Take a moment to think about the best brownie you have ever had. Now think about that brownie with attitude – sexier, meaner, edgier and oh so very bad. This is what founders Paz and Morag created back in a tiny flat in leafy Richmond before going on Dragons Den in 2016. Since then, their business has been satisfying that brownie craving across London’s markets and beyond.
In this exclusive interview DRIVE® talks brownies.
We talk to one of Bad Brownie’s 2 co-founders, Paz, about cross-eyed cats, Touker Suleyman and what makes them tick.
Here’s a link to the Bad Brownie website…
DRIVE® – what makes an entrepreneur tick?
Tell us about your business in 25 words or less
Bad Brownie makes and sells the most delicious gourmet chocolate brownies in loads of exciting flavours. All in search of world domination by brownie.
Who was your first customer or client?
Our first market was at Venn Street in Clapham and we had to start selling before we had even finished setting up as passers-by had never seen anything like our brownies. 8 hours and hundreds of brownies later we realised that there was no going back; that butter and chocolate would form a big part of our futures for the next few years.
If time and money were no object what would your company look like?
With most young companies and start-ups, money is always the challenge! However, with time and money our brownies would be everywhere and world domination would be complete! We would have a chain of amazing brownie cafes across the country allowing people to indulge wherever they are.
What is the most important thing you are currently working on for your business?
We’re currently looking at new avenues for growth and expanding into areas we aren’t currently well represented in so it’s an exciting opportunity with lots of new things to learn every day!
What do you think the biggest change in your industry going to be in the next 10 years and how are you preparing for it?
It’s difficult to ignore the implications of Brexit in our industry. As well as prices going up across the board (our chocolate comes from Belgium after all) and dairy often from Europe, there has already been a large impact in the number of people leaving the UK to go back home to Europe which has led to difficulties finding new staff. However hopefully this will all iron itself out over the next 5 years.
Other things that might impact us specifically is the trend for healthier lifestyles and healthier eating. That said, there will always be a place for an occasional indulgence – everything in moderation after all! So, our challenge will be keeping up with trends and finding our unique place in a changing food landscape.
Have you had to raise finance for your company and if so, how did you do it?
We went on Dragon’s Den to raise money for our brownie café concept. We were successful in tempting Touker Suleyman (Hawes & Curtis and Ghost fashion) to invest in us and have been working happily together since! And yes, Dragon’s Den really was as scary as it seems – it’s unbelievably real with no TV tricks – that means no retakes and only one time to get it right.
What is your “why”?
Everyone needs a treat now and then, and if you’re going to treat yourself then do it properly! And enjoy it! We don’t believe in joy free treats; we say low sugar and low fat means low joy. Eat well, exercise lots and indulgence in our brownies every once in a while.
How many hours do you sleep at night and does anything keep you awake?
That completely varies from day to day. Sometimes its 5 hours and sometimes it’s 7. It’s a lot better than when we had to do everything ourselves from start to finish – those 18 hour days 7 days a week for months on end were tough. Now, we have a great team in place who take the pressure off. After all, you make up for hours gained from sleep deprivation in reduced productivity. It’s fine for a while but in the long term you’ll regret it.
We know you love what you do but what have you had to give up for it?
At the start you have to give up everything and I mean everything! You give up your time, your freedom, your friends and your family, your social life and your interests. I was waking up before my partner and then getting to sleep after him. There would be weeks when we would never see each other. You give up money when you start, but of course you soon realise you no longer need money because you have no time to spend it – sad but true.
However, a wise friend once told me that she had done the same 18 years ago when she set her successful chocolate company up but regretted doing that for so long. You only have one life and you have to live it. Don’t give up the things that truly mean something for something that in the end, will not. It’s all about balance in the end – and that’s difficult to remember when things are going wrong left, right and centre, and your to do list spans pages and pages.
While it’s easy and tempting to get consumed by driving the business forward, you have to weight it up with your personal life eventually and remember that work must lead to play, even if it’s only for the odd hour or two. Now I ensure I set aside time to be away from work and to spend it with those I love.
Where’s the best place to find you when you aren’t at work?
Walking along the river with my disgustingly cute dog and spending time with my cross-eyed cat.
One for luck
There are so many questions we could have asked you about, for example, mistakes you are glad you made, your best client story, your top offering, what your Plan B is, who are the best team players in your business and what do they do that’s so great, if you’ve won an award or been acknowledged for a fabulous or worthy contribution.
We know we have asked you to spend time on this and we are grateful for having had it. So, we only want to ask one more thing:
What has been the biggest challenge that you did not expect?
By far our biggest challenge has always been staffing and speaking to other business owners it is the same for them, yet it is always underestimated when setting up a company. Without staff your company grinds to a halt. For us we need a team in the kitchen to make the brownies, followed by a driver who delivers to the relevant places followed by someone who sells the product to the customer as well. Without any one of those people the chain collapses and the biggest challenge for us has been coping with staffing issues such as sickness and not being able to find the best people to fill roles.
There’s not much you can do about it except for contingency planning and just firefighting when it happens – our experience of managing these challenges has grown hugely since we naively started 4 years ago but as a small company without staff reserves, we still dread to have that 7am call to say someone is sick and can’t make it in!
And now to complete a statement or two
I am going to…
need to stop eating copious amounts of brownies….one day.
I wish I had…
unlimited money to push the business forwards at a much faster rate