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Inspiring Female Founder Spotlight: Vivien Wong

Vivien Wong is the co-founder of Little Moons, a mochi ice cream brand. Vivien grew up in North West London and spent many of her formative years helping out at her parent’s bakery. It was there that her passion for high quality ingredients and artisanal recipes was first sparked. She went on to study at the University of Reading before beginning her career at Barclays where she qualified as a chartered accountant and worked for four years. Spotting the opportunity to bring mochi ice cream to Europe and believing that her and her brother Howard were in the perfect position to do so, she left her job in the city and set up Little Moons in 2010. It took two years to perfect the process and recipes before LittleMoons began selling their mochi into restaurants, including Nobu and Sushi Samba. The business went from strength to strength and in 2015 Little Moons launched into Whole Foods, subsequently gaining listings on Ocado in 2016 and in Waitrose in 2017. In February 2021, during COVID-19, Little Moons went viral on TikTok, with more than a 1500% uplift in sales, putting the brand firmly on shoppers radar when it comes to a ice cream based treat. Little Moons is now available across a range of supermarkets including Tesco, Sainsbury’s, Morrison’s and Asda and is Europe’s leading mochi ice cream brand.

Can you tell us a little about your background and the company? How did the idea come to you for the company? 

I have always had a passion for food and watched my parents crafting recipes from their bakery as a child. I saw what it was like to have a job that left you feeling fulfilled and passionate for your craft  

After leaving university I worked for a global corporation and whilst I learnt a lot and I am grateful for my time there, it did not set my world on fire. I was inspired by travel and shared a similar vision with Howard (my brother) to set a business up together. When we first tasted mochi ice-cream is Japan and, in the States, we knew instantly that we wanted to bring the idea to Europe. 

How did you achieve awareness?  

As a completely new offering to the ice cream category, trial was critical for us, so we originally found success supplying restaurants as people tend to be more open to trying new things in restaurants. 

In 2015, five years after we started the business. We had our first Grocery listing in Wholefoods market. Ocado, Waitrose and Tesco listings followed. 

Our break through moment of making consumers aware of our brand was down to an Organic TikTok video going viral and further investment into marketing  

How have you been able to gain funding and grow? 

We were self-funded for the first 10 years through profits. We grew slowly and did most roles ourselves to save money. 

In 2022 we got investment from L Catterton – a private equity house which will unlock next phase of growth and allow support of international growth plans.  

What are the key successes?  

Our key successes have been launching an entirely new product that has completely disrupted the ice cream market and pioneered a new snacking category – UK’s fastest growing ice cream brand and with huge international expansion plans – 11 new market launches in 2022 alone (now sold in 28 countries)

Success for me is about delivering high quality products that truly deliver on flavour. It’s not just about revenue. Our team has also been key to our success – we could not have achieved this alone. We invest in our team and culture and we have recently opened a new office in Farringdon to reflect the changing needs of our team. 

What were/are the challenges and how have you overcome these? 

When Little Moons first started, no one mass produced mochi ice cream in the UK – unlike most start-ups, we had to do all manufacturing in house 

Another challenge when we first started, was that no distributors wanted to list us. We were told it was not worth their while listing us as the business ‘wouldn’t be around in 6 months’. We over came this by finding customers that wanted our products which then forced distributors to list us. 

Brexit, Covid and supply chain have all been challenges in one way or another and have developed exceptionally difficult circumstances for us to operate as a business, but forward planning and investment in team has helped mitigate impact.

What are your plans now/for the future?  

We are focused on international expansion. We recently successfully launched in Australia with three flavours and Woolworths will be expanding the flavour range. 

We are also planning our NPD pipeline so lots of new products to look forward to in the future. 

What would you like to share with others to encourage them to start their own entrepreneurship journey? 

I would encourage women to recognise the value they bring and the value in their ideas. Back yourself and have self-belief. Women are their own worst enemies and often lack confidence. I wish women showed themself the same kindness and confidence that they show their friends. 

I would also urge women not to give away too much equity in the early days (this relates to knowing the value of your idea).

Can you share your top tips for entrepreneurial success? 

Remain focused of your goal and the bigger picture – you may get distracted along the way but eye on the prize 

Be resilient – entrepreneurship is an incredibly tough and lonely road 

Invest in yourself and you will be investing in your business. Sleep, exercise and make sure you turn up to work ready to give it your all.  

Get comfortable performing outside of your comfort zone. That is where growth happens. 

Who are the 5 people who inspire you the most and why?  

  1. My mother – she did everything at home and she worked full time and managed to look glamourous doing so. She represents a generation that got things done – I have a huge amount of respect for her 
  2. Jodi Kantor and Megan Twohey – the two New York Time journalist that wrote the article exposing Harvey Weinstein – I think it took alot of resilience and tenacity to investigate and write a piece like that. People who have the courage to stand up and effect change for the better really inspire me. 
  3. The Queen – The passing of the queen really made me reflect of the length of her reign and she adapted to change and no doubt handled a lot of tough moments in her life both publicly and privately. She was the consummate professional and I respect her deep sense of duty. 
  4. Sara Blakely – an example of a wildly successful entrepreneur who is authentic and isn’t afraid to show the chaos of her life, I love how she views her relationship with her husband as an equal partnership and I love how she retains a strong relationship with her girlfriends. 
  5. Karren Brady – I admire her unshakable confidence from age 23 when she took the job managing Birmingham football club and her unapologetic ambition to succeed in life. She is also a staunch supporter of women in business and I admire the way she has balanced her work and personal life. 

What are your favourite inspirational /motivational quotes? 

This quote really resonated with me as it applies so aptly to being an entrepreneur. So many people have ideas but not the gumption nor courage to commit and prove naysayers wrong. 

“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.” Theodore Roosevelt  

What are your Instagram, Facebook and LinkedIn social handles and also website links so our readers can connect with you?  

Little Moons Mochi | Facebook 

Little Moons (@littlemoonsmochi) • Instagram photos and videos 

(20) Little Moons: Overview | LinkedIn