I attended James Averdiek’s talk at the Swindon Business Show today.
He is the founder of Gu chocolate puddings; rather expensive but utterly delicious, found in Waitrose, etc. The business value increased from £0 to £30 million in seven years.
After getting fed up trying to launch Utterly Butterly in Belgium (they weren’t interested in margarine and thought the name was fraudulent) James had an idea for his own business, inspired by his addiction to chocolate and the Belgium attitude to ‘dieting’ – same gorgeous food, just tiny portions.
And the way he tested his product? He walked into Waitrose and snuck an empty Gu box with the other desserts. A shopper picked up the box, put it into her basket, and the rest is history.
I was there mainly because I’m interested in the psyche of a successful entrepreneur. James values were: joy in your product, passion in giving the customer something fantastic that they will love, caring about your customer and your staff/workforce, resilience / roll with the inevitable punches and being really innovative with your marketing.
He spent £15-£20,000 on a PR campaign and got back about £1 million worth of publicity, compared to TV advertising which did nothing for him. He also sold his desserts to Virgin Airlines because their brands had the same exclusive but quirky values. That was a really great bit of exposure for Gu because as well as being put in front of a lot of captive consumers, the only foods unaffected by the tastebud dulling effect of aeroplane air conditioning and altitude are whisky and chocolate.
James sold his £30 million business two years ago because his business partner needed to sell his share (to support his 15 children!) and is he enjoying his life of luxury? “I really miss it,” he said.