Exclusive: Tasty Mates successfully takes on BBC’s Dragon’s Den stars

Taking on the Dragons for the BBC’s flagship business TV show is a daunting prospect for any entrepreneur. Editor Neill Barston speaks to Joe Woolf, co-founder of Tasty Mates, after successfully winning vital investment for his confectionery business.

As he recalls, the timing of creating the business, was to put it mildly, challenging, with Joe, who previously worked for a youth organisation, giving up a role in early 2020, that he had found genuinely rewarding, only for the world to be turned on its head as the Covid-19 pandemic struck with full force.

But undeterred, he says the two entrepreneurs aided by a close-knit team cracked on in developing the company slowly but surely. For many, this would have been an ultimate nightmare scenario, yet the duo’s
‘can do’ spirit was to prevail in expanding its manufacturing capabilities, initially in Hertfordshire north of London, then switching to the continent, in Spain, when initial operations expanded.

“When Covid hit, everything went up in the air – from conversations with investors, factories as well as manufacturers, and at the same time I’d left my job. But in some ways, I look at it as a real positive, as we were stuck at home, not spending that much money, as you couldn’t go out, so I spent a lot of time building the brand to what we wanted it to be, which was a massive hurdle for us,” he explains of the fledgling moments setting up Tasty Mates.

As the London-based entrepreneur adds, as a start-up enterprise, myriad challenges remain. So, from maintaining cash flow and sales, through to the eternal quest for ever greater retail listings, the list of potential hurdles and pitfalls does not go away at the wave of a Dragon’s wand. However, with a refreshing sense of optimism, he reveals there’s genuine momentum now behind the business, which has just launched its latest flavour, in pineapple, adding to its core series, that has traded on its all natural flavours, as well as being gluten-free and made with recycled packaging – with sustainability a core priority.

Furthermore, the company is really on something of a roll, as it has put measures in place to expand its production even further, with an additional deal for a second manufacturing line with a newly formed partnership with a Polish-based business for the US market.

“Going on Dragon’s Den has enabled us to take the business to the next level, so we have go and use that exposure and use it in an positive way, as we as the advice we’ve received,” notes Joe, who comes across as being hard-working yet down-to-earth in his approach to managing his expectations for the business. With so much on right now, how much time is he allocating to events outside of work?

“When I am not working, I am into the gym, and play tennis and golf, and sport is something I value greatly. But more than anything, this is not just me plugging the brand, I love nothing more than going for a coffee or a walk with one of my mates, and that’s my downtime,” he explains of his rollercoaster fortunes that look destined to carry him far with a positive outlook and major entrepreneurial backing.”

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