The Well-Bean Company is the brainchild of Charlie Claydon, a guy on a mission to promote the positive relationship between good food and the mind. Based in our RAW Lab, for the past six months, Charlie and Laura make handcrafted vegan chocolate, which supports mental wellbeing projects.
Can you tell us about how the idea for The Well-Bean Company came about?
I had spent the year’s prior focusing on food and mood; specifically how different foods impacted my mental health. As a result of this studying and testing, I changed my diet dramatically, which led me to a plant-based diet with less sugar consumption.
Of course I was really missing all the foods I had previously enjoyed, and so I decided to start experimenting with foods to create healthier plant-based versions. I [became] got really fascinated by the process of making artisan chocolate from the cacao bean. The alchemy involved had me hooked and before I knew it I had moved out of my kitchen and into a shed I built in the back garden to make room for the machines and bulk ingredients I had purchased.
I was using my holidays from work to make chocolate, and would often cycle home on my lunch breaks to check on test batches. A year and half later I had finally created what I believe to be the best vegan milk chocolate I’ve ever tasted. In fact, for me, it reviles the dairy chocolate I once enjoyed. That’s when I knew I had to make this a business, but I needed more of a drive than just making money, so I decided to donate a percentage of profits to mental wellbeing projects, which then birthed our name – The Well-Bean Company!
You’ve been based in our RAW Lab for 6 months now, and with weekly markets and stocking in a number of places, your business is booming! Can you tell us about your motivations behind moving into RAW, and how it has affected your business?
I wouldn’t want to be anywhere else other than RAW Labs, it’s undoubtedly been key to our success. There are so many benefits! Bow Arts has provided a beautiful space that we can actually afford, and with that comes the amazing artists in residents and the wonderful people that walk into the café every week. For example, Michael runs a local community garden around the corner – we recently started donating our used cocoa husks for him to use as fertilizer for his wonderful plants and community project. We are part of a family and community here, which beats being isolated in a tiny shed any day!
Joss Taylor (who manages the studio spaces) was the guardian angel who swooped in and suggested RAW Labs. This came at a time when I had just lost my home out of the blue. So without the incredible offer I don’t know what I would have done. We certainly wouldn’t have gotten to where we are now so quickly and everything happened as it should.
What are your plans for the future of The Well-Bean Company?
Plans can change, but the current goal is to roll our chocolate bars out to as many places that will stock us. The more money we can make, the bigger difference we have on the mental wellbeing work we passionately support. We are also constantly innovating and working on new products to sell at markets, which may form part of a larger product line in the future. But this all costs time and money, which we don’t yet have in abundance. Our Snyckers bar, a take on the classic snickers bar, has gone down so well and we are just about to launch our version of a vegan Nutella – it’s dangerously good!
What tips would you give anyone interested in starting up their own creative or food business?
Whichever industry you’re planning to start-up in, don’t let the what if’s hold you back. Unless you’re very fortunate, money will likely be tight for a while. I have learnt to let go of the what if’s and just focus on tackling the here and now. If I run out of money, then I will deal with it. However, it hasn’t happened yet, so why waste my energy on worrying. The challenge of needing to make money and pay rent has pushed us to innovate more than we probably would have had we just sailed through each month. The best ideas tend to come out of the challenges we face.
Learn from others, but don’t listen too hard to the doubters, who haven’t started their own businesses. Lot’s of people have opinions, but you only want to listen to those that have real life experience. Ultimately though, you should follow you gut! Hoover turned down James Dyson’s concept for a bagless vacume cleaner, but Mr Dyson knew in his gut it was something people wanted and would buy. So he went out on his own and smashed the market. The bagless vacuum cleaner wasn’t his first product either; so don’t be afraid to change direction if it feels right. Mr Dyson is a multi billionaire now, but he had moments of pure dread where he didn’t know if he could find money to pay the mortgage. Just keep going!
Don’t miss The Well-Bean Company’s Painting with Chocolate workshop Thursday 7 June at RAW Lab.
Follow The Well-Bean Company:
Bow Arts is committed to supporting communities and artists, offering affordable, top-notch creative workspaces at 12 sites across London to help creatives to thrive and grow their practices. If you’re an artist, designer or maker who’s interested in our studios, find out more and apply here!