Alumni connections produce brilliant placement experience for Loughborough student

A graphic with a photo of Katie on the left holding a bag of sweets. On the right there is text and a picture of a sweet. Text reads: Katie Operations Executive LOVES Wild Strawberry Shop now

Katie featured in an email sharing staff member's favourite flavours

Ed Williams is the Managing Director of Candy Kittens, a gourmet vegan sweet company based in London that is currently employing a Loughborough student.

Alumnus Ed (BA Industrial Design and Technology 2011) has supported students in the past by sharing his career story. Last year Candy Kittens launched a placement role in Operations, and the candidate selected for the position was current student Katie Hastilow.

Katie joined the team for her year out. Having completed two years study at Loughborough, this opportunity meant she could gain real-world experience in a corporate organisation, ready to bring back new skills for her third and final year of her Mathematics and Sport Science degree.

When Ed approached the University with the opportunity last year, the placement role was advertised via the Careers Network which gives students access to a range of placement, voluntary, intern and graduate roles. Recent graduates can also benefit from the careers platform.

The placement has provided a great experience for Katie. She said:

“I am in charge of Candy Kittens' full end-to-end order process. This means I process all orders from our customers, for example Sainsbury's, Waitrose and Boots, and coordinate with our warehouse to ensure this stock is delivered to them on time. This is where the majority of my responsibilities lie. I also coordinate transfers of stock between our warehouses, update the sales book daily to provide a live and accurate view of commercial performance, and maintain our master data set to ensure our product information is fully up to date. Being a small team, this placement has given me exposure and partnerships with all functions across the business and I feel like such an integral part of the Ops team!”

Katie has clearly been able to make a big impact in this role. We asked her how the transition from student to employee was:

“Going from typical ‘education’ and university life to professional fast-paced work was definitely an adjustment, but Candy Kittens has been the best environment to make this transition in. I came into the placement knowing next to nothing about how a business runs, but the CK team were so welcoming and I had very practical guidance from the start and was taught the ropes quickly, meaning I was able to hit the ground running. There are a few Lboro alum at Candy Kittens, (including our co-founder Ed!) which has been fun to be a part of, and Loughborough will always hold a special place in the making of Candy Kittens as it is how Ed and Jamie met!”

A group photo of people standing, taken indoors

Katie has a few months left of her placement, but the search for Candy Kittens’ next placement student is already on. The role is currently live on the Careers Network platform Target Connect, and closes at the end of the month.

Dan Hayward is the Head of Operations at Candy Kittens. He said:

“Hiring a placement student to join a small company in the FMCG world is tricky. We are looking for someone who is ambitious, comfortable with a changing workload on a daily basis and really happy being responsible for key tasks within our business. When searching for prospective students, we are looking at not just the knowledge and dedication to studies, but also whether the student will fit into our culture, which we are proud to have fostered over the past few years. We don't have a recruitment team to help sift through the hundreds of applications, so we are looking for you to stand out from the crowd instantly.

“Katie is the first placement we have recruited since we kickstarted our new Placement Program in 2023. She has thrown herself in from the very first day, tacking every problem head on. Now a firm favourite across the whole business, we will be sad on the day that she leaves the Candy Kittens team, but proud of everything that she has accomplished whilst with us.”

We spoke to Katie about what skills she thinks she will bring back to her final year at Loughborough:

“I think going on placement has been so beneficial for me and my course. I have gained invaluable experience and been given the opportunity to be so hands on with all areas of a business. It's given me exposure to networks of people that will definitely be able to guide me in my future 4 career path when I leave uni.

“Ultimately, this placement has given me comfort going back into my final year knowing I have had one of the most fulfilling first steps into the commercial world.”

Candy Kittens was co-founded by Ed Williams and Jamie Laing in 2012 and the company recently became B Corp certified. The company became completely vegan in 2018 and now offers a range of eight plant-powered flavours. Ed and Jamie set out twelve years ago to take on the sweets industry and their modern approach landed them with stockists worldwide.

For current students interested in the placement opportunity, head to Target Connect and log in to find further details. Applications close on 31 March 2024.

If you are interested in finding out more about advertising placements, internships or other roles to Loughborough students and graduates, please get in touch, or find out more on our website.