Lavolio: The sweet taste of success
For some small businesses, the start-up stage can see an exciting period of exponential growth. This initial high is a pleasant surprise for most entrepreneurs but can create unforeseen challenges. Being able to deal with these changes can determine whether your business is a 'flash in the pan' or here for the long haul. A business that definitely fits the latter description is the boutique confectionery company, Lavolio. Founded by Lavinia Davolio, Lavolio has quickly become a serious player in the game of luxury treats and Lavinia credits her experience on the Innovating for Growth programme as one of the main reasons for its success. We caught up with her to find out a bit more.
You gave up a high-flying career in banking to start your company, Lavolio. What would you say inspired this brave decision?
Three years ago I was busy climbing the corporate ladder on the trading floor of a large investment bank when the banking crisis helped me to decide that it was time for a change. I started Lavolio Boutique Confectionery with the desire to create something new out of my passion for food.
Some people say that I have been brave to launch my own luxury sweet business but I simply turned my redundancy into something positive. I believe it came at the right time in my life and if I look back at that time, it felt like an easy decision because I was following my heart and my passion.
It was while cooking at home that I came up with the idea for my company. I was experimenting with sweet recipes when I thought of using a thin sugar shell as a natural preservative. Inside these small shells, I could place pieces of fruit, whole nuts, jellies, coffee beans and different types of chocolate. I was then able to create lots of flavours, using spices and fruit zests and textures, from crunchy to crumbly, and that’s when I thought I was onto something really special.
Did you always believe that Lavolio would appeal to so many people?
At the time of my product development, I had no idea whether there would be a market for it. I tried out my creations on my close friends and family; everyone got samples and I received enough positive feedback to try selling my sweets to the public, setting up stalls at a handful of London food markets. This was a crucial step for Lavolio when testing things early on. Food markets were the first time that I got a real indication of whether people were willing to buy what I was making. A much more analytical market research process then followed. Lavolio has a very clear and simple vision to always provide WOW to our clients, with a delightful flavour and surprising taste, beautifully presented. This is what has allowed Lavolio to become the number 1 Italian luxury confectionery brand in the UK. We are now planning to increase our distribution to new countries and to continue adding new beautiful products to our range.
You recently completed the Innovating for Growth programme. How would you say Lavolio has benefited from this experience?
When I first entered the programme I did not know what to expect. My three-year-old confectionery business had enjoyed a very fast growth period; I was selling to Fortnum & Mason, Ocado, on Amazon Launchpad and in more than 200 premium independent stockists across England, Scotland and Wales. With hindsight, I can now see that joining the programme could not have come at a better time. With our business foundations built, and our products receiving some incredible early feedback, the next question was ‘how do we scale up?' As a founder, I faced many challenging decisions on our operations, marketing, branding and product innovation, and I felt that every aspect was covered in the programme, thus helping me to make more informed decisions in order to move the company in the right direction. Each workshop and activity has been hugely beneficial and has helped our company fast-forward to the next level. We have learned how to keep doing what we do really well and to maintain our values and strengthen our business model to ensure we are ready for such steep growth. In turn, we have seen a tangible effect on our strategy and on the way that we now prioritise different activities. I was really impressed by the quality of the advice, ideas and encouragement we received. All of this has made the programme into a very positive experience for Lavolio and one that we will carry on into our business journey.
Lavolio’s sweets are handmade and it is clear a lot of love and attention goes into creating them. How important is this care to quality and detail for the brand?
The dream of Lavolio is to make better quality confectionery with proper ingredients and to create a beautiful taste experience for those who explore our creations. This is at the centre of everything we do. We aim to wow with our unusual flavours and luxury presentation. As soon as you open the tin you can see that each single piece is unique and handmade. Each collection comprises a variety of six different types of sweets. There are 40 – 50 unique sweets in each tin, nestling in the glassine paper inside the box. Lavolios make the perfect gift because they have been designed to provide a feast for the senses. This includes the carefully designed packaging, which delights the eye, the delicious aroma that you can smell when the box is first opened; the touch of the individual candy coatings, and the crunch of the coatings which release the explosion of flavours in the mouth. We hear from our clients every day how delighted they have been with both gifting and receiving our products and this is the single most important thing that we do - provide an outstanding customer experience.
As a successful entrepreneur, do you have any wise words of advice for those who would like to follow in your footsteps?
If you’re passionate about everything sweet, are full of energy and love talking to people, then starting a confectionery business could be perfect for you. My advice would be to put your customers at the heart of everything that you do and ensure your product tastes fantastic! Try to make sure that the wow factor is well communicated on your packaging, don't be afraid to reach out to people and always carry a box of your product with you.
Are you an ambitious business owner looking to scale up, like Lavinia? Innovating for Growth is a free three-month programme to help you turn your growth idea into a reality. Find out more and apply now.