Lavolio is a new boutique confectionary brand. Sweets made by artisans with the best quality ingredients and using a traditional Italian technique that results in a combination of flavours making the act of eating each of them a total experience.
The mind behind this project is Lavinia Davolio, a young entrepreneur with a past in banking. The financial crisis of 2012 pushed her to pursue her dream and start her own company in the food industry.
Q: Tell me about the process that you went through to create a whole new product.
A: It wasn’t much of a process as it was a journey. I knew I wanted to create something around food so I started experimenting with different products, searching for upcoming trends and I started by cooking them at home. At one particular time I was making marshmallows and the smell of the melted animal gelatin made me realize that I wanted to create a product with better and carefully selected natural ingredients, with more attention about what actually goes inside.
It was then that I was introduced to this traditional Italian technique, which is to create sweets using revolving copper pans and is a very slow manual and artisanal process. Every single sweet takes up to five days to make.
I also started experimenting with different flavor combinations, talking to the makers (the ‘pasticciere’), testing them myself, asking my group of friends or searching the Internet. Always taking care of choosing the best possible raw materials. After a few months of preparations and testing I was ready to disclose our 30 different flavors for the launch of Lavolio.
Q: How long did it take to start with your client base?
A: After the official launch party, it took a couple of months to fulfill our first client’s orders and to have our finished product available on the shelves. In the first months we didn’t really have a structure and pretty much everything was done from my kitchen table.
Q: Where is your company today?
A: Now we are much more organized! Most of our procedures are outsourced. The Artisan producers make the different flavors commissioned by Lavolio, they are then sent to the UK where they are blended and hand-packaged in our signature tin boxes.
We have about 40 different outlets that sell our product in the UK with some international clients as well as catering for hotels and high-end events.
Although this has happened fairly quickly, I like to think that this is just our humble beginning and we look forward to having many more people knowing about our brand and sharing the Lavolio experience.
Q: What makes Lavolio different from other confectionery brands?
A: It’s a very innovative product, and as such, there is nothing directly comparable available on the shelves. As we are so different this means we have to communicate and explain to our customers what our product actually is. We try to do this by using our carefully designed packaging with the goal to convey that what you will find inside is an extremely remarkable experience.
Q: Are you getting the type of customers that you planned to have?
A: I find that it is quite hard to predict, and I enjoy learning more and more about our customers as we grow. During the planning stage, our product was clearly female oriented, targeting women that would identify with our brand: very feminine, sophisticated, elegant, interested in fashion… which is reflected in the design of the packaging. However I soon learned that a large part of our clients are male! I suspect that they don’t necessarily buy Lavolio for themselves but I am sure they love to eat them.
Q: I have read in one of your previous interviews that one of the things you have done to promote the product was to get people to taste them.
A: Yes, I find that the most effective and memorable way to introduce our brand is by letting our customers try Lavolio and experimenting with our different textures and flavor combinations. We have quite a wide range to suit different palates and at the core of our brand lays the element of surprise, opening the box and tasting our different flavors. You are welcome to try it for yourself!
Q: How important is the website and social media for the growth of the brand?
A: More important than I thought. Good visuals and photography are great tools to share our message. It’s true that a picture speaks a thousand words and with pictures it’s easier to show our products and to share our journey, as a way of connecting with our customers.
Q: Which is the most important thing to have when starting your own brand?
A: It is hard to pinpoint ‘the’ most important thing, but if I had to choose one it would be the people that surround you. In my experience so far, other people’s involvement has made such a considerable difference because they have helped Lavolio wholeheartedly. I’m very grateful and feel humbled by the amount of support that has been poured into Lavolio, it lays at the foundation of where we are now.
Q: Did you imagine it was like this to start a business from zero?
A: Not really, even if my initial idea was based on a lot of research into the food industry. I could probably visualize our product, but the actual steps needed to make it into a viable business are hard to predict. I have been learning about the different aspects of starting a business mainly by sharing my idea with other entrepreneurs and mentors, who have provided a huge amount of expertise and support. I am not sure I knew what to expect at the onset, but it’s a very steep learning curve and I am greatly enjoying this journey.
Q: What are the plans of Lavolio for the future?
A: So far we have been slowly growing organically, and I would not want to grow too fast, so it will take a bit of time. I’d like to think that we have ambitious plans to expand our brand, but it is also important to keep a realistic mind-set at the same time.
One day I would love to open our very own Lavolio Boutique Confectionery store in London. It would be a dream come true!