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Interviews

Building a Brand: The World’s Best Tasting Popcorn Interviews

Building a Brand: The World’s Best Tasting Popcorn
Once you popcorn, you can't stop-corn?

Fresh from his recent appearance on Dragons’ Den, Martin McLaughlin (a.k.a. Ben ‘Jamaican Me Crazy’ McLaughlin) chatted to us about starting his own popcorn company, Love Da Popcorn, with two close friends. With a background in advertising and a tidy little bit of investment from Peter Jones, Love Da Popcorn’s products are likely to be making your tonsils tingle with happiness very, very soon…


Tell us a little bit more about Love Da Popcorn

My name’s Martin. I’m one third of Love Da Popcorn, which was set up with two of my friends, Christian and Tom. We’re currently on a mission to supply the world with the best tasting popcorn there is.

We really concentrate on taste. There are a lot of popcorns out there at the moment, which are focusing on providing a healthy option. We’re still trying to make healthy popcorn, but our primary focus is on the taste of our three popcorn flavours: Caramel Kiss, White Chocolate and Sea Salt and Black Pepper. Beyond that, we really try and concentrate on the branding of our product.

For us, it’s all about the experience people get when they buy a bag of Love Da Popcorn. They don’t just get great tasting popcorn; they also get other little things with every bag, like lottery tickets, little jokes or little stories. It sounds a little bit cheesy, but we want to make people smile through what we do.

We think that people take stuff a bit too seriously, especially in the world of retail. There are lots of food and drink brands which are a bit too square, and we just want to have a bit of bloody fun with it.

Why did you start the business? How did you get into it?

Everyone has a sentimental connection with popcorn: everyone can remember it from their childhood and everyone can remember eating it at the cinema. What we really liked about popcorn is that, in its raw form, it’s really bland and really basic. When you take a product like that, you can play around with the flavours and the branding. It’s almost like a blank canvas that you can direct in any way you want.

Popcorn was something we’d always played around with and had a bit of fun with. We used to sell it to people at work and flog it outside our local pub, but Love Da Popcorn really became a business, quite randomly, through a Ben & Jerry’s competition.

Basically, Ben & Jerry’s were offering a trip for two to the Amazon, and all you had to do was say what you would do to win the trip. Christian and I had the idea of using Facebook to find one hundred Bens and one hundred Jerrys. As part of that, we also changed our names to Ben and Jerry. So technically, you should be calling me by my legal name which is Ben, and you should refer to Christian as Jerry.

As part of our idea, we organised an event for all the Bens and Jerrys that we’d found online. We created a flash mob, which essentially involved getting 100 square metres of turf and laying it down in Covent Garden without permission. We created a picnic area in the middle of Central London, and to fund it, we decided to sell popcorn. We got into an awful lot of trouble for doing it, but it was good fun.

What did you do before you started your gourmet popcorn business?

I went to the University of Manchester and studied economics, Tom went to Oxford and studied history, and Christian went to Bournemouth University and studied marketing and advertising.

We all then met at Saatchi & Saatchi, where Tom and I still work.  It was through our shared love of branding that we came together and started to build the Love Da Popcorn brand. When we went on Dragons’ Den, it was that passion for branding that really came through.

We realised that what we had wasn’t actually a real business; we were still making popcorn in our kitchen at home and packing it by hand during the night. But it just goes to show that branding is what’s really important, especially in today’s market.

When you’re trying to differentiate yourselves from your competitors, it’s about creating an emotional connection with the customer. You need a great product, but, to support it, you really need to put a lot of thought into the branding.

Your company used to be called Love Da Pop. Why did you change the name to Love Da Popcorn?

It’s quite a funny story, but it wasn’t so funny at the time. After we went on Dragons’ Den, we met up with Peter Jones and his men, and one of the first questions they asked us was: “So I imagine you’ve trademarked Love Da Pop then?” At which point, we all looked at each other and went “Erm…no!” Being the clever people that we are, we’d gone on national television and sold a brand that we didn’t even own!

