Manav and Rimi Thapar
Securing investments is one of the hardest parts of being an entrepreneur. But turning it down is even more so. That was the case for Rimi Thapar, founder of LoveRaw who was offered a £50,000 investment from Deborah Meaden in TV show Dragons’ Den. The reason? It was in return for a 30 percent stake which was far more than what she was comfortable with.
Rimi and her husband, Manav Thapar, who is also her business partner, decided to take the high road – and the results have paid off. Today, LoveRaw is now available in 20 countries, and has secured a seven figure investment from a private venture capital firm.
It has been a long journey for the enterprising duo who started the business in 2013. The brand is well-known for making vegan versions of the classic ‘Kinder Bueno' and Reese’s Cups wrapped in quirky packaging. In fact, our members voted Loveraw’s Cre&m Filled Wafer Bars as the world’s #1 chocolate in 2021 in our annual survey of plant-based chocolates.
We caught up with Manav Thapar, cofounder of LoveRaw on their journey thus far.
What’s the story behind LoveRaw?
Rimi and I were reflecting on our food system and where our food comes from. We watched several documentaries that showed a skewed system. That's when we started paying attention to what we eat. At that time, we were living in Spain] and we would visit farmer’s markets to get fresh produce and consciously make food decisions that are sustainable.
Rimi realized that she could make healthy food delicious and vegan. We came back to the UK and started the business in my parents’ garage with £600 and one food processor. Our mission is to continue making legendary kickass vegan chocolate whilst maintaining our roots to be honest, transparent and use no artificial nonsensical ingredients. We want to remove the stigma and prove that vegan chocolate can be decadently indulgent and delicious!
How has your journey evolved from 2013 to 2021?
It was not an easy journey but we have come a long way. When we first started making chocolates, we had no idea how to market them or how to get investments and build the brand. We would take a few samples of our chocolates and hand deliver them to buyers. That’s how it all started.
Today, our chocolates are available in 20 countries and the frequent feedback I get from people is, “LoveRaw chocolates taste exactly like [regular] chocolates!” This makes us feel good. We’re proud of what we are trying to achieve.
Why chocolates? Are you planning to branch out into different categories?
Everyone loves chocolate and vegan chocolates was a niche market in 2013 – not many brands were making vegan chocolates at that time. There were a few dark chocolates that were vegan friendly but no vegan milk chocolates that tasted like it should. We thought we could explore this untapped market and become the world’s best vegan chocolate brand.
You appeared on BBC's Dragon's Den and shocked viewers by walking away from an investment offer from Deborah Meaden. What happened there?
Only Rimi went on the show, it was an amazing experience. We went to the Dragons looking for a good deal but giving up 30% of our company was a difficult decision. We tried to give a fair evaluation and a fair percentage for the amount of money that we were looking for but unfortunately that didn’t happen. But it was a great experience and huge exposure for us and our brand. We are grateful for that.
Veganism is no longer a stigma. Has your marketing strategy changed now that more and more people are familiar with veganism?
You can be extremely vegan or sometimes vegan, or what we like to call an “unvegan” or vegan-curious. Our chocolates are meant for all who love to consume food without any sacrifice. Being fully vegan can be a big lifestyle change for many. We are just providing alternatives that taste like the original so it becomes easier to adopt a vegan lifestyle.
What were some of the challenges in starting and sustaining your business?
When we started, we spread ourselves very thin. We were trying to make almond milk, bars, and other items but it also helped us find our niche. Now we are focused on producing quality chocolates for our customers.
Another big struggle was getting investments. Any entrepreneur will tell you that getting investors is daunting. Raising money is a job in itself. On one hand you need to keep the business running, and on the other, you’re looking for funding. We’ve rejected the offer by Deborah Meaden, which was a hard decision but we had to do it for the long run.
What has been the most rewarding experiences?
The most rewarding aspect for me is the feedback I get from my customers. When people come to us and tell us that they like our chocolates, that’s when we feel all hardships are worth it.