Co-Founder and Managing Director: Candy Kittens
Edward Williams graduated from Loughborough in 2011 with a degree in Industrial Design and Technology. Here he talks about Loughborough experiences and foundations and how he became the Managing Director of growing confectionary brand, Candy Kittens.
I have always loved design and Industrial Design seemed like a great opportunity to combine all of the different aspects, in a practical approach. All the way through school I’d assumed I’d end up going to a big busy city for University, but the minute I visited Loughborough I knew that I couldn’t go anywhere else. I was in awe of the place!
Above the obvious skills I learnt on my course, Loughborough has broadened my horizons and given me a wide network of friends across the UK (and even further afield!). It allowed me to meet all kinds of amazing people from different backgrounds and cultures and perhaps most importantly gave me the opportunity to try out my ideas, and test my entrepreneurial ability.
Would there be one piece of advice that you would give to current or prospective students looking to study the same course that you did?
Get involved in everything you can. Ask lots of questions and push yourself - it’s the biggest cliché of all, but it really is over too quickly!
Did you take part in hall life or in any extra-curricular activities during your time at Loughborough? If so, how did they impact upon your experiences?
Yes, I was Media Rep at Royce Hall. Working as part of the hall committee was a great experience and meant that I stayed in halls for two years. Being an integral part of hall life was really important and I’d recommend it to anyone. I produced the first Royce Hall magazine and learnt some very useful lessons in the process.
In my last term at Loughborough I entered a business competition that was run in partnership with Charnwood Council. I won that competition and was awarded a rent free office space near Loughborough train station. That allowed me to build up the business I had already launched and I stayed in Loughborough for 12 months.
I was introduced to Jamie Laing through a friend. Initially I was asked to help create a website and build the brand, but Candy Kittens soon became more than a client and Jamie asked me to take a full-time role as co-founder in the business.
We have full creative control and work as a team to contribute to the brand in different ways. I love seeing our products on the shelves of retailers across the country. It is great to know that ‘X’ amount of people per week are buying a product that we thought up in our little office in Fulham.
My course gave me some really valuable product development skills and a good grasp of manufacturing processes that have definitely helped me. However, I think the most important things I learnt at Loughborough were social and consumer awareness. I think that level of awareness has helped me to create the Candy Kittens brand.
How do you recommend that students should build on skills during their studies for their future jobs and careers?
I think you should have an open mind. Take on every opportunity that is thrown at you and make the most of the network, world class facilities and professionals around you. University is a fantastic opportunity to test your ideas and learn about people.
Wherever I end up, I want to continue building businesses from scratch. I’m fascinated by challenger brands and hope to continue to working in environments that allow me to go against the grain - approaching a product or service with a completely different mind-set and challenging all the precedents set by the traditional players. I like breaking the rules!
Lots of hard work and determination! I still think of us as a start-up. Even if we are four years in we’ve still got a long way to go. We set out with zero experience but have always maintained a very clear vision of where we wanted to be. I think that’s important, it’s kept us focused and allowed us to pursue that vision relentlessly.
Our aim is very simple; we want to be the best sweets company in the world. That means, having the best sweets, the best brand and the best retailers in the best locations. For now we are focused on building a strong business in the UK. We want the Candy Kittens name to be synonymous with sweets and vice versa! After building a strong foundation in the UK I hope that we’ll be able to venture further afield and explore export opportunities. I hope one day, we’ll become a flag bearer for British style and taste!
Absolutely! MiC provided a fantastic marketing platform for us to launch the brand in the UK. That said we’ve always been very conscious of keeping the association at arm’s length. We want Candy Kittens to stand on its own feet. We’ve been a big hit with MiC viewers but equally we have lots loyal customers that have never watched the show.
I’m not very good at celebrating our achievements. I suppose getting our sweets stocked with Waitrose (our first supermarket!) was a really pivotal moment. At that point, we knew people were starting to take us seriously. Funnily enough, I was in Loughborough when the Waitrose buyer called to confirm the deal - a lucky charm maybe?!