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10th Apr 2017

Improper Butter founder Elaine Lavery on bad business advice (and rebranding)

Elaine Lavery founded her company, Improper Food Limited, whilst on post-university gap year in the French Alps. During her time as a ski chalet chef, she developed the idea for Improper Butter.

In 2013 Lavery joined forces with her best friend Hannah O’Reilly who had a love for all things branding related. This week on The Capital B, Elaine talks bad advice, rebranding, and why she prefers doing excel sheets…

“We were very young when we launched our company – very green, we had no industry experience. We were pulled in a lot of different directions in the beginning. What we’ve learned is to filter down the advice we receive. There are a lot of quote-unquote “consultants” out there who will borrow your watch to tell you the time. That kind of unsolicited advice hasn’t always been fruitful for us.”

“We were told if you want to play in the market beside these big guys – the likes of the Kerrygolds and the Dairygolds – you gotta look big, you gotta look trustworthy.

At the time, we very much went for that advice and created tongue-in-cheek branding that was big, colourful, and loud. But that wasn’t necessarily the right move for a company like us because our core customer is a more premium retailer. So, while the core of the product – and the use of it – is is extremely functional, how it looks isn’t right. As a result our target customer was a little bit ‘off’ and that was because we followed the advice of branding agencies.

Interestingly, now you see huge brands trying to get in on the act of looking like a small brand when actually there’s not a lot of authenticity behind it – which we have in spades. So we kind of followed a path which was slightly not true to our core, and who we are and the why of the business.”

“We’re in the process of rebranding now and it’s hard. The day to day operational side of the business – the finance and operations side is nice – I like the hard facts and data you get with excel sheets! I find that stuff much easier. But we have an opportunity now to step back and give our customers something even better.

We’re working with freelance designers who are not caught in that agency-way of thinking – they really understand the brand and what it wants to be, and that’s working out a lot better for us.”

The Capital B is available free of charge every Monday morning from 7am; listeners can tune in on Soundcloud and can also download and subscribe to the podcast on iTunes and other podcast providers.