Olivia Wollenberg of the food brand Livias talks to our Founder, George Hughes, about how important social media has been in the rise of her business. She leveraged her Instagram followers to get the word out about the company’s products. Livia’s offers an array of wonderful treats, from Nuglets and Millionaire Squares to Biccie Bombs and Dunks. They are all made from natural ingredients, vegan, and free-from gluten, lactose and refined sugar. And they taste delicious.
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George Hughes: So tell me in a nutshell, who is Olivia? What is Livia’s?
Olivia: I am the founder and CEO of Livia’s. I was diagnosed with intolerances to wheat, and dairy and at the time there was nothing in the market that really tasted good, felt indulgent, and I had this idea for delicious, indulgent treats made from wholesome natural ingredients. I feel like often the sort of free-from section of the supermarket is often filled full of sort of boring stuff that nobody really wants. It’s kind of like there’s sugar-free and there’s nothing nice about it. Things that don’t really taste good. A lot of the time, it’s kind of like rabbit food.
George: Do you think the success of Livia’s is in part due to that sort of movement of healthy eating and people being conscious of what they’re putting in their bodies and not wanting refined sugars and all that nasty stuff?
Olivia: I definitely think so. I started Livia’s at the right time I started promoting it at the time when clean eating was becoming really really big but what I did instead was talk about natural and wholesome ingredients rather than talk about it in the way of being clean. I had no funding when I started the company, but I started an Instagram page and that’s how I’ve done all of my marketing and advertising pretty much still to this day. I tapped into the clean eating trend and the wellness trend and I often do talks about wellness but for me, wellness is about balance and it’s about our campaign “better treat yourself” rather than about being clean eating.
George: How important do you think social media has been in terms of the growth of the business?
Olivia: Social media has transformed our business. I always explain that in our company, there are products at the core of the company, and then around the company, there is this halo of social media because I, like many other people, when they start a business, you don’t have huge amounts of funding. But I saw that I had to build that following, and I needed something to back up what I was doing and what my mission was. I was driven around by my parents right at the beginning delivering these products to anyone and everyone who had some sort of social media presence. One day I delivered them to Vogue, and an hour later, I looked at my phone. I had thousands of notifications, and I’d gone from maybe a hundred and seventy to three and a half thousand followers, and it was because Vogue had posted about the delivery that they had gotten that morning. So that’s how I first got my meeting with Selfridges and Planet Organic, and then because I had that one endorsement, social media just grew for me.
George: Setting up any business, I would defy anybody to say it’s been easy, you know, it’s a difficult thing to do. But as you say, there are highs and lows, what would you say has been your biggest high?
Olivia: The biggest high, I mean I’ll never forget when our products launched first of all in Selfridges when they had a barcode on them, and people could actually like scan them. Coming into an office like this every morning is a huge high, and seeing the team that I’ve built and the fact that I’ve created jobs for people and jobs that people love.
George: How important do you think the fact that we now live in a digital world is helping food and drink brands to get traction?
Olivia: I think for people who are starting companies who don’t prioritise social, they’re missing a trick. We speak to the retailers, and we say look, this is what we can do for you on social like we’re speaking to 130,000 people that you’re not speaking to yet, and the retailers love that. In terms of the digital aspect of what you do, what sort of advice could you give to other businesses that are trying to do a similar thing? Makes sure that everything ties, so it’s not like what you’re saying online is completely different to offline, and your packaging needs to say all the same things that you’re saying on social as well. So you need to make sure that it will really tie together. You need to look at your website. You need to look at consumer journeys. You need to look at how you’re speaking to your customers through digital. So the surveys that you’re doing just be on top of every single touch point.
George: Do you have quite a good sort of strategy in terms of how you plan out your activity online? Or is it kind of haphazard, you’re just going every week, week to week or do you sort of have campaigns?
Olivia: There’s a bit of both, so we have kind of major touchpoints that we want to talk about and shout about it. But at the same time then, if I’m out and about and there’s something that I want to post about, it will never be like, oh, let me just look at our social media calendar and see if this fits in because then you lose that authenticity. If you were going to give other brands marketers one piece of advice so that they could an edge in a digital world. What do you think it would be? Everyone likes to create a story about everything, and if you’re giving it to them, you’re kind of solving the problem. Keep genuine, keep authentic. Don’t try and do quirky things with a brand all the time. Make it more about a personal story. I’m all about stories. But I think that being genuine is absolutely critical.
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