The Entrepreneur: Vivien Wong, Little Moons
Bringing Japanese delicacy mochi into the mainstream with a £3m food business, Wong discusses the power of Instagram, Brexit, and being her own boss...
Co-founder: Vivien Wong
Company: Little Moons
Description in one line: Artisan producer of ice cream mochi
Previous companies: Vivien previously worked as a financial analyst for Barclays Capital and Howard previously worked in corporate finance at JP Morgan.
Turnover: Current turnover £3m, 12 month target is £4.2m
Describe your business model and what makes your business unique:
- Our business model was to initially supply restaurants with Little Moons ice cream mochi before moving to retail as consumers are more open to trying new things in restaurants.
- Our business is unique largely because our product is so unique and new to the market. We are bringing a new textural dimension to food and that carries its own challenges at every turn.
- Last year we produced 10 million mochi and we manufacture these from our own commercial kitchens.
What is your greatest business achievement to date?
Our biggest business achievement to date was securing our first national listing in Ocado. This was an exciting development for our brand as it means that we are now available to buy across the whole of the UK.
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We are the first mochi brand to be available nationwide and this continues to help educate the nation on this delicious Japanese delicacy.
What numbers do you look at every day in your business?
Everyday we look at the orders which have come in from our clients, we then look at the production cost of making mochi per day to ensure we are being as efficient as possible as a business.
To what extent does your business trade internationally and what are your plans?
Our ambition is to produce the most indulgent and innovative mochi in the world and to introduce Little Moons to as many people as we can. Over the next few months we will be focusing on increasing our retail distribution in the UK.
We already trade internationally with 50% of our sales coming from overseas food service clients. Over the next few months we will not only be focusing on increasing our retail distribution in the UK, but we also have plans to expand our overseas retail markets in Europe and the Middle East.
Describe your growth funding path:
We were able to launch Little Moons with the help and funding from our family and since then have grown the business organically. We invest all profits back into growing the business through marketing support, infrastructure, sales and future capacity growth.
What technology has made the biggest difference to your business?
Social media is a key platform and has increasingly become an influential tool to use when engaging with consumers. We can reach a new audience via the different social media platforms and can receive feedback first hand.
It has become a key component in our business strategy moving forward.
Where would you like your business to be in three years?
The influence of Japanese cuisine and culture is continuing to impact the UK and mochi is fast becoming a mainstream dish not only in Japanese restaurants but in the home.
Previously, we were only available in the London but now, through our national listing with Ocado, our mochi’s are available all over the country. We’re already the bestselling ice cream brand at Wholefoods Market and, in the next three years, we see ourselves continuing to increase our distribution in the UK and beyond.
We hope to increase our retail sales by 40% in the next 12 months from £3m to £4.2m and hope to continue to build on this in the future.
We are also doing a lot of work to secure international listings and hope that within the next three years we will have successful partnerships with international retailers.
What is the hardest thing you have ever done in business?
The process of launching Little Moons onto the high street was really difficult. After spending two years perfecting the complex technical process of making mochi ice cream, we introduced the brand at the London Restaurant show.
We proved to be a big hit with head chefs at top Japanese restaurants and the brand was soon added to dessert menus of leading restaurants from Nobu to Bone Daddies and Tonkotsu. However, mochi was still quite unknown to the everyday consumer and there was a big education drived needed when we decided to launch the brand into retailers.
What was your biggest business mistake?
Doing everything ourselves for so long instead of outsourcing functions such as accounting and the everyday running of the business.
As a result of this, we then hired very quickly without ensuring that our new employees had the same values and visions for the company – this can be detrimental to a small business like ours.
Piece of Red Tape that hampers growth most:
Exporting food products overseas has a lot of expensive red tape to get around especially when exporting to the Middle East.
We are lucky that shipping mochi to Europe is currently the same as shipping to Manchester, however there is potential for this to change following Brexit.
What is the most common serious mistake you see entrepreneurs make?
Finding your place in the market is always difficult. Every new product needs to fulfill a need for the consumer and not all entrepreneurs consider what this is ahead of launching.
How will your market look in three years?
Japanese cuisine is still very much on trend both at home and when dining out. A Mintel report from 2015 identifies that high street food service trends remain a key indicator of future retail trends and trying a cuisine at a restaurant is cited as a reason for trying it at home.
We predict that consumers will continue to seek the restaurant experience for the home and, as Japanese restaurants are continuing to increase in popularity, this offers a huge opportunity for Little Moons to continue to develop and expand our offering.
What is the single most important piece of advice you would offer to a less experienced entrepreneur?
Network with other people who have more experience than you. I have found other young entrepreneurs really helpful and supportive when I have reached out to them for advice.
No one will understand the everyday challenges you face when launching and running a business like another entrepreneur. Even though they may not have the exact answer, my brother Howard (Little Moons co-founder) and I have learnt from the experience.
I think being my own boss and doing something I absolutely love is my biggest luxury. I have the luxury of control over my time.
Executive education or learn it on the job?
Learning on the job. There is no book or course that will teach you how to run a business; theory is helpful but practical on the job training is invaluable.
What would make you a better leader?
I think finding the balance between over and under managing the team is something I am still working on. People are the hardest part of managing a business and everyone works differently.
It’s important to get to know each employee as an individual and learn how they like to be managed.
One business app and one personal app you can’t do without:
For both business and personal use, Instagram is an app I cannot do without.
See more: How to use Instagram for business
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