It was whilst working at the fashion company, Farfetch that Lotta Andonian came up with the idea for Eat Chic. Her co-workers were constantly asking her to bring back the preservative-laden peanut butter cups from her holidays in America. A self-trained cook and chocolatier, Lotta started making her own version – perfect for the fashion world. Using organic chocolate, homemade nut butter and Maldon sea salt, and including vegan, dairy-free, and gluten-free varieties, Lotta quickly found many admirers. “I got a few marriage proposals,” she admits. Inundated with requests for her peanut butter cups, Lotta realised she was onto something. A year later, with 3 old street pop-ups and several major stockists under her belt, Eat Chic is going from strength to strength. We thought it was about time we caught up with Lotta, to find out how she made it all happen…
You've been in business for just over a year, what have been the greatest challenges you've faced?
The overall biggest challenge I have had is doing everything myself and trying to figure out how to scale up. There is a reason most food businesses are run by two people, because it makes things more than twice as efficient! When I am in the kitchen, I can’t respond to emails, meet with people, visit stockists, etc. so everything is slower with everything falling on me, and it’s been difficult to accommodate such rapid growth.
I’ve only recently hired people to help me with packaging the chocolates, and even that alone has made a considerable impact on the amount of chocolate I’ve been able to produce, but I am still in need of more help to accommodate new stockists. So if anyone out there is looking for a part-time job making chocolates, get in touch. :)
If you’re looking to hire, you better tell us about the best bits then…
The best moments are when people order chocolate from me for their weddings, birthdays, anniversaries, or other special events. There are a lot of people they could have chosen to purchase from for these very special occasions, and I am honoured that they chose to include eat chic in their celebrations.
I also live for getting feedback from people about how much they love the chocolates or how I was able to brighten up their day with chocolate. Since I was teenager I have always used cooking to show that I care for people and to spread happiness, and now I get to do it as a job. That’s the best.
We love the brand you’ve created, where do you look for inspiration?
I get a lot of inspiration from Instagram, podcasts, books about entrepreneurs and businesses, and magazines highlighting women in food such as Cherry Bombe. For branding, I look to fashion brands a lot and beauty/fragrance brands like Glossier and Byredo. For flavour development, I mainly just think of combinations I like, like almonds and fennel, to come up with flavours like almond butter and wild fennel pollen. I also seriously admire the Meringue Girls, who have built an amazing brand by being the nicest and most supportive girls in the business! They prove that hard work and being supportive of others will get you far.
Eat Chic is stocked in some of the top department stores – Selfridges and Fortnum and Mason to name a few, do you have any tips or advice for young brands looking to do the same?
I think the reason I was able to get into Selfridges and Fortnum and Mason so quickly is because I am offering something unique and on trend with the recent popularity of nut butters in this country, could show customers loved my products on social media and at pop-ups, and ultimately because the buyers loved the taste of the product. (Taste is essential for repeat customers, it can’t just be about the branding.) So I would advise brands to really focus on creating something that is different that fills a customer need, and then commit to making the best quality version of it with a clear point-of-view and branding.
Also, use social media to spread the word about your brand. It takes a lot of time and effort, but is free and effective when done right. My first cafe orders were from people who contacted me on Instagram. Finally, do not get discouraged if initially you get no response or are rejected. Just learn the reasons why, and think about whether they are valid concerns you should address in your business or whether the opportunity just was not the right fit for your brand.
How have pop-ups such as your stall in Old Street Station helped your business?
Pop-ups have been PHENOMENAL for the growth of my business. They are lower cost and lower-risk than investing in a permanent location, and are also better for testing different areas and making sure you are locating in the correct place for your target demographic. Also once you have made the initial investment in banners and displays for a pop-up, you can pretty much reuse most of it at each new location, which keeps costs down as well.
Foot traffic is extremely important when you are a new brand and have not done much marketing. You can either choose a location that might be cheaper and off-the-beaten path and invest a lot of time and/or money into building hype for the product, or choose a high-traffic location such as Old Street and create an appealing display to catch thousands of eyes and sell and market your product that way. I prefer the later because it also makes it easier to have repeat customers, and otherwise it is out of sight, out of mind. This is my third time coming to Old Street because it has proven to be so successful and because working with Appear Here is such a pleasure.
Why thank you! What can we look forward to next from Eat Chic?
I am currently working with an amazing designer in Brooklyn (heathermariah.com) on new branding and packaging for 2016, which I am super excited about. I want my chocolates to be immediately recognisable in the way Mast Brothers’ chocolates are recognisable even without the logo. This is important as I’ll be focusing more on selling at large retailers like Selfridges and Harvey Nichols rather than directly from my website, where I need to attract people who do not know my brand from before.
Eat Chic will be in Old Street Station, until 13th December – make sure you check them out! Feeling inspired to launch your own idea? Explore our available spaces here.