It’s time for another Behind The Biz interview (my favourite time of the week). For anyone who’s new around here, Behind The Biz is my weekly interview series where I discover small and growing businesses, the people behind them and their business journey.
In today’s Behind the Biz interview I’m chatting with Sophie Harvey, the founder of Soffle’s Pitta Chips.
Please tell us about your business.
Soffle’s is a unique range of all-natural oven roasted pitta chips. They are made with FRESH ingredients that are mixed into the dough, before they are oven roasted with olive oil until crunchy. They are perfect with a beer, hummus or just by themselves.
The main focus for Soffle’s has always been to create a snack that is made with fresh ingredients. I wanted it to be very far away from a crisp that has been deep fried and covered in powder. Instead, we mix fresh ingredients into the dough and oven roast with olive oil. There is no compromise, so it’s very different to everything else that you will find in a snack bag.
Alongside that, it is all about having them in social situations whether it be in the pub, partying at a festival or at home with friends. We love meeting people and being out and about in London with our pitta mobile. It is the number one thing that we enjoy, being a sociable product is the backbone of Soffle’s.
Where did the inspiration for Soffle’s come from?
I started making pitta chips at home for friends to have with beers and dips when they came over. As they were proving so popular, I wanted as many people as possible to try them, so I stencilled the Soffle design on paper bags and filled up trays with the bags, walking the streets of East London to find opportunities to sample them. I started popping up at private views and music events, with a tray strapped to me and a money box for donations.
Bit by bit I started doing more events and then was able to have a small run of hand sealable bags made with my logo. This meant I could take them to my local Hackney pubs and that is really where my story began.
The inspiration has always been how much people have liked them and the enthusiasm about the brand. It has been great to be able to make something that so many people enjoy and to have had the opportunity to meet so many amazing people along the way.
How did you decide upon the name of your business?
Soffle’s came through from some of the nicknames I used to have, as my name is Sophie! There wasn’t too much behind it if I’m honest apart from being a great word and part of my name. People seem to also really enjoy the word SOFFLE’S and everyone has their own way of saying it which is something I really like.
What did you do before starting Soffle’s?
I studied fine art then went onto work for Sotheby’s Auction House and then onto White Cube Art Gallery. When I moved to the gallery it gave me a bit more spare time, so I was able to start working on Soffle’s on the side.
Did you always plan to be self-employed?
I definitely always wanted to do my own thing and even whilst I was working I always had art projects on the go, I’ve always liked to have my own thing going on. Soffle’s was an extension of this and it finally led me to being self-employed.
What has been the biggest challenge in running your business so far?
It has all been super challenging and in so many completely different ways. At the beginning, the physical labour and endless hours of producing the product was very hard and self motivation was key during this period. After that, upscaling and changing the way I had always thought I wanted to run the business was also very challenging. As I’ve pretty much worked alone until a few months ago, every aspect was something that I needed to manage myself. So from doing the accounts, being a salesperson, artwork designer, making deliveries or roasting the chips. It can become hard to focus, be organised and do things as well as you would like them to be which can become quite frustrating.
Scaling the manufacturing has also been a huge challenge, you can never under estimate how much can go wrong and will. But I think as you grow you just have to remember that as tough as it gets you will get there and that Rome wasn’t built in a day.
What has been the highlight of your business journey to date?
The confirmation of our listing in Waitrose was a very exciting time. In the early days it was something I had always hoped for. Whilst I always had confidence it would happen, the reality of the products actually going on shelf was a great time to think back to the days when I spent endless hours in my shed roasting pitta chips!
Being involved in the Craft Beer market is also a continued highlight and something that I’m so passionate about. Being part of the festivals where everyone is enjoying your product is something I feel really lucky to be involved in. Having a call from someone that you really admire who wants to stock your product or to be part of their event is also always a great thing to happen.
What role does social media play for your business and do you have a favourite social platform?
Social media is getting more and more important as we are growing and becoming more aware of the results. Being able to promote directly through our own tools and see the results first hand is such a positive part for a start up business on a budget. Having a constant presence with current and potential clients as well as the consumer is vital. Instagram of course is a firm favourite.
What advice would you give to aspiring entrepreneurs?
Just start, make it happen. There is definitely a lot to be said for planning and working out how you are going to do things but ultimately you need to get into action asap. Time can pass very quickly without anything happening and it can be possible to miss opportunities. I definitely didn’t do enough planning as it wasn’t initially something I planned to make into a business.
I also worked for a long time before I decided to give up my job which made it very hard to get to the next stage as time was so limited. If you have good reason to think it will work then put 100% in as soon as possible. It can become very tiring if you are dragging something out and not having the time to work out how you can make it work.
Ask for advice from everyone you can. Again something I didn’t do until about a year ago as I was so busy in production it was very hard to get out and about. As soon as I did I started to really learn how things worked. Always have in mind the key stages that you are going to need to make the business work. Understand what roles can be done by others so you can then focus on the next stage.
Where do you hope to take your business in the year ahead?
Our chips have recently been introduced to Waitrose and Ocado so we are really excited to work further on that. We are really pleased to reach a new market in this way and bring Soffle’s to the home for sharing.
But the main focus is all about having our chips with the beers in the pub and the breweries. It is what I made them for and the best environment to be part of. So we are looking forward to spending lots of time at beer festivals across the country so everyone can try them.
We will also have a new product on it’s way that is great with pitta…….
I want to say a huge thank you to Sophie for getting involved with Behind the Biz. I hope you all enjoyed finding out about the story behind Soffle’s as much as I did. I’m intrigued to find out more about their new product and I’ll certainly be keeping an eye out for it.
As well as discovering more about Sophie’s business I also hope that this interview inspires you to get started on your own venture. If you have an idea building inside you then just get started and like Sophie did, take to the streets and events to get feedback. I wish Sophie and her business lots of luck for the year ahead.
If you fancy getting involved with Behind The Biz please leave a comment below or drop me a message over on Twitter.