Spotlight on… Olivia Stone, Director at Stoats

Spotlight on… Olivia Stone, Director at Stoats

a month agoPosted in Other

Australian born Olivia has worked for advertising agencies in New York, Edinburgh, Melbourne and Auckland. She moved to the Scottish capital when she was 8 and despite continuing to travel after school years, she’s always been pulled back to the city she calls home. Here she talks to egg about working with her husband, challenges facing independent businesses, getting the balance right and how they went from making porridge in food trucks to supplying supermarkets…

What do you love most about the Scottish capital?

When I came back from New Zealand in 2011, I had a real appreciation for the architecture. I love to walk up the Pentland Hills when the kids are at Hillend. There are not many places where you can take in a beautiful vista and have a Highland cow standing right beside you!

STOATS

Tell us about Stoats

Stoats was started by my husband Tony and his school friend Bob. Tony developed a business plan to have a café on the Royal Mile where you could have a bowl of porridge with a cup of coffee and set about your day. The business plan came to £200k. They were given a £4k loan by the Prince’s Trust so with that money they bought a vintage American hot dog trailer, called it the Stoats Porridge Bar (Stoats is a mash up of Stone and Oats) and took it to serve porridge at the Castle Street Farmer’s market as well as music festivals across the UK.

The queues were long and every so often people would ask for a Porridge Bar – an idea was born. Tony developed a recipe for a bar of porridge. He started making them in his Mum’s kitchen and Bob would go around in a van selling them to local cafes, Victor Hugo’s was our first one. We started selling our porridge oat bars in 2008 and now make approximately 160,000 a day.

Why focus on oats?

In Scotland we have perfect growing conditions for oats and grow some of the best in the world. Using the best ingredients is important to us - 80% of a Stoats bar is made with ingredients from the UK. We’re well on our way to being NetZero by 2040. Green isn’t just our brand colour; sustainability is a core focus and we make changes every day to lighten our footprint on the environment.

STOATS

How did you take the step from making porridge in food trucks to supplying supermarkets?

In 2008, after selling the bars to cafes, Tony and Bob took a stand at The Royal Highland Show – one of the retailers told them to get some proper packaging (the bars at that time were cellophane wrapped and sealed with tape!). If they did that, then they would give them a listing! Stoats is now sold at supermarkets all across the UK and 16 countries internationally.

We are proud to be an independent business with no big business backing. We are the largest independent brand sold in the cereal bar aisle of the supermarket and we are so appreciative when people come up and say they love our bars. Being on the shelves beside big multinational companies sometimes feels like David vs Goliath – so every time someone buys a pack, we really do appreciate it. We have been approached for equity / purchase in the past but we like being in charge of our own destiny.

How did you meet Tony?

We were at the same school and I used to go to the porridge van at the Farmers Market after hockey on a Saturday. I guess it was meant to be. We’re now married, have 2 kids and live in the southside of Edinburgh.

OLIVIA STONE STOATS

Were you always planning on joining the business?

I joined Stoats in 2015 as Marketing Director. When our first child, Chloé, was born the timing and opportunity made sense. I'm glad I made that move to bring my skills from the advertising world and contribute to the growth of our company.

How has your role changed over the years?

My job covers more aspects now. I look after some of our key supermarket accounts, bring to market all of our new products and purchase all of our packaging. The stretch that’s required for those running a small business. You roll up your sleeves and get involved where required!

What’s it like working with your husband?

We have quite separate roles in the business and work on different floors! I think we do well though… we try not to talk about work at home.

STOATS

Is Stoats still handmade in Edinburgh?

Absolutely. We have a fantastic site in Loanhead which used to be Gregg’s – they hand twisted the Yum Yums here! When we initially came across it, the site was being shut down for consolidation of the operations and many of the team were being made redundant. We were so lucky to not only find a fantastic bakery but to also employ many of the team that had so much experience.

Our talented team of bakers really are so integral to the quality of our products. The people that work with us are our greatest asset. We don’t have a site where you push the button at one end and the products come out the other. There are people involved in every part of the process. Time and effort go into every Stoats bar. Stoats bars are the Taste of Scoatland - get it?!

Biggest achievement so far?

Getting a National listing is a fantastic achievement for any food business. We are so proud that our products are sold all across the UK.

Biggest challenge facing independent businesses?

Facing the ‘big boys’ on shelf that will try all the tactics to try and push out brands like ours! But we have a product that taste great and offers good value to shoppers at time when finances are a challenge so we are definitely fighting our corner!

Any top tips for working mums?

No matter who you are, whether you are a Mum or not, we are just all trying our best! I will be the first to say that I’ve had times where life can feel just a bit too challenging… work, looking after the kids, older parents… the pressure can mount up.

My way of coping is to take one day at a time – I watched the Stutz documentary on Netflix and the ‘String of Pearls theory’ really resonated with me:

Every day you create this necklace. Every action you take is the next pearl on the string. It doesn’t matter whether it is a small action (brushing your teeth) or a big action (getting a job). It’s just a pearl on the string.

Each action has equal value and contributes to your life. All you have to do is keep going. “Despite the big success or failure, you will keep going,” says Stutz. Inside every pearl, there is this turd. Because no action is perfect — no pearl is flawless. Don’t worry about perfection. Just continue the forward motion.

Your advice for aspiring entrepreneurs?

Have confidence in your idea. Say yes to opportunities that come your way and work out the solution later. Reach out to others. We often have start-up food brands coming to our site to find out about our journey and to get advice.

STOATS

Where can we find your products? And discounts for eggs?!

All supermarkets in Scotland and at eatstoats.com. eggs can enjoy a 25% off voucher at eatstoats.com, just use the code EGG25

What’s next?

We are excited about launching our protein bars next month in Tesco (and other retailers soon after that). They are super tasty! To celebrate the launch there will be a competition on egg soon and protein bars for all runners at the Stoats runny egg!

egg partners Stoats are sponsoring the runnyegg 10k at Archerfield Walled Garden on 7th September 2024. So, pull on those running shoes, grab your girlfriends, and let's make it the most unforgettable run of the year! Sign up.

eggs can enjoy a 25% off at eatstoats.com, just use the code EGG25.

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