When we did a bit of research, it turned out that the company behind the Push Pop also owned ‘Love Pop’, which in the world of confectionary trademarking is very close to Love Da Pop. Essentially, we couldn’t use that name anymore. The way around it was to change the name of the brand to Love Da. We trademarked Love Da, so the company is Love Da, and popcorn is the product of Love Da.

Fortunately, that ties into what we’re planning to do in the future. We’ve got our eyes on some other future projects, where we can use the Love Da brand, whether it’s Love Da Fish ‘n’ Chips or Love Da Airlines. It was a bit of a legal issue, but it actually helps us from a branding perspective.

Tell us about your appearance on Dragons’ Den. What was that like? Did you expect to get funding?

We won’t lie, although we were hoping for investment, we weren’t actually expecting it. For us, it was really an opportunity to get our brand out there and make a name for it.

Going into the actual day, we hadn’t really had the time to do the amount of preparation that we probably needed to. We all worked full-time in advertising, so we were up to about 3am in the morning, still writing our speech and changing all the numbers. We had to be in the reception of the hotel by 7am and we were filming by 9am, so it kinda crept up on us all of a sudden.

I think it was the most nervous I’d ever seen us all. We were very quiet in the run up to it. But it was great knowing that we were going in front of the ‘Dragons’ as three friends. We absolutely loved our product and the brand, so we were confident enough that we could chat about it. There were some other elements that we were a bit more concerned about, like the numbers and the actual logistics of the business, but luckily enough, it all worked out.

Four out of the five ‘Dragons’ weren’t interested in investing. Before Peter Jones piped up, did you think you’d lost your chance?

I know it’s easy to say afterwards, but it was actually Peter Jones that we were going for. The other ‘Dragons’ tend to invest in standard businesses, the ones that make logistical sense, while Peter Jones is the guy that takes a punt on a brand. He likes a good story and he can appreciate value beyond the product and the logistical sense of it.

I won’t lie, we were feeling quite alone at one point when the ‘Dragons’ quickly started dropping out. I think we lost Duncan Bannatyne within the first two minutes. It doesn’t do anything for your confidence when you’re standing there with six cameras pointing at you. All you’re thinking is: “Great, I’m going to look like a tit on national television in front of six million people.”

Peter was quiet the whole way through, and that was something we’d observed previously. He tends to keep quiet, wait for all the other ‘Dragons’ to hopefully drop out, and then he pounces. In the end, it all worked out massively well for us. We were just absolutely delighted. We couldn’t have hoped for a better result.

How much input does Peter Jones have in the company now? How often do you meet up with him?

To be honest, he just leaves us to get on with it. We had a meeting with him at the beginning, and he said: “We can be involved in this company as much as you want.” For us, it’s always been about keeping the true essence of the company, so we simply use Peter and his company as a point of reference. If we’re stuck, we’re able to give them a call and ask them some questions. It’s great to have that experience and that backing behind you. Also, the reputation that Peter carries helps us out massively.

What other brands would you cite as inspiration for Love Da Popcorn?

There are quite a few, but the main brand, without a doubt, is Innocent. I’m an absolutely massive fan of Innocent. I love what they do. I don’t know if you’ve ever read their book, A Book About Innocent: Our Story and Some Things We've Learned, but it’s an absolutely brilliant read. It just comes across as three friends who have just gone out there and done it. It’s really quite inspiring.

What we really liked about Innocent is that there’s a real story behind the founding of the company. They literally just absolutely went for it. They got knocked down left, right and centre, but they just kept going. What’s great is that they had an ambition for the brand from the day they started and that was to provide people with a healthier alternative.

There’s a lot of pressure when you upscale to change your brand beliefs and over-commercialise, but they’ve stuck to their brand and they’ve kept that mentality throughout everything they’ve done. For example, they got into trouble at one point because the ingredients on one of their bottles were listed as: one pineapple, two bananas, three pears and a lovely mum. I think they got into trouble with Trading Standards, but it’s just little elements like that which make a difference. What’s really inspirational about them is that, in the face of so many commercial demands, they’ve managed to keep their brand exactly the same.

Everything they do carries the essence of the brand. Even in their offices, Fruit Towers, they’ve designed a big fun house with caravans and grass. You can really imagine that every one of their employees believes in the brand and believes in their lifestyle and their way of thinking. I think they are certainly the most inspirational brand out there at the moment.

