesco, Occado and Booths.
“The sort of difficult thing about these supermarkets and where we are stocked is that they don’t care who you are, they don’t care what you’re bringing, all they care about is the product. And they only care about if the product is good enough,” said Jamie.
“I suppose a credit towards our sweets is the simple fact that that these supermarkets will take them. We’ve been to different sorts of conventions where we’ve met people who sell jam, or cream, or yoghurt who haven’t got into these retail stores for years.
“So as much as people sort of believe that Made in Chelsea and all those sort of things have got us where we are, in the beginning of course it helped a huge amount, but its due to hard work and making sure our product is good.”
For the guys, tackling these big retailers and winning a spot on the shelves is a huge achievement.
“I think probably our biggest achievement was initially getting the product into Selfridges. The year we launched in Selfridges it was voted the coolest store in the world. So for us to get in there was amazing and lots of other retailers looked to Selfridges to see what was happening in the market and get new ideas so that’s helped us a lot,” said Ed.
“I guess after that really Waitrose was the single biggest one that stands out. Like Jamie said you don’t just get in there because you have a nice looking pack or a bit of name behind the brand. You get in there really on the product credentials.”
“If anyone is in a business who is selling things to supermarkets they will understand the pressures that you’re under and hardships that you go through to get them in there,” added Jamie.
“It’s like you get into a club, it’s that excitement as well as relief -there’s nothing like it.”
After hitting so many major milestones in just four years in business, and with a wealth of opportunities ahead of them, it seemed only right to ask the pair what advice they would give to budding entrepreneurs.
“Don’t take no for an answer and work harder than the person next to you,” stated Ed.
“People talk about talent and ideas and I think that sort of stuff only gets you so far, I think actually most people who are successful would agree that you put it down purely to hard work.”
Jamie added: “I suppose from my point of view, I’d say the same thing every time, I always believe it’s key that business is paid in two currencies: cash and experience, with the experience first and the cash later.
“Go into it because you have a passion for it and a desire to create it. I think that’s why Ed and I went into this. You know creating a business that is profitable is just a by-product of what you actually want to achieve.”
With a host of huge names already under their belt, the Chelsea lads are already looking to their next step, with big plans ahead.
“There is some really exciting stuff happening. We’re just about to launch a new range of packaging which is amazing and it’s kind of a coming of age for the brand.
“We’ve gone through a number of different changes since we launched and learned a huge amount and now we’re in a position where we are really sure about who we are and what we want to be and where our place is in the market,” said Ed.
A key factor helping drive this is the businesses nationwide marketing campaign which is due to kick off at the end of this month.
He continued: “What we want to do first and foremost is secure our place in the UK, we want to be known as the best sweets company in the UK.
“And then once we’ve done that there is a huge amount of opportunity for export and different types of channels, selling in different places, all sorts of different things.
“Our quest for world domination is well on the way.”
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