Small business spotlight on: Claudi & Fin
From a successful career in TV to co-founder of Claudi & Fin – the most delicious children’s lollies – Meriel Kehoe shares her food business start-up experience with us – the highs, lows and her top tips for budding entrepreneurs!
The start-up journey so far
Having launched in May this year, Claudi & Fin have already secured exclusive distribution in Sainsbury’s! A truly incredible achievement for a start-up business – and in such a short space of time.
Prior to co-founding Claudi & Fin, Meriel enjoyed an exciting career in TV, producing and directing a range of shows including Location, Location, Location, Kirstie’s Homemade Home, Made In Chelsea, Gardener’s World and Gok’s Fashion Fix. Meriel’s business partner Lucy Woodhouse worked in branding and marketing for 18 years for brands including the Telegraph, Nickelodeon and TalkTalk.
Tell us a bit about Claudi & Fin
We make delicious Greek style frozen yoghurt lollies packed with real fruit, whole milk and Vitamin D (for growing bones and teeth). Low in sugar and calories our lollies are perfect for parents looking for a guilt-free treat to give their children. Mums and Dads have been known to sneak them once the kids are in bed too! We named our 100% natural product after our chief taste testers – our children (Claudia & Fin), who are mad about the flavour.
What inspired you to start up Claudi & Fin?
In the summer after our children were born, my business partner and friend Lucy started looking around for an ice-lolly that might be suitable to give to her daughter. When she found nothing that fitted the bill, she decided to make her own and after a little while, she started thinking that if her daughter liked the results, maybe other children would too! She pitched her idea of an all-natural frozen yoghurt lolly to me over a plate of egg and chips and straight away I knew she was on to something.
We started trialling recipes (our husbands and children were delighted!) and after a lot of hits and quite a few misses (the rhubarb and custard lolly was a big no-no) we finally came up with two great tasting flavours; Strawberry and Mango.
Huge congratulations on gaining distribution in Sainsbury’s! How did that come about?
Our journey to Sainsbury’s shelves has been something of a fairy-tale. Once Lucy and I were happy with our recipe, we started making plans to sell our lollies at local delis and farmers markets but at the same time, we came across details for a competition called PitchUp with Sainsbury’s, arranged by a government backed organisation ‘StartUp Britain.’ The competition invited food start ups to send their ideas to Sainsbury’s who would then select their top ten businesses to come in for a pitching day – the prize being a contract with the retailer.
We entered but never in a million years did we think we we’d get through to the last ten. Imagine our complete shock when, after a Dragon’s Den style Pitch, we were awarded with a 12 month contract! Since then, there’s been an awful lot of hard work to get the product on the shelves and Lucy and I have had a really steep leaning curve but seeing our boxes in the freezers makes it all worth while.
What has customer feedback been like so far?
We’ve been over-whelmed by the feedback we’ve had. Amazing reviews in newspapers, magazines and from Mummy bloggers, not to mention the lovely emails and photos people have sent of their children enjoying our product. It’s the sort of response we could only have dreamt about.
What’s next for Claudi & Fin?
Once our exclusive deal ends with Sainsbury’s we hope to roll the product out into other supermarkets, shops and attractions. We also have plans for new products but for now, we are keeping those under our hats. Watch this space…
What is the main challenge of running your own business?
It’s rare that we get a chance to switch off. Because there’s just two of us at the moment, we need to be across everything, so even on holiday, it’s not uncommon to be checking emails or taking calls.
And what about the highs?
When something works, you know it’s because you put the effort in and made the right decisions (and had a little bit of luck too). There’s an enormous amount of satisfaction in that.
It’s also lovely to work across lots of different areas. On a typical day, we could be negotiating legal contracts, coming up with marketing strategies or social media ideas or doing the books. No day is ever the same!
What advice would you give someone considering launching a start-up?
Research, research, research. If you think you’ve got a good idea, don’t just take your friends and family’s word for it – ask the people you think might use your product/service. In our case, we conducted a survey with other mums and looked at reports from big research agencies like Mintel and Datamonitor, which you can consult for free at the Business Centre within the British Library in London.
My other piece of advice would be to try and avoid throwing around money! In the early days ask yourself ‘is this something I can do myself or is this something I can learn to do myself?” If the answer is ‘no’ then shop around to get the very best deal you can. It’s amazing how prices can fall once you explain you are just starting out and would appreciate a deal that reflects that – people have been really kind to us!
How do you switch off from your work?
I’m a big yoga fan. I also love cooking for friends and family and hanging out with Fin, my three year old. There doesn’t seem to be time for much else!
Lucy dabbles with running and yoga and can often be found doing big craft things or role-playing with Claudia!