An interview with Valery Akpojiyovwi, Co-founder of Beyond Brownies
I was scrolling through my Instagram feed a few weeks ago and saw a picture of some nice looking brownies. I have very little resistance when presented with any dessert that involves chocolate, so I clicked on the picture and discovered Beyond Brownies, a small business based in London that was launched in December 2020 by two sisters, Valery and Didi Akpojiyovwi. I was impressed to discover a local business that was started during the COVID-19 pandemic, because so many businesses have suffered and I can imagine that many people would be discouraged to start a new company during such uncertain times. However, the pandemic has caused thousands of people to work from home and having desserts delivered to ones home is now the norm. I knew that there must be an interesting story behind the launch of Beyond Brownies, so I reached out to this company and Valery agreed to be interviewed.
You can order the brownies via Instagram; I ordered a batch and then invited some friends to join me in tasting them. The Lotus Biscoff and Salted caramel flavours were our top favourites! Keep scrolling down to read my interview with Valery and also check out the Beyond Brownies Facebook page. I encourage you to show this business some love and follow their social media accounts.
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MSA: What prompted you to create Beyond Brownies?
VALERY: It started off as a hobby baking on my Instagram stories and when friends would come round for dinner, but I was encouraged to start selling as my bakes were really good. My sister is also an amazing baker; COVID-19 has given us a lot more time so we decided to start baking together and selling online.
MSA: What type of work were you doing before starting this business, and are you still working?
VALERY: I work in film and Television research and my sister works in retail. My sister is currently on flexi furlough and I’m working full time from home, so we work our baking around our schedules.
MSA: Please tell me what steps you took in order to launch Beyond Brownies?
VALERY: I had a look at some of the more popular brownie pages such as Brownie God and a few others. I also joined some Facebook pages to help figure out pricing and the relevant paper work I needed to fill out such as insurance and health and safety. The Facebook baking community has truly been helpful for any questions I’ve had or even help with recipes, tips, and tricks.
MSA: Did you have any fears to overcome before you launched your business? If so, how did you overcome them?
VALERY: The fear we had to overcome was not selling anything. The way I worked around it was to make sure everything we posted on our Instagram page was high quality and looked delicious; people eat with their eyes first so we figured tapping into that would help with selling and its definitely worked.
MSA: How has the current COVID pandemic affected your business?
VALERY: As we started during the pandemic, I can’t say that it has impacted us negatively; if anything, people are at home and are snacking more than ever. No one can ever say no to a sweet treat.
MSA: Are you a Black owned company? If so, has being Black caused you any obstacles in building your company? And, have you noticed any changes after the Black Lives Matter (BLM) Protests in 2020?
VALERY: Yes, we are black owned we haven’t had any difficulties as of yet, but we’re still young so who’s to say difficulties won’t arise. If anything, I’d say that the awareness BLM brought will make people consciously buy black whether that be bakeries, retail, or otherwise and that’s definitely a good thing.
MSA: I’m very curious to know what a week in your life looks like? Also, how do you achieve a good work-life balance?
VALERY: I shoot images for social media once a month and then plan all the social media posts a month in advance so I don’t have to think about what’s going up on our Instagram page. A majority of the orders we receive are prepped and measured in the evening and baked in the morning, so we can post them or make them ready for collection when they’ve cooled down. Work and life balance is all about organisation. My sister and I both do the baking, but I’m in charge of the social media and general branding of the business, while my sister works on the back end inventory, customer service, and taking the orders.
MSA: Please share the biggest lesson you’ve learnt from starting Beyond Brownies?
VALERY: Running a business isn’t easy, you have to stay steps ahead especially when it isn’t your full-time job; if you don’t stay steps ahead working it around your normal job can become very stressful.
Picture shared courtesy of Beyond Brownies
MSA: What’s been the biggest reward or ‘high’ point on your journey as an entrepreneur?
VALERY: Our high point is the insane support and love we’ve received from friends and family. They’ve gone out of their way to order from us and recommend us to their friends and family; the fact that they have faith in us and our products is amazing to see.
MSA: What would you say to someone who has a passion but is scared to pursue it?
VALERY: Research, research, research! Make a list of the pros and cons and see if it’s something that you really have a passion for. There needs to be passion as you’re not always going to make money and have to be okay with that.
MSA: So, what’s next for Beyond Brownies?
VALERY: We’re excited to keep developing recipes and gaining more and more clients.
MSA: Thank you so much Valery for this interview! I wish you every success with Beyond Brownies.
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My take home messages from this interview are:
- To take an inventory of your passions and explore how you can turn them into a business.
- Do your research before you launch a new business; study other similar businesses that are successful, and if you do not have a business mentor then look for an online community that you can join.
- Be organised and try to plan ahead as much as possible.
- You can be successful even in the midst of a pandemic! So don’t be discouraged by the circumstances you find yourself in, they may actually work for you and not against you.
Be continually inspired! x