My Early Hour: Richard Wilkinson, Doisy and Dam chocolate

Richard Wilkinson

“I don’t really believe in a work/life balance as the phrase implies one is positive and the other is negative.” The co-founder of Doisy and Dam (delicious, superfood-packed chocolate) talks mornings, being a foodie and working in an industrial warehouse with The Early Hour…

Richard Wilkinson, 29, lives near Borough Market in London with his fiancée Hannah.

What’s your home like?
We’re lucky to live in a flat with a beautiful view over London; we’re pretty tidy (mainly thanks to Hannah). We don’t have curtains, as it’s a shame to block out such an amazing view so the flat is pretty light.

What time are you up in the morning?
It tends to change according to the season – in winter I’ll sleep later, until 7.30am, whereas in summer I’m usually awake by 6am.

What wakes you up?
Natural light (and an alarm, in case that fails…).

How do you feel?
I normally feel fairly energised; I’m a morning person so I wake up feeling refreshed and ready to go.

What do you do first thing?
Check my emails on my phone – I try not to reply to anything as when you’re feeling slightly groggy emails can go rogue! It gives me a chance to prepare for the day ahead and get into the right mindset.

In three words, describe mornings in your home?
Shower, dress, leave!

Tea or coffee?
Coffee all the way but since we’ve moved into an office share with Good & Proper Tea I’m slowly being educated with their unbelievable teas.

How might the rest of your day pan out?
I tend to leave the flat as soon as I’m ready – I’m not a breakfast person – and get to the office where I’ll get stuck into the day’s work. My days are usually filled with checking sales, working out how many bars of chocolate we’ll need to produce, making sure we’ve got enough stock, testing new products and meeting new suppliers.

Doisy and Dam chocolate

I try to leave work by around 5pm to go and exercise, I love boxing and have had one amateur fight so far, I’m looking forward to training for a second but it’s been forbidden until after my wedding, so I settle for training three or four times a week.

I’ll usually get back to my emails later on in the evening and do a couple of hours more work unless I have plans with Hannah or friends. I’m a huge foodie so I love exploring London and finding new restaurants and cuisines to try.

What’s your workspace like?
We have two pretty spartan units in Brockley, which were empty industrial warehouses when we moved in – in 2015, with Good & Proper. We’ve slowly but surely (and cheaply) improved them and now they’re nice, light and spacious workspaces which suit our respective teams. More importantly we’ve made them our own with plenty of Doisy & Dam touches!

Tell us about your business: when did you launch, and how/why did it come about?
Doisy & Dam makes delicious organic chocolate bars packed with superfoods. It was founded by Ed and I three years ago – we’ve been friends for almost 25 years and had always had shared passion for food. We had real jobs, working all hours of the day and our waistlines were rapidly expanding. We still wanted our treats though, so we started creating superfood infused snacks and we got a pretty enthusiastic response to our choc – the rest is (still rapidly unfolding) history!

We now sell our bars in almost 2000 stores across the country including Sainsbury’s, Holland & Barrett and Ocado. We’ve grown to a team of six awesome oompa loompas working towards one shared chocolatey dream.

My ideal weekend would involve getting a late breakfast from a local market – my favourite is Druid Street market in Bermondsey – followed by a lazy stroll along the Southbank

What’s the greatest challenge when running your own business?
We had some advice recently from one of our investors that I think is hugely valuable: focus on the important not the urgent. We’ve got to a certain scale now that means there’s a huge amount of work to be done and it’s really easy to get bogged down or lost in the detail when actually there are much more important things to be focussed on.

What makes it all worthwhile?
Seeing our bars on shelves and in people’s hands – there’s no better feeling than standing in a store and seeing a stranger walk over to the chocolate section and choose our chocolate from all the other brands out there.

Are there aspects of the production that you delegate to others?
I come from a financial background, whereas Ed’s background was in marketing – so there’s always been a fairly natural split between us. I’m not a natural salesperson so I’m much happier playing around with the chocolate, making sure we’re producing awesome and delicious bars. I also enjoy the financial side of the business, it’s probably our biggest challenge.

Are you a happy lone worker, or do you enjoy the buzz of a shared workspace?
A bit of both. I love our team, they’re an awesome, smart and ambitious group – and I love sharing an office with another company – but sometimes I do need to put in headphones and go into my own little world so I can really concentrate.

What’s the secret to career success?
It’s such a cliché but passion for what you do would be my number one criteria – it’s hard to motivate yourself to do something you don’t care about. We’re trying hard to create an environment which encourages that sense of passion in everyone who works for us.

Is the juggle real for you… do you find it difficult balancing relationship/me-time/time for friends/career?
It’s always a struggle, particularly when you’re trying to start a business and get it off the ground. I’m lucky in that I have a very patient and supportive fiancée who understands. On a personal level I don’t really believe in a work/life balance as the phrase implies one is positive and the other is negative.

Describe an ideal weekend?
My ideal weekend would involve getting a late breakfast from a local market – my favourite is Druid Street market in Bermondsey – followed by a lazy stroll along the Southbank. Afternoons are for football – I’m a huge Arsenal fan so that normally has to feature at some point during the weekend. Evenings are for socialising, I love discovering new areas of London and restaurants and bars are a great way of getting to know an area. Sundays are for chilling, catching up with friends, maybe a little exercise and getting ready for the week ahead.

If you could wake up anywhere tomorrow, where would it be?
I’ve been trying to plan a long weekend away somewhere really remote so I’d have to say Isle of Skye in Scotland – the landscape is stunning and almost otherworldly. Plus the Talisker distillery is on the island.

Visit the website: Doisy and Dam