Welcome to Behind The Biz. This is my weekly interview series where I discover small and growing businesses, the people behind them and their business journey.
Today I’m very excited to be sharing an interview with London’s gourmet mochi ice cream company, Little Moons. I’m a huge fan of mochi, both the traditional varieties and the ice cream ones (green tea is my fave).
Today’s interview is with Vivien Wong, Co-Founder of Little Moons.
Please tell us about your business.
Little Moons was launched in 2010 by Howard (my brother) and I (Vivien Wong). We make ice cream mochi, which is made by enrobing beautiful gelato in a sweet, soft dough called mochi. Mochi is traditionally from Japan and we absolutely love it’s unique, chewy texture and we found that it goes particularly well with ice cream. Our mochi is restaurant quality, we worked closely with top chefs to perfect the recipe to make it suitable for sale in high end restaurants. The business was going so well we decided to launch Little Moons into the retail market where we are the number one selling new ice cream brand in Whole Foods Market and recently became the first mochi brand to be available to buy Nationwide in the UK through our launch into Ocado.
Where did the inspiration for Little Moons come from?
Howard and I discovered mochi ice-cream on our travels in Japan and instantly fell for the play of textures and taste. We grew up eating traditional mochi at home, which is usually filled with red bean paste. We wanted to bring the product to Europe as Japanese food was exploding in popularity and we thought this would be the perfect dessert offering. We wanted to recreate mochi ice cream as we felt that it offered the perfect European twist to the traditional delicacy. Little Moons mochi is a small moment of indulgence and each mochi ball comes in at under 80 calories so you can satisfy your sweet fix without the added guilt.
How did you decide upon the name of your brand?
We decided on the brand name Little Moons as each mochi has a slightly irregular surface and looks just like a little moon. No two Little Moons are identical.
We were also inspired by the Japanese fable, which says that when you look at the full moon in the night sky, it looks like there is a rabbit pounding mochi.
What did you do before starting Little Moons?
Both my brother and I worked for large corporations but our passion was always in food. We decided to take the plunge and launch our own business after five years working in the city and have never looked back.
Did you always plan to be self-employed?
It was always our plan to be self-employed. Our parents had a bakery and we loved watching them work growing up. As a child, I would always read the biographies of entrepreneurs and aspired to do the same one day and after seeing the hard work our parents put into their own business and how rewarding it was to create something to call your own, it inspired us to launch our own food brand.
What has been the biggest challenge in running your business so far?
Our biggest challenge has been educating people about mochi. The process of launching Little Moons onto the high street was really difficult. It is such a new concept and texture to the UK market, so it was really important for us to get the product into people’s hand encouraging them to try it for themselves. After spending two years perfecting the process we initially launched into restaurants and Little Moons proved to be a big hit with the head chefs of top Japanese restaurants. There was still an education needed when we launched the brand into retailers, however Mochi is said to be the trend to watch for 2017, which is really exciting. Like sushi, 10 years ago, people weren’t quite sure of raw fish and now people enjoy and appreciate its taste and texture. We think mochi is similar in that regard.
What has been the highlight of your business journey to date?
There are so many to choose from but a definite highlight is seeing your products on shelf in stores and engaging with customers trying mochi for the first time. We receive the most wonderful emails from people telling us how much they love Little Moons, which always makes my day. Another key highlight to date was securing our first National listing in Ocado. This makes us the first and only mochi brand to be available Nationwide and continues to help us educate the nation on this unique delicacy.
What role does social media play for your business and do you have a favourite social platform?
I’m a very visual person so my favourite social media tool is Instagram. It allows us to visually present Little Moons in a setting that makes sense to our consumers in terms of eating occasion and how to serve. If you want to see our latest discoveries just follow @littlemoonsmochi.
What advice would you give to aspiring entrepreneurs?
Being an entrepreneur can consume your entire being if you let it. I think it is important to try to switch off sometimes, which is hard when you absolutely love what you do. My advice would also be to have confidence in yourself and your product – lots of people will challenge you along the way but keep focused on the end goal. I would also definitely recommend connecting with other entrepreneurs who have launched their own businesses. Their experience is invaluable and there is always something you can learn from them.
Where do you hope to take your business in the year ahead?
We want to make mochi accessible to as many people as possible so we are focused on raising the awareness of Little Moons mochi as well as increasing the number of stockists. Japanese is still very much on trend and we hope that mochi and Little Moons will continue to be the rising stars.
Thank you so much to Vivien for taking the time to be a part of Behind The Biz. I loved finding out about her biz journey with Little Moons and I can’t wait to see the business grow throughout 2017. Now that Little Moons are stocked in Ocado I’ll be able to introduce my friends to the fantastic world of mochi. I also think that Vivien’s wise words about having confidence in yourself and your product are very important. You have to be your own champion.
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