What does the future hold for Love Da Popcorn? What is your ultimate ambition for the company?

That’s quite a difficult one. I don’t think we’ve ever sat down and thought about what our ultimate ambition for the company is. It’s always just been about progressing to the next step. I think we won’t be happy until every single thing on the street begins with Love Da, from your toilet to your bank, but our biggest ambition was always just to have fun with it.

We plan to branch off into different things, just to keep it fresh and interesting, which will allow us to become more adventurous and push ourselves. I don’t think we try to set ultimate goals for ourselves though; we just take things as they come.

I think we’ve always realised that you’ve got to get your name out there first and establish yourself in the market. You’ve got to build your brand reputation and communicate the essence of your brand through your first product. Once you enter into different products, people will begin to see the common traits of your brand behind each one. That’s what really gives an identity to the brand. It’s only when you get three or four products that people really establish what the brand stands for.

At the moment, we don’t really have a clue what we’re doing. I think if we tried to launch three or four things at once, it would be a bit too much. We’re still learning, so I think the popcorn, for the time being, is enough.

Are you still working full-time at Saatchi & Saatchi then?

Yes, Tom and I are still working full-time. I think one of the biggest dangers of starting your own company is quitting too early. I think a lot of people deal with the pressure of thinking: “I have to be bold and take the step. I’m being too frightened, I should just commit and go for it.” But, on the flipside of that, the most crippling thing for your company is to quit your job too early.

When you’re a start-up company, cash-flow is a major, major issue. And, as you can imagine, increasing the company’s outgoings by two additional salaries would have a massive effect on the business.

 

Sure, working full-time often means working on Love Da Popcorn until 3am and at weekends, but if it’s something you love and you’re passionate about, it’s completely different to working for someone else.

As soon as we’re happy that we have enough money for us to start working on Love Da Popcorn full-time, we’ll jump at the chance. But, as it is, I’m afraid, we’re still a small company.

What upcoming events will Love Da Popcorn be supplying?

We’ve recently started working with the Jameson Cult Film Club and there’s another Secret Cinema coming up soon. We also work with an organisation called Nomad and we’ll be doing a few bit and pieces with them. Being involved with events is key to our branding; that’s where we started and that’s where we are focusing our efforts at the moment.

One final question…Is it true that you legally changed your name to Ben Jamaican Me Crazy McLaughlin?

Yes, but don’t tell my mum that. Officially, my first name is Ben and my middle name is Jamaican Me Crazy. And Christian’s full name is Jerry Fairly Nuts Hartmann. I suppose it embodies the kind of attitude that we’ve tried to keep throughout the company, of just “Why the hell not?”

A lot of people say: “Oh my God! I can’t believe you changed your name. I can’t believe you haven’t changed it back.” But it really doesn’t bother us one bit. It’s just a name. It was done initially as a branding exercise, but it’s just a good laugh and a good story. I’m happy to be known as Ben. Who knows? I might even change it to something else in the future.

So when we publish this article, shall we refer to you as Ben Jamaican Me Crazy McLaughlin or Martin McLaughlin?

Choose whichever name you want. Flip a coin, maybe?

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Iva Vukusic: War Crimes Researcher & Analyst

Iva Vukusic: War Crimes Researcher & Analyst

Iva Vukusic works as a researcher, archivist and analyst for the Sense News Agency in The Hague. An expert on war crimes in the former Yugoslavia, she has used her specialist knowledge to help indict war criminals in Bosnia and has spoken at conferences all over the world, from Rwanda to San Francisco. We chatted to Iva about her career so far, her plans for the future, and what it takes to develop a career on the analytical side of international criminal law… 

Interviews

International Secondment Experiences in Abu Dhabi

International Secondment Experiences in Abu Dhabi

The Middle East is a hive of opportunity for trainee solicitors who want to experience a different office and culture during their training contract. International law firm Norton Rose Fulbright offers their trainees the chance to join the Abu Dhabi office amongst others. We spoke to Juraj Neuwirth who is currently working over there…

Interviews

International Opportunities in Law

International Opportunities in Law

Ever thought about jetting off for an English Law training contract in foreign climes? Or mixing things up with an international secondment? Trainees at international law firm Latham & Watkins can take advantage of either of these options over in their Singapore office. We spoke to two trainees, plus Singapore office Partner Rob Brown, to find out about the challenges and adventures of life in the hub of the Asian market. 

