I love discovering new and small businesses. I came across Lily and Ian – the owners of Truffle Pig Vegan when I was looking for vegan chocolate and I haven’t looked back since. In fact, I have made monthly orders regularly. They have everything from vegan fudge to vegan mallow bars and crunchie. Aside from their delicious goods, they are wonderful humans. When I started this series, I know I had to have them on the blog to share their journey with you all.
What inspired you to start Truffle Pig Vegan?
I’ve always loved making Christmas presents and that year I decided to make truffles for my family, having gone vegan a few years prior. It kind of snowballed from there with friends asking for boxes and a few months later I quit my job to make chocolate full time! I’ve always been a bit of a hustler doing lots of different jobs rather than one 9-5 so I was able to balance everything until I could just focus on Truffle Pig.
How did you come up with the name Truffle Pig?
Ian is the OG Truffle Pig, when I first started making truffles I’d leave them around the house in different temperatures and packaging to see how well they kept but Ian would sniff them out and eat them!
What does an average day in the world of Truffle Pig Vegan look like?
We moved into our unit in August 2020 so now we get to work about 8 am and the first job is to get the tempering machines on (oh and coffee machine too!), Ian always goes through the orders and prints out labels for the day and I’ll check emails and do any ordering and paperwork that needs doing. Then Ian packs orders whilst I make whichever bar or truffles are on that day’s list. We have a daily post collection then a big clean up each evening!
What are the three ingredients you need to run a successful business?
PMA! A positive mental attitude sounds cliche but things will always go wrong and it’s how you deal with them that determines how successful you can be. We always try to stop and reflect, you’ve got to back yourself when you’re working for yourself.
Honesty and transparency. It’s important to be open with customers and show your authentic self, we are Truffle Pig so we try to show that as much as we can rather than using corporate marketing and language.
Commitment with boundaries. It’s hard work and you have to see things through which means long days, late nights, sending emails at bedtime but you have to set boundaries so you keep the enjoyment there and don’t encourage an unhealthy level of expectancy on yourself.
I’ve always tried to live with no regrets, we also built TPV fairly gradually and sustainably so we never had any big risks or gambles that I look back on and would do differently. We grew organically and allowed demand to dictate how busy we were rather than throwing ourselves into a market with a product. I never had big business aspirations, I still don’t…I just wanted to work for myself and be as ethical as possible. Ian and I always say we have life aspirations rather than business, happiness comes before anything else!
Your Malita bar was one of my favourite bars. How do you come up with these combinations?
The Malita actually came about when Sophie, our good friend, was helping us out through lockdown whilst she couldn’t work as a tattoo artist. I am always asking people what their dream bar/flavours would be and she wanted something with honeycomb and malt. So I did some work with those two flavours as my starting point and will keep experimenting in small batches until I’m happy with the end result! We started by making vegan versions of popular bars but my favourite thing to do is invent completely new flavours and ideas.
Do you have a rough idea of what bars will do well and which won’t?
Flavours that tend to divide people don’t do as well, so coconut type products are either you love or hate it, same with coffee or fruity flavours. You can’t go wrong with classics like hazelnut, peanut butter, malt, honeycomb, nougat…
What does a successful business look like to you?
Having such a loyal supportive customer base that are repeat customers is a success to me. As long as we make enough to pay our bills and raise money for our chosen charities that’s all we care about.
What do you have coming up for the rest of 2021?
It sounds early to say..but advent calendars! I’m really excited for this year as we’re having custom ones designed with some EU funding we received. Also Halloween is our favourite time of year so we always love doing Scream Eggs and Pumpkin Spice everything!
Do you have a favourite bar from your range?
We both love the Milky Mallow best as milky ways were our favourite before we went vegan!
What is the big lesson you learnt through running a small business?
That people are forgiving if you make honest mistakes. Oh and things are more expensive than you think! Boxes, stickers, labels, ink, all adds up so you have to value your products and not undersell yourself.
How long have you both lived the Vegan Lifestyle?
About 6 years now, Ian saw a short film at Celluloid Screams, A Sheffield horror film festival. It depreciated humans in place of animals and totally changed his view on everything. I have always been vegetarian (thank you Lisa Simpson!) so it was an easy switch for us.
Truffle Pig Vegan seems more like a small community rather than a traditional business. Is this something you want to expand on?
I actually love that you see it like this, it makes me so happy to be viewed that way. I think it’s because we started very community-focused, rather than most typical businesses that start with a big cash injection and a product, not to knock that at all though, I have so much admiration for entrepreneurs and small businesses, we just never set out to work that way. I would love to expand our community, I want to be able to support and reward our loyal customers that have always had our back, we wouldn’t be a business without them. I’m very open to ideas and love chatting with people so my DMS are always open!
Lily, you are a musician, is this something you still do?
Not so much since covid but I trained as a musician in London and worked various gigs and teaching jobs until I moved to Sheffield in 2014. In the past few years I mostly work with socialist organsiations and communities to do benefit shows, Punk 4 The Homeless and We Shall Overcome are two very close to my heart.
Ian, what did you do before joining Truffle Pig Vegan full time?
Before working for TPV full time I was working in the department for education trying to help schools that were facing financial difficulties. It was stressful work and often very frustrating but I met some lovely people along the way.
What three things do you do to live a fulfilled life?
What a beautiful question. We spend time with each other, our cat, Hades and our family.
I spend most of my spare time competing and training in Olympic weightlifting and playing roller derby and enjoy the demands of it.
Ian tries to learn as much as he can about things that interest him.
We both try to be positive and kind as we feel you get what you put into the world and we love spending time with animals and in nature so get out into the peaks as much as we can.