Published: November 8th, 2018
Jo Fairley has grown her Green and Black‘s chocolate business from a home-grown enterprise run from a bedroom in the Portobello Road to a near £100 million global bran
She’s going to share some of the secrets of her export success – and the mistakes she’s made – at the first Business Growth and Export Show at Shrewsbury Town’s ground on November 23.
Ahead of her talk, here’s a look at the woman who in just 27 years has conquered the globe with her ethically-sourced luxury chocolates.
How did it all start?
Green & Black’s was founded by Jo and husband Craig Sams Fairley. In 1991 Craig was sent a sample of chocolate by a peanut supplier. Lifetime chocaholic Jo later discovered the chocolate unattended and promptly ate it. She’d never tasted anything quite like it and was sure other chocolate fanatics would feel the same. And with that, the couple began making delicious chocolate.
How did you develop your export market?
Our route to market was mostly through trade shows, such as the International Food Exhibition and it was really worth putting in the hours. We were able to meet so many potential customers in one place, which was invaluable to what we were trying to achieve.
What was the key to your early export success?
It was absolutely vital that we found the right distributors in our overseas markets. They became our brand ambassadors and champions and it was key that they felt as passionately about our product as we did. We could not have achieved the results we have without the right distributors being in place.
And your biggest mistake?
We were flattered into selling into almost every market which came along, and when you are a small enterprise managing all those little markets quickly becomes a huge task, especially with such a small team. It’s a lesson in the importance of being strategic. As a growing business many opportunities will come your way but there is almost nobody who has the resources to take them all.
What key tip would you give to businesses looking to grow and export for the first time?
Take advantage of all the help on offer. I’m a huge fan of what Growth Hubs can offer and would urge anyone to use them as much as possible. They can highlight opportunities, help solve potential problems and offer invaluable real-world advice and expertise.
What is your experience of Shropshire?
I have a bit of a secret claim to fame with regards to Shrewsbury. I think I was the first female to be allowed to eat breakfast in the dining room at Shrewsbury School. My boyfriend of the time was a pupil at the school and they allowed me special dispensation to go into the dining room, which was boys-only. I still have a Shrewsbury School plate, dish and cup to mark the occasion. Shrewsbury is a wonderful town. It’s absolutely beautiful.