I left my job in the City to sell choco­lates spread

Kevin and Kel­lie Bath quit their jobs to start their health­ier spreads brand, Jim Jams. Here they de­scribe their ups and downs, and hav­ing their chil­dren as chief taste testers.

The Guardian - Weekend - - Weekending - By Ge­orgina Fuller

One Satur­day morn­ing, when Kevin Bath was hav­ing break­fast with his fam­ily - wife Kel­lie and chil­dren Evie (r2) and Jack (eight) - he ca­su­ally glanced at the la­bel of the jar of choco­late spread his chil­dren were en­thu­si­as­ti­cally spread­ing on their toast. He was hor­ri­fied. The spread con­tained the equiv­a­lent of 57 sugar cubes in a stan­dard jar. Kevin and Kel­lie de­cided there must be a health­ier op­tion, and the idea for their busi­ness, JimJams, was born. Within months the cou­ple had quit their jobs - Kevin, as in IT con­sul­tant at the London Stock Ex­change and Kel­lie, who was run­ning her own health busi­ness - to fo­cus on their new ven­ture. "We re­alised there was a gap in the mar­ket for a healthy al­ter­na­tive to choco­late spreads," says Kevin. "Nei­ther of us had any prior ex­pe­ri­ence of the food in­dus­try or de­vel­op­ing and mar­ket­ing such a prod­uct, but we knew we had to do some­thing. It was a very big leap of faith." Three years on and IimJams lines the shelves

'Nei­ther of us had any prior ex­pe­ri­ence of the food In­dus­try - It was a very big leap of faith'

of Whole Foods, Sains­bury's, Mor­risons and Hol­land & Bar­rett, and it's also avail­able through Ocado. The prod­uct con­tains 83% less sugar than other choco­late spreads and uses a cer­ti­fied sus­tain­able palm oil. The com­pany has won three Great Taste awards and turned over E5ook in the past year. The con­cept was sim­ple - to de­velop a choco­late spread with sig­nif­i­cantly less sugar than the lead­ing brands, but with­out any com­pro­mise on taste. "We had no idea where to start, so we be­gan by con­tact­ing man­u­fac­tur­ers within the UK and Europe to ask if they would de­velop a spread for us to sam­ple," Kel­lie says. "We held taste-test­ing ses­sions around our kitchen ta­ble with our friends and fam­ily - our kids were chief taste testers - and then took sam­ples to food shows. The feed­back en­abled us to per­fect the fi­nal recipe." The con­sumer feed­back has been phe­nom­e­nal, says Kevin. "We ap­peal mainly to the fam­ily mar­ket, but we've also been at­tract­ing younger, more health-con­scious con­sumers. The fact we use a nat­u­rally sourced sweet­ener means it's kinder on teeth, has less ef­fect on blood glu­cose levels, con­tains fewer calo­ries, and is also gluten-free." Their suc­cess, how­ever, has not come easy. "Ig­no­rance, as they say, is bliss, which is just as well, be­cause if we had known just how tur­bu­lent the ride was go­ing to be, I'm not sure we would have ac­tu­ally gone for it," says Kel­lie. "But I'm so glad we did." The cou­ple rented a lo­cal stor­age unit and used their per­sonal sav­ings to de­velop the prod­uct, de­sign their brand­ing and tour a few food shows, be­fore the money al­most ran out. "We had about four or five months where we didn't know how we were go­ing to pay the mort­gage," says Kel­lie. "It was re­ally stress­ful." For­tu­nately, Kevin saw an ad­ver­tise­ment for the Gro­cery Ac­cel­er­a­tor pro­gramme, which in­vests in new food and thinks brands, and ap­plied for fund­ing. They were short­listed out of too com­pa­nies and se­cured in­vest­ment of Egok. By that time, they had also found a man­u­fac­turer that could de­liver, but there were still a num­ber of ob­sta­cles to over­come. "They didn't deal in small prod­uct runs. In fact, their min­i­mum order re­quire­ment was huge!" Kel­lie ex­plains. "We had just enough money left to place one order and we only had a hand­ful of po­ten­tial cus­tomers at the time. It was a big risk, but it paid off." They then ap­proached some lo­cal Co-op stores, spe­cial­ity food stores and in­de­pen­dent re­tail­ers. It wasn't long be­fore the busi­ness started to take off. "Mor­risons was the first su­per­mar­ket we ap­proached and it was an amaz­ing feel­ing when they said yes to the prod­uct," says Kevin. "We'd made it sim­ple by of­fer­ing them a solution - a health­ier al­ter­na­tive to a prod­uct they were already sell­ing and one that would bring them new cus­tomers," says Kevin. Ocado and Sains­bury's soon fol­lowed, and the cou­ple also re­cently signed up with the Publix su­per­mar­ket chain in the US, as well as launch­ing a new isg por­tion pot (pic­tured be­low left). "The isg pots are now avail­able in Cen­ter Pares and we have just com­pleted a very suc­cess­ful trial with Hilton Ho­tels," says Kel­lie. "Fin­gers crossed you will see them in ev­ery Hilton very soon. We're also launch­ing a milk choco­late dip­per, and are in fi­nal ne­go­ta­tions with ma­jor re­tailer and Mer­lin Entertainment." De­spite their suc­cess, Kel­lie says they never stop wor­ry­ing. "It's a con­stant bat­tle. Each time we se­cure a new re­tailer, it feels great. but we don't have time to process it be­cause we're al­ways mov­ing on to the next thing. We'd get a win and then we'd lose some­thing. We'd think we'd se­cured some­thing and then the re­tailer would pull out un­ex­pect­edly. So we're con­stantly on our toes." One of the best things about work­ing to­gether and run­ning their own busi­ness is, says Kel­lie, the flex­i­bil­ity is has given them. "I work four days a week, so that I can still be there to help with the chil­dren's home­work and catch up with the house­work etc," says Kel­lie. Kevin says he was usu­ally out the door at 7:30am ev­ery morn­ing when he worked in the City but that, since they launched JimJams, he's able to take his son to foot­ball after school each week and be there to do the school run. They hope they are also setting a good ex­am­ple to their chil­dren by run­ning their own busi­ness. "Jack was with me in Sains­bury's the other day and he gasped when he saw our spreads on the shelf?' says Kel­lie. "He asked if he was fa­mous! I would like them to ex­pe­ri­ence run­ning their own busi­ness one day, just be­cause it is an amaz­ing way to build self-be­lief and in­stils such a strong work ethic. I want them to know that they can achieve any­thing they set their mind to, and be­ing a role model is the most pow­er­ful way to show them it is pos­si­ble." Kevin and Kel­lie are clearly part­ners in busi­ness and in life. "I love the fact that we can cel­e­brate our wins to­gether and we both un­der­stand the pres­sures of the busi­ness," Kel­lie says. "Some peo­ple prob­a­bly thought we were a bit mad when Kevin left his job in the City to sell choco­late spread, but we hope to prove them wrong."

Left: Kevin and Kel­lie Bath of JimJams, which makes hazel­nut choco­late spread

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