Jo Fairley co-founded a chocolate empire. Here she talks about what she learnt from launching Green & Blacks Organic Chocolate and growing it into a global ethical brand. We’ve also pulled out 10 tips based on her experience and insights

1. Just start

If you don’t do it, you’ll never know what would have happened if you had done it.

2. Have a standout name

We were green because we were organic; we were black because we had the darkest chocolate on the market. And putting an ampersand in the middle made us magically sound instantly like we’d been around since 1876. The minute I said it, I knew we had it.

3. Form strategic partnerships

Cadbury’s took a small stake in Green & Blacks quite early on (just 5%). The idea was that we would be able to access channels via Cadbury’s into traditional confectionery markets that we hadn’t yet penetrated.

4. Outsource your weak areas

What helped us to grow was focusing on the bits we were good at and outsourcing the bits that we weren’t. It’s tempting to think you can do it all yourself. But the best brands that I see retain the sales and marketing functions but actually they get other people to make things.

5. Create irresistible PR

My big advantage was that I had 15 years’ experience as a journalist behind me and I understood what pushed journalists’ buttons. But what really helped was that we sent every press release out with copious quantities of chocolate. That was the key.

6. Develop a business eye

Martha Stewart talks about needing two tools in a business: a microscope to look at the fine detail and a telescope so that you can stand back and look at your business from afar.

7. Use your instincts

It’s quite hard to find someone who is equally instinctive and reasoning and this is where teamwork can be very important. But everyone who uses reason can learn to tap into their intuition and become a more instinctive business person.

8. Be selective on exports

Be more focused then we were; strategically choose two or three key markets to focus on instead of being flattered into accepting every export order that comes in – as this is hugely difficult to juggle.

9. Be the best

If it’s not the best, don’t launch it. People aren’t going to buy it twice if they can get better elsewhere. I had absolute conviction in my product. It really was the best chocolate that I had ever eaten.

10. Follow your passion

Fundamentally, what all of my business experience has convinced me of is that your work has to be about your passion and not about your pension.

Jo Fairley was speaking at a Grant Thornton networking event for women in business.