Livia's Kitchen is a social media sensation with thousands of followers. Founder Olivia Wollenberg explains how she created a healthy food brand that is satisfying everyone's sweet tooth
Olivia Wollenberg set up Livia's Kitchen in June 2014, just months after she had been diagnosed with several food intolerances, including dairy and wheat.
What started as a personal mission to create healthy alternatives to traditional sweet treats quickly turned into a going concern. To get it off the ground, Olivia took an eight-week business course at UCL that culminated in a successful pitch for funding; Livia's Kitchen was born.
Less than two years on and Livia's Kitchen is selling products such as its popular Raw Millionaire's Bites in health food stores and through big retailers including Selfridges; Olivia blogs and posts widely on social media and has an enviable following, including almost 100,000 fans on Instagram. And she has just published her first recipe book.
Secrets of success
"It has been really hard work; you definitely need a great work ethic," says Olivia. The secret, she says, is that she is "completely passionate about every aspect of the business".
But there's no doubt that it is Olivia herself that has struck a chord with consumers. "There are two branches of my brand," she says. "There's me and what I am about and there are my products, which are the core of the business. But because I focus on both, my personality comes through in everything I do, from the brand values to the packaging."
The emphasis is firmly on enjoyment; Olivia's recipes may be healthy but they are also indulgent and delicious. "I am offering a new way to enjoy your favourite treats. The recipes are nourishing and wholesome but it's not about clean eating, something clinical. The last thing I want to do is preach."
Social media star
Undoubtedly, social media has been the driving force for Olivia's personality-driven brand. " I would say 90% of my success has derived from social media. I don't know how we would have done it ten years ago; we would have had to pay a fortune in marketing and advertising costs. I have not spent a penny on any sort of publicity or advertising. So I have been able to spend the money on other things such as product development."
Instagram has been the most successful social media platform to date for LIvia's Kitchen. "Because it is visual, it's like inviting people in to see what you are up to. For that reason I am also focusing on Snapchat."
The images on Livia's Kitchen Instagram feed are certainly appealing, but Olivia is clear that she is looking for authenticity above all. "I don't have time to make things look polished. I just take a picture of a cake with my phone and it's hard to get that wrong when it's oozing with caramel and chocolate. It speaks for itself."
Olivia is also active on YouTube. "I have really enjoyed growing my YouTube platform. I can also show people what I am up to. It allows them to see who I am and what I am about so they become invested."
Building relationships with her audience is crucial, says Olivia. "I know how important it is that I engage with all the people that follow me. I work on building relationships by asking for advice or asking people what they want to see next."
And what's coming next is a new "grab 'n' go" version of the Raw Millionaire Bites this summer followed by brand new product lines in the Autumn. "I have three full-time staff and a couple of interns but it has got to the point where I could easily have six or eight people working for me, which is pretty quick in 18 months," Olivia says.
Recruiting like-minded people is vital, she adds. "I advertised an internship on Instagram recently and got 100 applications in two days and the great thing is that these are people who are already invested in the brand. That's how to keep the buzz going as we grow the team - we will have 40-50 employees one day but we will still have that buzz."
Livia's Kitchen by Olivia Wollenberg (Ebury Press) is out now.
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