Imagine working with confectionery all day, being surrounded by traditional sweets from a bygone era, and being able to sample new contemporary candy before it hits the shops. This is the role of Kane Dowell who co-founded AskMummyAndDaddy.com in 2017 with a re-launch of the business this April alongside co-founder Scott Young.
We asked Kane about his thriving confectionery business, why having an online confectionery store is a great idea, and what his personal favourite sweets are amongst plenty of other questions.
Q. HOC. What did you do before you launched your online store AskMummyAndDaddy.com?
A. Kane. I left school at 15 years old without any GCSE’s, I didn’t go to college or university. I was always at school but academically I just wasn’t great and I suffered with Dyslexia and still do, so I just didn’t have the interest of continuing with exams. When leaving school it was scary because I didn’t know what I wanted to do so I started working at my parents antique shop where Cath Kidston (now the global retailer) used to buy her fixtures and fittings for her one shop at the time. I asked Cath for a job at 16 years old and I got a job assisting her and the directors of her very small brand at the time.
I quickly grew within the business and travelled the world opening shops, setting up shops, and working in every department from marketing to facilities. I joined when Cath Kidston had one shop and left the business nine years later when she had over 100 shops worldwide. It was an amazing experience, but I wanted more and to find my own two feet.
I took some time out to travel and then when returning to the UK I was approached by the company Biscuiteers, an online gifting brand specialising in hand-made artisan biscuits for every season throughout the year.
Whilst I was at Biscuiteers for the two years as Operations Manager I started to get the buzz to create my own thing which would eventually be Ask Mummy & Daddy.
I founded the business with my friend and now creative director Scott who is the mastermind behind all things website, design and creative.
Q. HOC. You have an excellent selection of sweets on your site including contemporary (such as Prosecco Bears) and traditional (such as Sherbet Lemons), do you have a personal favourite?
A. Kane. My personal favourite is Cuba Libre which is Rum & Coke amazing, zero E numbers, 100% natural, and also Gluten Free. I’m not a rum drinker but these make me want to try rum! Sadly, you can’t get drunk on these because they are non-alcoholic – Why? When we create our alcoholic based sweets we use real alcohol but during the process it burns out but still keeps the amazing aroma and also that tingling taste!
Q. HOC. Do you have a different customer who buys the traditional sweets to one who orders only contemporary sweets from your website, or do they tend to mix and match?
A. Kane. Yes we do have a wide range of customers choosing different things and that’s the joy of it! I recently had a customer who ordered 10 bottles of just lemon sherbets! I tried to get her to mix it up and try something else but her mind was set, whereas our younger customers would go for something a lot more fun looking like rainbow pencils which are vegan friendly, full of fruity flavour and one of our most popular sweets.
Q. HOC. Your packaging is neat, clean and contemporary but still quite traditional in the look, how did you successfully get both messages across with just one defined look?
A. Kane. We love our packaging but I can’t take credit for it – my business partner Scott is the man behind all our branding and creative, and he is the guy that listens to me going on about what I want then he pieces it together and comes back to me with some artwork which I then love! He listens to me constantly changing my mind, and he always manages to bring it together and make it work.
We are continuing to try and make things better throughout the year and especially during seasonal periods because its very important.
Q. HOC. Do you have a best selling sweet that your customers return time and again for?
A. Kane. Not really, it really does vary! Our best selling gift box is the Thank You Gift Box and that’s because it ticks many boxes – thanking a teacher, thanking a best friend or just a simple nice gesture.
Q. HOC. You have recently taken AskMummyAndDaddy.com out and about to events, do you often sell face to face or is the business predominantly online?
A. Kane. So we look at our website as something that is just a face to the business – somewhere you can go to hear about the story, take a closer look at things and just browse. We re-launched this year and its only now we are working on the events and B2C (business to consumer) side of the business where we are going to a number of events to chat direct to clients etc. We have just finished attending House & Garden Festival, at the end of July we will be at Camp Bestival the huge family festival, which is simply amazing and totally our clientele. After this we will be opening a Pop-Up Shop on Brompton Road South West London just a 10 min walk from Harrods, which is going to be amazing. Lots more in the pipeline include the likes of Spirit of Christmas which is a huge event for us and then we will be opening a pop-up shop in Westfield over November & December, so as you can see there is lots happening, all very exciting!
Q. HOC. Do you intend on expanding the business in the future, and if so, in what way?
A. Kane. We have huge plans for the business but over the next year its all about being focused in the UK – getting this market set and stable which is important. During my whole working life its very important we don’t try and run before we can walk – with that being said we are off to Dubai in October for a working trip to see this market as it’s a huge area for us the Middle East.
Q. HOC. Do you work with corporate businesses as well as retailing to the consumer online?
A. Kane. This is an area that is very important for us but we haven’t yet started but we are keen to grow this area next year.
Q. HOC. Did anyone within the industry offer you any business advice before you launched your online confectionery business?
A. Kane. I wouldn’t say anyone in the confectionery market has given me advice but I’m constantly learning everyday. My good friend and mentor has to be Cath Kidston herself – she is still a close friend, and what she has been through she deserves every bit of success she got through the brand she created, so if she can do it anyone can!
Q. HOC. What piece of advice would you give someone looking to get into online retail?
A. Kane. I would have to say for anyone looking to start in any business, to know your sector and also industry – there isn’t any shame in saying “I’m wrong” or “Can you please give me some help?” Yes, I’m the face of the business which is only just starting to gather momentum but I would listen to advice from anyone because its good to listen, engage and just be open with business.
Of course you always want to keep your brand and business at the forefront but it’s good to constantly look in shop windows, travel when you can, check online, and look at ways to make things better from a customers point of view.
My biggest piece of advice to anyone starting a business is – don’t be scared and don’t let anyone put you off if you believe in something. Of course be cautious but still have an open mind, but don’t rush. When I was 20 years old and working at Cath Kidston I had a bit of a crisis – I questioned myself many times about what I was doing personally and in work because I got myself in debt, I was suffering with dyslexia, had no GCSE’s, and was assisting people when I thought I should have been this and that, but when looking back it was the best bit of experience I ever had because it taught me a lot.
So before I go – again don’t let anyone tell you it’s not possible because IT IS!
Thank you for taking the time to answer all our #BossBoy questions for House of Coco Magazine online.