Please tell us about Soffles.
Soffles is a unique range of all natural oven roasted pitta chips. Made with FRESH ingredients, mixed into the dough and then oven roasted with olive oil until crunchy they are perfect with a beer, hummus or just by themselves.
The early days of pitta chip production started at home in the kitchen in Hackney where I was making pitta chips for friends as a beer accompaniment before dinner. As they were proving popular i wanted everyone to try, so i stencilled the Soffle design on paper bags and filled up trays walking the streets of East London. Popping up at private views and music events strapped up with a tray and a money box for donations.
The main focus for Soffles has always been about creating a snack that is made with fresh ingredients. I wanted it to be very far away from a crisp that has been deep fried and covered in powder. Instead we mix fresh ingredients into the dough and oven roast with olive oil - very different to everything else that you will find in a snack bag.
Where did the inspiration for Soffle's come from?
I started making pitta chips at home for friends to have with beers and dips when they came over, everyone loved them so i thought that everyone needed to try them, I started making a bit of a project out of it, designing a bag, making stories about my adventures. Bit by bit I started doing more events then had a small run of hand sealable bags made with my logo. This meant I could take them to my local Hackney pubs. The inspiration has always been how much people have liked them and the enthusiasm about the brand that made me want to turn it into something. It is so great to be able to make something that everyone enjoys so much and to meet so many great people along the way.
How did you decide upon the name of your business?
Soffles came through from some of my nicknames as my name is Sophie! There wasn't too much behind it if I'm honest apart from being a great word (and part of my name). People seem to also really enjoy the word SOFFLES!!! I love that everyone has their own way of saying it.
What did you do before starting Soffle’s?
I studied Fine Art then went onto work for Sotheby's Auction House and then onto White Cube Art Gallery.
Did you always plan to be self-employed?
I definitely always wanted to do my own thing and throughout working I always had art projects on the side so it always felt like I had my own thing going on. Soffles was a extension of this and then finally something that led me to being self employed and more than just a hobby.
What has been the biggest challenge in running your business so far?
It has all been super challenging but always in completely different ways. At the beginning the physical labour and endless hours of producing the product was very hard and self motivation was key to this period. Then up scaling and changing the way I had always thought I wanted to run the business was also very challenging. I pretty much worked alone until a few months ago so was really doing everything... from doing the accounts, sales, artwork designer, making deliveries or roasting the chips! It’s quite hard to focus or get things done as well or as organised as you would like them to be, which at times can be quite frustrating.
Scaling the manufacturing has also been a huge challenge, you can never under estimate how much can go wrong and will. But I think as you grow you just have to remember that as tough as it gets, you will get there and that Rome wasn't built in a day!
What has been the highlight of your business journey to date?
The confirmation of our listing in Waitrose was a very exciting time. In the early days it was something I had always hoped for, but the reality of it actually happening is a time to think back to the days when I spent endless hours in that shed roasting pitta chips!
Being involved in the Craft Beer market is also a continued highlight and something that I'm so passionate about. Being part of the festivals where everyone is enjoying your product and being part of that is something I feel really lucky to be involved in. Having a call from someone that you really admire who wants to stock your product or to be part of their event is always a great thing to happen.
What role does social media play for your business and do you have a favourite social platform?
Social media is getting more and more important as we are growing and becoming more aware of the results. Being able to promote directly through our own tools and see the results first handed is such a positive part for a start up business on a budget. Having a constant presence with current and potential clients as well as the consumer is vital. Instagram of course is a firm favourite.
What advice would you give to aspiring entrepreneurs?
Just start, make it happen. There is definitely a lot to be said for planning and working out how you are going to do things but ultimately you need to get into action asap. Time can pass very quickly without anything happening and it can be possible to miss opportunities. If you think you’ve got a good idea and that it will work, put 100% in as soon as possible.
Ask for advice from everyone you can…something I didn't do until about a year ago as I was so busy in production it was very hard to get out and about. As soon as I did I started to really learn how things worked.
Where do you hope to take your business in the year ahead?
We have recently launched in Waitrose and Ocado so we are really excited to work with these retailers. We’ve also just launched a new sharing format which we hope our customers will love.
But the main focus remains the same - it is all about having our chips with the beers in the pub and the breweries. It is what I made them for and the best environment to enjoy them in. So we are looking forward to spending lots of time at beer festivals across the country so everyone can try them.