Business Q&A with Olivia Wollenberg

So many of you send me emails and Instagram messages asking for business advice. So, I’ve sat down with my team to put together this business Q&A. I hope this offers insights into what drove me to start up this business and what has made it so successful.

1. What is the hardest challenge that you have overcome since launching Livia’s? 

The company started with a range of crumbles which were the first and only Livia’s (formerly Livia’s Kitchen) product sold for over a year. These were initially produced from my parent’s kitchen. I tried to find a manufacturer for them and I discovered they were not a commercially viable product. So I had to make the very difficult decision to discontinue this range. Even though it was all that people knew me and the company for.

I was terrified about doing this and breaking the news to everyone, but I did so in a way that made everyone assured that even better and bigger things were coming their way from LK and that they should be excited rather than sad! My team had been working on the Million Squares (then known as Raw Millionaire Bites) since day 1 of realising crumbles may have to be discontinued, and so did everything I could to ensure that these were an amazing product which could launch soon after discontinuing the crumble range. This is exactly what happened, and Millionaires have now become our most iconic product range and sold in thousands of stores across the UK and globally online.

2. When you first launched Livia’s did you ever imagine you would be where you are now? 

 Of course I had big dreams, but I never had anticipated that we would get to where we are now as a company so quickly. I launched the company with absolutely no food or business experience and therefore thought that getting anywhere in this food retail world would take a lot of time. However, it seems the UK was just ready for Livia’s at the time of launch, and I jumped on that and made sure there were no opportunities missed. I have made the business my entire life and I think it my passion for it as well as my team’s passion and dedication that allow us to continue moving ahead so quickly. 

3.     How do you find a factory to produce your products? And what do you look for in a factory?

This was definitely an absolute mine field when I started. No one in the industry talks about where their products are produced- it is all very hush hush. So finding a manufacturer of my own was incredibly challenging and daunting. It was really through networking and endless internet searches where I got some names of manufacturers and started to call around. Once you got the number for one factory, even if they weren’t right, they could then recommend another factory that may be, and so it all happened from there.

It took over a year for me to find a manufacturer which is why I continued for so long to make the crumbles from home! You need to find a factory that wants to be your partner. As a start up company, you often can’t secure large volumes to start with and therefore they have to really believe in you and be prepared to support you in your growth. You need a manufacturer who understands your vision and whom you can trust completely. Ultimately, your product and therefore your business, is in their hands. The relationship between you and the people that work in the factory is key. 

4.     How do you take a product from the kitchen into the factory?

With a lot of hard work!!! First step is of course finding a factory that has facilities to make your products and whom you are confident you can work well with and trust. After that comes the point where you actually have to get the product right! It is not as simple as providing them with a recipe that you have been using in your kitchen. The recipe has to be edited so that huge batches can be made on a much larger scale than ever being done before. With Million Squares it took about 50 trials to get them to how I wanted them to be!! That was A LOT of Million Squares that I had to try! We got there in the end!

5.     How do you get your products into supermarkets and other independent grocers?

I have definitely had the ‘never give up’ when it comes to securing new listings. I search and search for the relevant buyer’s details in some cases. Then I email them again and again until I hear something back. For me it is knowing that once they try the products it will be down hill from there (as people love them so much). But it is often getting to the point where people agree to have a meeting and try them which is challenging! You have to have just the right level of persistence without it being harassment though. Don’t go overboard with the bombarding emails! 

Having a strong social media presence has also been key in getting my products into stores. Some of the most influential supermarket and independent buyers follow me on Instagram. They then reach out to me on there showing their interest! 

6.     What is the lead-time to producing new products? 

There is no set time for this. Bigger companies can take 2-3 years. We brought our 4th product range Dunx to market in around 6 months! So it can happen very quickly! 

7.     Where do you see Livia’s in 2 years? 

To ensure all Livia’s naturally delicious treats are even more accessible to all of you. Exporting is a huge goal for me- I am desperate to see my products in America one day! In the last year my team has grown from 5 to 12 and I just can’t wait to see how my team grows further and to extend the wonderful Livia’s family.