Back in April, I was lucky enough to be able to attend a session that the University of Cumbria was running in Carlisle on Marketing, PR & Brand Building by Josephine Fairley, the co-founder of Green & Black’s (yes, there were free samples, no they didn't last long!!). I actually won a prize (along with Amanda) for the toughest question!!Jo started out in her career as a secretary before becoming a journalist. She had always had concern for the environment (a 'green streak' as she called it!), and her husband founded the Soil Association and the Whole Earth food brand. One day in 1991, Jo found a sample of chocolate on his desk - this was the best chocolate she had ever tasted. Whole Earth couldn't sell the chocolate (as Whole Earth was founded on 'no added sugar') so he suggested that Jo marketed it herself.
Inspired by Anita Ruddick (founder of the Body Shop), who proved that you could do good through doing business, and with £20,000 in the bank from the sale of her flat, Jo bought a whole pile of chocolate which she stored in refrigerated units during that year's heatwave.
The Green & Blacks brand was created one night in the Portobello Road, where Jo and her husband played with various names. The name Green & Black's was reminiscent of an old-english confectionery company, and sounded like an established business with instant heritage. It only took them 15 minutes to design the packaging, which included gold, black, ribbon and a seal - as Jo said, ir looked like a real product!!
In March 1994 they launched Maya Gold, which was the UK’s first Fair Trade marketed product. This brought a new wave of publicity, both for Green & Black's and for Fair Trade itself - methodists and vicars launched campaigns to get the product stocked in Tescos!!
Jo delivered a fantastic talk about branding and PR, and really was an inspiration to us small business people that attended the talk. I was lucky enough to be able to spend some time with Jo after the event and got to ask her advice on branding - I was very nervous but Jo was lovely and gave me some fantastic advice! One of the things she said really stuck with me: Design is about evolution not revolution!!
I also learned that Jo doesn’t have a degree – she left school with 8 O levels and went to secretarial college. I often think about the fact that I don't have a degree - but a degree does not mean that you will be successful, just as not having a degree doesn't mean that you will be a failure.
If you ever get the opportunity to hear Jo talk, my advice would be to grab it!