Interviews

Inside the Training & Development of a Trainee Solicitor

Inside the Training & Development of a Trainee Solicitor

Have you ever wondered what kind of training you will receive as a trainee solicitor? We chatted to Joanne Gubbay, the Head of Practice Learning & Development at Ashurst, to find out more about how a trainee solicitor’s training is structured and what it actually involves…

Interviews

HR Business Placement Experiences

HR Business Placement Experiences

Are you considering a placement year as part of your degree? Wondering what it might be like? Here’s a little insight! Molly is currently on her placement year as a HR Work Placement Student at PwC, a professional service organisation, working with the Student Recruitment team. She shared her experiences from her time with the team so far and told us what appeals to her about working in HR…

Interviews

Elisabeth Baltay, Partner, Finance @ Bingham

Elisabeth Baltay, Partner, Finance @ Bingham

Elisabeth Baltay is a partner in Bingham’s Finance group. She is also one of the firm’s graduate recruitment partners, which means she plays a vital role in the selection, supervision and development of trainees. We caught up with Elisabeth to find out more about the life of a trainee solicitor at Bingham…

Interviews

Changing Careers through a School Leaver Scheme

Changing Careers through a School Leaver Scheme

Many training schemes aren’t just for fresh graduates or school leavers, but career changers too. We interviewed David Mannion to find out why he chose to give up his previous career in sales and financial services for a place on the National Audit Office’s School Leavers’ Scheme. 

Interviews

Georgina Reid, Food Buying Intern at Tesco

Georgina Reid, Food Buying Intern at Tesco

Georgina is a 21-year-old undergraduate studying History at the University of Southampton. She recently completed an internship in buying with the UK’s biggest retailer Tesco. As a result, she has secured a sought-after graduate job with the company as a Trainee Graduate Buyer after she’s graduated and taken a year out to travel to South America and teach English. She told us all about her internship experiences… 

Interviews

Georgina Blackwell: From Beautician to Barrister

Georgina Blackwell: From Beautician to Barrister

In 2009, Georgina Blackwell, a beautician at the time, stepped into the High Court and won a courtroom battle against a property development giant without any legal training. Following her victory, she was offered a full scholarship by BPP to complete the LLB. Two years later, she graduated with a first class honours degree. We caught up with Georgina to chat about her unique experiences of the legal profession so far…

Interviews

 Using Your Internship to Get into Investment Banking

Using Your Internship to Get into Investment Banking

You’ve probably heard that work experience is the best way forward when it comes to securing that golden graduate job. But how do you go about making the most of your internships to get into the highly competitive investment banking industry? Raisah, who is now a credit trading analyst at international bank J.P. Morgan has is covered…

Interviews

Gavin Thomas, Travel Writer

Gavin Thomas, Travel Writer

After a two-year round-the-world trip, Gavin Thomas decided to move away from music journalism and started working as a travel editor with Rough Guides. After several years of editing, he was given the opportunity to author the first edition of the Rough Guide to Sri Lanka. Since becoming a freelance travel journalist in 2005, he has written a range of guidebooks about Dubai, Oman, Rajasthan, Delhi and Agra. We chatted to Gavin about becoming a travel writer, avoiding cliché and the time he was shot in the stomach by armed bandits in Mexico…

Interviews

Finance Apprenticeships: A Smith & Williamson Insight

Finance Apprenticeships: A Smith & Williamson Insight

Finance apprenticeships are increasingly on the up as an alternative to university for top school leavers. But what does an apprenticeship actually involve? Josh and Katie came from slightly different routes (A-levels and a Level 3 BTEC Extended Diploma in Business) and have now taken up tax and audit apprenticeships with financial services firm Smith & Williamson. They let us in on what their programmes involve…

