IWD: Interview With Leah + Daisy, Founders Of The Hardihood

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This is interview we speak to Leah + Daisy from The Hardihood - in the course of the interview we found out that the word 'hardihood', is an old Edwardian word that means strength of character, vitality and resilience. It feels very fitting for this series where we celebrate amazing women like Leah + Daisy.

To celebrate International Women's Week (yeah, we think it should be a week) and our upcoming Vevolution Topics: Entrepreneurs event on the 13th March we've created an IWD series where we've hand selected some inspiring entrepreneurial women to tell us their stories. This series is in collaboration with Badass Vegan Women.

Tell us a little bit about The Hardihood – how did it all start?
We had the idea for The Hardihood after giving up sugar together as a new year resolution. We were really enjoying the benefits of being sugar free (better sleep, clear thinking, fresh skin) but were really missing sweet treats. We’d seen these amazing desserts in Oz and the US made from all natural ingredients, without refined sugar and we just thought “they look fantastic”. We began experimenting with making our own and documented it on Instagram, which was booming at the time and that is how The Hardihood was born.

Why did you name your raw cake company The Hardihood? 
We wanted to find a name that wasn’t too girly and didn’t scream ‘health’. Hardihood is an old Edwardian word that means strength of character, vitality and resilience. Great characteristics that we try to instil in the brand and our behaviour.

Did you always want to work in the food industry? Were you working in a similar role before The Hardihood? 
Leah’s background is in hospitality, she used to run (and review) bars and restaurants and Daisy comes from a fashion background she worked for magazine such as InStyle and Marie Claire. We’ve both always had entrepreneurial spirit, back in the day Daisy had a fashion blog and Leah had a lifestyle blog and we were always thinking of business ideas that we’d like to bring in to the world. We actually used to live together many moons ago and our dinner parties became quite legendary, we used to talk about turning them in to a business, so maybe we’re not far off.

Since your launch in 2014 have you noticed a change in the plant-based world and especially the natural cake industry? 
Oh absolutely, there are far more exciting options available to people now, which is great. There is also a lot more competition from large corporate brands who have seen the success of the market and sprint at it with products very similar to the ones that smaller brands have been doing for some time. Its difficult for small brands to compete with, but it also show that there is a larger demand for plant-based, natural products which give us faith that we’re aligned with having a business with a purpose, which is something we’re committed to. We believe that The Hardihood makes the world a better place, even on a superficial level, we want to know that there’s a dessert out there that looks good, tastes good and feels good… but isn’t made from nasty ingredients that you’re going to regret eating later. We’re particularly excited about vegan junk food, we’ve always taken inspiration from our favourite naughty desserts, we’re nostalgic throwback foodies at heart and are always trying to recreate the flavours we loved as children. Think butterscotch angel delight, Bannoffee pie, Eaton Mess. Our latest range of products Good Puds come in three seriously naughty sounding, indulgent flavours; Chocolate Fudge Pie, Caramel Biscuit Sundae and Raspberry Blueberry Pudding.

Why is raw important to you? Are you fully raw? 
Raw is important to us because it’s the best way to preserve the nutrients of ingredients used and because it means that our manufacturing process is incredibly eco friendly. We’ve definitely gone through phases of eating raw, usually in the summer and Leah was actually part of the opening team at Tanya’s back in the day!

I read that until recently you were completely self-funded and both had other jobs. Looking back do you think this was the right move or do you wished you had sought investment earlier? 
When we were setting up the business and testing the market with our bespoke celebration cakes we both moonlighted with other jobs. At t he beginning of 2016 we took the leap of faith and went all in with The Hardihood and I suppose we haven’t look backwards. We’re actually still entirely self funded, we were lucky that we had traction straight away and have always been able to bootstrap. However, 2018 is the year that we will scale the business, we feel the market is finally ready for Good Puds and we’re confident that we’ve built the team and skillset required. We’re about to enter our first round of fund raising this month.

What’s been the biggest obstacle in running and building your business? 
I think it’s probably been to having confidence in your own abilities and outsourcing work to people who you believe can do it better than you, when most of the time they can’t and you end up disappointed (and writing a large cheque).

So you recently launched Good Puds - congrats! Can you tell us how this developed from your original raw cakes? 
The Raw Cakes were the building blocks of our brand, they got peoples attention and got people talking. They’re perfect for premium retailers and gifting and we’re so proud of them. Good Puds are the natural evolution, they’re more robust, they’ll travel further and they’re a more recognisable format. Perfect for converting the mainstream market, which is what their mission in the world is!

How do you find inspiration?
We take a lot of inspiration from childhood favourites as well as fruits and flavours that are in season. Sometimes we like to start with a colour palette and work backwards, the aesthetics are as important as the flavour.

Your creations are more like a work of art than just a simple cake and it looks like a lot of your previous clients have mainly been fashion companies - including Chanel, Vogue, Net-a-Porter to name a few. How and why does the art and fashion aesthetic feed into your cake creations? 
As Daisy’s background is in fashion it seemed natural to take the brand in a design focussed direction. Having a considered aesthetic has definitely meant that we slot in well within the fashion and art industry. The Hardihood is supposed to be an aspirational brand, we aim for our customers to feel like they’re indulging in a luxury item when they make a purchase. We consider every last detail, from the use of the tape we use to seal our boxes to the positioning of the address label on the box. We want to create an experience around our products.

Who are some of your favourite inspiring female entrepreneurs? 
Cass at Propercorn, Emily Weiss at Glossier, Whitney and Danielle at Sakara

How do you achieve work-life balance? 
Ha, right now we don’t. But that’s OK, these things come in waves, sometime the business is all consuming and sometimes you get to reap the rewards of being your own boss. The thing to remember is that you’re doing something you love, with a product you believe in for a vision you dreamt up. We’re both big fans of eating in and getting early nights, but we’re going through an incredibly focussed phase. Making sure your phone goes to bed before you and wakes up after you is a big help. It’s important to at least disconnect.

What advice can you offer to someone who wants a career in your industry?
Take as much advice as possible from people who have done it before and succeeded. Be original, there’s no point doing something in exactly the same way as somebody else. Don’t think the old school way is the only way, theres a lot of fresh blood in the industry and things are changing rapidly. Do you and build something you’re proud of. Get a good accountant.

What are your hopes for The Hardihood in 2018 and the future?
We’re on a mission to become the nation’s most exciting, delicious, all natural vegan dessert. 

Follow The Hardihood on Instagram to be inspired by all their artistic creations. 

Keep an eye on our blog for more interviews with inspiring plant powered women with our IWD Series to celebrate International Women's Day!