This International Women’s Day, we're sharing the story of Rimi Thapar, Co-Founder and CEO at LoveRaw, and her insight into the highs and lows of being a female founder and entrepreneur in 2023.
Rimi has quite the story to tell, from hustling her way to Whole Foods HQ without a meeting and coming out with a 13,000 unit order, to rejecting investment in the Dragons’ Den with no regrets in 2013.
Today, LoveRaw is one of the fastest growing plant-based chocolate companies in the UK, a certified B Corp business and is stocked nationwide including its recent addition to the Tesco Meal Deal.
What was the motivator to start LoveRaw?
There wasn’t one thing that motivated me to start LoveRaw, it was a series of life events that led me here. I got married and moved to Spain to join my husband and Co-Founder Manav, and was looking for a new job after leaving the investment banking world in London.
In the midst of all of that, I lost my dad so I was going through a period of grief and wasn’t feeling motivated. But, the one thing that got me out of it was eating healthy, going to farmers markets and eating less processed foods and that’s how LoveRaw initially came about.
What was one of the biggest challenges you have faced since starting LoveRaw?
We’ve had many challenges but the one that stands out the most is when we originally started, we made superfood powders and bars, but this space was thriving with competitors, and being able to stand out was difficult.
In order for us to succeed as a brand we couldn’t stay in this category and ventured into the world of vegan chocolate as there was true demand here, for vegan chocolate that is genuinely delicious and tastes like ‘chocolate chocolate’.
Were you scared to start your own business?
I wasn’t actually scared, the series of events that led me to start the business meant there wasn’t any time to be scared; there was something bigger happening and I was excited to try something new.
I was of course a bit fearful but I think you need that when you’re starting something new, having a bit of excitement and fear is what can drive your adrenaline to keep going.
Did you get a business loan to start out?
We didn’t get a business loan to start out, we were very much bootstrapping for the first four years. This is where any money generated is invested straight back into the business, so you need to make tight, and have good cash flow to make it work.
We started the business with £600, including the cost of flights back to the UK, samples, packaging and a blender, and from these resources we received our first order from Whole Foods so this really got the business going.
Was there ever a worry about being competition to the big chocolate brands?
I wouldn’t say a worry, if anything we would be flattered to be considered a competitor to the big chocolate brands. We feel like we are like for like in terms of taste and we should be sat next to wherever their bars are on shelf - and we are getting there eventually!
Was there something that really moved the needle when we rebranded to create plant-based chocolate?
I’d say the one thing that really moved the needle was entering a category with a product that didn’t really exist. We don’t believe there are any vegan chocolate options on the market that taste really good, so by entering that space and making our products the best that they can be, that speaks for itself.
We also rebranded from making a range of superfood products, to plant-based chocolate and this is our main mission now - to create plant-based chocolate that tastes like ‘chocolate chocolate’.
How does it feel to be stocked in the big retailers like Tesco, ASDA and Co-op?
It feels very surreal. When we do our weekly food shops and see our products on the shelf, it definitely feels like a pinch me moment.
Especially when we had such a humble start from our kitchen table and just wanted to make great tasting products - it just feels amazing.
How do you manage being a mother and a business owner?
There’s no one right answer to this question, I started LoveRaw when I didn’t have children so was able to put in many hours into the brand without thinking about it. It has been challenging at times with three children to keep work and home life separate.
If you just allow work to fill over into home it starts to become manageable. Manav and I talk about work at home, and I bring the children into work when I don’t have childcare cover. It is definitely a juggle, but you fit both in when you can, and you can definitely do both!
How do you feel that LoveRaw is 10 this year?
I can’t believe it, it feels like yesterday we just started but I also can’t imagine doing anything else either. To get to ten years has taken a lot of work, so it feels really good to hit this milestone and we are going to have a big celebration.
Does it feel empowering being a female CEO?
I do feel empowered being a woman and a mother in business. I think it is good that I am setting a role model for my children and for other people out there - it is definitely possible for everyone!