Interviews

Diversity in Banking: An Insight

Diversity in Banking: An Insight

You’ll often here that nowadays banks implement diversity policies and programmes in all elements of their business. But what are they actually doing? Vinay Kapoor, UK Diversity & Inclusion Manager at BNP Paribas told us about how things are changing within the industry and what diversity and inclusion means at the Bank…

Interviews

Devan Nathwani, Actuarial Intern and Graduate at Aon

Devan Nathwani, Actuarial Intern and Graduate at Aon

Devan was curious about what an actuarial career may hold as a mathematics student, but wasn’t 100% sure what the industry actually entailed. A couple of years later, he has completed a summer internship in actuarial consulting within pensions with top actuarial firm Aon, and has now moved into their graduate scheme. So what did he gain from his summer internship?

Interviews

Deutsche Bank Experiences: Private & Business Clients

Deutsche Bank Experiences: Private & Business Clients

Private and business clients is a highly desired career path focus in the banking and finance world. Roya is gaining experience in this area with Deutsche Bank in Frankfurt, Germany – one of the world’s biggest financial hubs. She told us about the opportunities this is opening up.

Interviews

Deutsche Bank Experiences: Graduate Global Technology Strategy Analyst

Deutsche Bank Experiences: Graduate Global Technology Strategy Analyst

Leo is a Global Technology Strategy Analyst in Group Technology & Operations in London. His team pioneers technologies and re-engineers business processes to deliver innovation and world-class client service. From moving trillions of Euros through a business every day to integrating two organizations after a major acquisition, they face the technological challenges caused by growth, market change and constant competition…

Interviews

Dave Benson Phillips, Children’s Television Presenter

Dave Benson Phillips, Children’s Television Presenter

If you watched children’s television in the 90s, you will probably recognise the trademark smile of Dave Benson Phillips. Yep, that’s right! He’s the charming chap who presented Playdays, Get Your Own Back and Wake Up in the Wild Room. We caught up with Dave to chat about his life as a children’s television presenter, the 'World’s Largest Gunge Fight', and the internet death hoax that threatened to ruin his career…

Interviews

Confessions of a Recruitment Consultant

Confessions of a Recruitment Consultant

Prepare to be shocked, appalled and amused! We interviewed a graduate recruitment consultant to find out what really happens to your CV when you apply for a job through a recruitment agency. If you want an honest insight into the recruitment process, you’re in the right place. The person we interviewed has asked to remain anonymous. Get ready to find out why!

Interviews

Chibundu Onuzo, Student Novelist

Chibundu Onuzo, Student Novelist

Chibundu Onuzo started writing her debut novel when she was just 17 years old. Having secured a two-book deal with Faber at the age of 20, whilst studying history at King’s College London, she went on to receive widespread critical acclaim for The Spider King’s Daughter, which was recently shortlisted for the prestigious Dylan Thomas Prize. We chatted to Chibundu about tackling the writing process, getting published, and balancing academic work with a literary career…

Interviews

Catching Up with Browne Jacobson’s New Training Principal

Catching Up with Browne Jacobson’s New Training Principal

Mark Hughes has recently been appointed training principal at Browne Jacobson. Mark, a partner in Browne Jacobson’s corporate team specialises in all aspects of corporate advice, including acquisitions and disposals and has been with the firm since 1999. AllAboutCareers.com caught up with Mark, finding out about changes to Browne Jacobson’s trainee recruitment programme…

Interviews

Are apprenticeships the best route into the accounting industry?

Are apprenticeships the best route into the accounting industry?

Mike Day is the Head of the Accounting Academy Partnership, an apprenticeship scheme which helps young people to become qualified accounting technicians in just 14 months. We chatted to Mike about the increasing importance of apprenticeships in the accounting industry, especially now the government has announced its scheme to create 360,000 apprenticeships in the UK this financial year…

Interviews

An Interview with the Attorney General

An Interview with the Attorney General

Appointed as the Attorney General by Prime Minister David Cameron in May, 2010, Dominic Grieve QC MP is the Chief Legal Adviser to the Crown. A champion of student pro bono projects, he also chairs the Attorney General’s Pro Bono Committee. We were lucky enough to get the chance to talk to the Attorney General about the importance of student pro bono projects, his own personal experiences of pro bono work, and the possible impact that the proposed legal aid cuts will have on pro bono initiatives in the UK…

Interviews

An Interview with an Ambassador

An Interview with an Ambassador

His Excellency Ric Todd has recently been appointed Her Majesty’s Governor to Turks and Caicos Islands. Previously he was the 56th British Ambassador to Poland. We were lucky enough to get the chance to talk to Ric about his career so far, his advice for people considering a career as a British Ambassador, the challenge of learning new languages and meeting Pope John Paul II...

