We meet Clare Holman, co-founder with Joanna Lovegrove of Chilly Moo, to talk about steep learning curves and mixing business with friendship.
Chilly Moo (www.chillymoo.ie) is a brand of frozen yoghurt, set up by two Dublin-based mothers, Joanna Lovegrove and Clare Holman, in 2011. Tired of searching for a healthier version to ice-cream for their children (they have six children between them), they decided to develop their own product.
Chilly Moo is a unique children’s and adult’s snack: less than 3% fat, gluten free, low GI and containing no artificial additives, preservatives or colourings, it is still creamy and delicious, containing pure whole milk, real fruit, and sweetened only with fruit juice.
It is available in two sizes (500ml tubs for sharing and 120ml spoon-in-lid tubs for one) and three flavours: Banana & Strawberry, which won a Great Taste Award, Mixed Berry and Strawberry with a Sicilian Lemon flavour coming soon.
Clare, neither you nor Joanna had any previous experience in the food industry before you established Chilly Moo so can you tell us how you came to set the business up?
Chilly Moo came about from a shared desire to create a healthier alternative to ice cream - we really believe in healthy eating both for ourselves and for our children and wanted to make a product that ticked a lot of ‘good for you’ boxes without compromising on taste.
We had both previously been self-employed project managers in different sectors: property and TV so had experience running our own businesses. We’re quite determined people so we decided to just go for it!!
You were friends before you established Chilly Moo. How has this helped the business and what impact has being in business together had on your friendship?
We have been friends since we were tiny but we also used to argue a lot as we are quite similar. I imagine our mutual friends, though too nice to say so, probably thought us going into business together was not going to be plain sailing!
However, to everyone’s surprise, including our own, we’ve not had a single argument since starting Chilly Moo. I think it’s because we both have huge ambitions for Chilly Moo and in order to realise this vision, we basically just leave our egos at the door.
I think it would have been impossible for either of us to do it on our own - it’s great to have someone to share the highs and the lows with and in fact we spend a most of the time laughing.
Thinking back, since you started in 2011, what have been your greatest challenges?
Our single greatest challenge has been the fact that as you mentioned, we had no prior experience of the food business so coming to grips with how the industry worked has taken time.
For example, I wouldn’t like to tell you how long we spend trying to work out the difference between mark up and margin.
However, we have had great help along the way from people like our mentor James Burke from the Dublin City LEO.
Chilly Moo has just been accepted on a 12 week trial with SuperValu. Tell us how this came about?
It was James who recommended that we went on the Food Academy Start programme: a course which is run jointly between the LEOs, Bord Bia and SuperValu. There were several workshops which culminated in a presentation to SuperValu, who kindly agreed to trial us.
What is the next stage for Chilly Moo?
We are working hard on cementing our position in the Irish market and the SuperValu trial will really help with that.
We are also focusing on export as we like to think big for our little brand.
How has the LEO Dublin City helped your business so far?
LEO Dublin City has been invaluable to us.
From them we have received mentoring and a priming grant without which, I doubt we would have got this far.
Which businessperson in the food industry do you admire and why?
There are so many Irish success stories and coming from such a small country, it is really impressive.
I think Alan and Valerie Kingston at Glenilen Farm are truly inspirational. They have achieved great success whilst maintaining the ethos and integrity of their original brand.
What advice would you give someone wanting to start a business for the first time?
Go to your Local Enterprise Office (LEO)! There is a lot out there for start ups both financial and advisory so just be prepared to fill in a lot of forms!
Also tell your story – we’ve always felt that there is a huge amount of goodwill towards start-ups and in this climate, people want to hear success stories.
Our thanks to Clare Holman for taking part in this Case Study.
Available in selected supermarkets and independent stores across the country, full information can be found at www.chillymoo.ie