Interviews

An Insider’s Guide to City Vacation Schemes

An Insider’s Guide to City Vacation Schemes

Sussing out the law firm you want to work for is a tricky old business! It can be difficult to really pinpoint the best way to do it. Of course, one the best ways is to get yourself onto a vacation scheme with a firm. But what will you get out of your one or two weeks in the office? Andrew Pollock is now a trainee with top City firm King & Wood Mallesons SJ Berwin after finding the perfect fit through a vacation scheme! Here’s what he got up to…

Interviews

An Employer’s Perspective on Modern Apprenticeships

An Employer’s Perspective on Modern Apprenticeships

Employers Jessica Addis and James Vaughan-Smith needed to hire additional staff recently and took a chance on apprentice Chloe Hutchinson-Brown. Having had a positive experience of utilising an apprenticeship scheme, Jessica and James spoke to AllAboutCareers.com about how hiring an apprentice worked for their company and should be a serious consideration for all school leavers.

Interviews

Alice Coates, Teach First Maths Ambassador

Alice Coates, Teach First Maths Ambassador

Alice Coates gained a multitude of different experiences working with young people through her studies before she took on the challenge of the Teach First Leadership Development Programme as a maths teacher in the Yorkshire and The Humber area. A couple of years later, she’s now a Lower School Assistant Head in Sheffield! She chatted to us about her experiences on the programme and what teaching means to her…

Interviews

Adam Gamsa, Trainee Solicitor @ Field Fisher Waterhouse

Adam Gamsa, Trainee Solicitor @ Field Fisher Waterhouse

Having completed a DPhil in Physics at the University of Oxford, Adam Gamsa decided to move away from academia and join Field Fisher Waterhouse as a trainee solicitor. We caught up with Adam to chat about his first nine months as a trainee, his vacation scheme and his enthusiasm for intellectual property law…

Interviews

A Vacation Scheme with International Law Firm Taylor Wessing

A Vacation Scheme with International Law Firm Taylor Wessing

Clara Garfield completed a vacation scheme at international firm, Taylor Wessing in 2011. Throughout the scheme, Clara felt well supported by the firm and commends the ethos of the firm and their hiring policy – Taylor Wessing look for people who are a good fit for the firm’s culture, not just those with top grades.

Interviews

A Life in Social Care

A Life in Social Care

Many of the people who pursue a career in social care are initially drawn by the simple motivation of ‘helping people’ or ‘giving something back’. Behind such simplicity is a complicated range of values. For example, a recognition of the inherent value of every person and their right to be considered equal with every other citizen.

Interviews

A Different Kind of Accountant

A Different Kind of Accountant

When you hear the word Mazuma, you might think of those irritating adverts which invite you to exchange your mobile phone for cash. But wait! There is another company with the same name. Started by two friends, Mazuma provides expert accountancy services to small businesses and independent contractors. We had a chat with Sophie Hughes about starting up her own business and what it’s like to be a woman in a male-dominated industry…

Interviews

A Day in the Life of a Trainee Actuarial Consultant

A Day in the Life of a Trainee Actuarial Consultant

After graduating from the University of Warwick with a degree in Maths, Operational Research, Statistics and Economics (MORSE), Tom Williams joined Aon as a trainee actuarial consultant. We caught up with him to find out more about the professional life of an actuary… 

Interviews

Why I Chose My Sponsored Degree in Engineering

Why I Chose My Sponsored Degree in Engineering

Sponsored Degree Programmes can be ideal for those looking for a career change too. Lee Dennis was initially an engineer with the Royal Navy, and took his career in a new direction into the power system industry through the National Grid Engineer Training Programme…

Interviews