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Pioneer of the Week: Andy Young from Black Milk

Community Manager

Pioneer of the Week: Andy Young from Black Milk

Andy on the right with co-founder OllyAndy on the right with co-founder Olly

Forget plain old banana, chocolate or strawberry - today’s milkshakes are flavoured with everything from Oreos and peanut butter to Nutella and breakfast cereal.

 

That said, Manchester milkshake guru, Andy Young, @BlackMilk admits he’s partial to mixing old flavours and new, namely strawberries with Nutella. We caught up with the co-founder of Black Milk cereal and milkshake bars to chat about the opportunities presented by the modern renaissance of a classic treat.

 

How did you start your business?

Black Milk was conceived by my business partner, Olly. He saw the trend for takeaway blended drinks and thought there was a gap in the market for a high end experience bar tapping into that market. We thought cereal would make the perfect accompaniment to milkshakes, allowing us to offer dishes unique to Black Milk.

 

To our amazement, from our first announcement we’ve had national press coverage and therefore knew the idea had potential. We’re about to announce our first franchise, and will be opening a third location in greater Manchester before the end of the year.

 

What made you start your business?

Olly and I have always worked for entrepreneurs. Seeing their passion and drive to achieve their dreams is infectious.

 

What do you love most about being an entrepreneur?

The sense of achievement that comes from creation.

We have created something that people enjoy, share and talk about. We’ve also created jobs for our staff whilst helping other entrepreneurs achieve their own goals in food, photography, design and accountancy.

 

What has been the biggest challenge so far?

Saying no.

We’re privileged to be continually asked to work on exciting projects. However, we have to think long and hard about the return on investment.

We’ve also had multiple offers for stakes in the business that appeared to be more than tempting at the time. We always approach each potential deal with an open mind, but are willing to wait until we find the right partner.

 

Can you share an experience that really helped you take your business forward?

Virgin StartUp loans were invaluable. They enabled us to open our second café when other sources of capital were not available.

The wise, impartial advice that our mentor, Peter, has given has been invaluable in our development as a business and as professionals.

  

S'moreosS'moreosWhere do you work from?

We live at the new café at the moment. Every day we aim to improve on what we do to create an unforgettable experience for each person that walks through our door. Constant menu development, interaction and feedback from guests is fundamental to this.

Naturally the product is all-important. I used to love making S'mores [melted marshmallow treats] around a campfire when I was young in Houston, Texas. The classic ingredient, Graham Crackers, are impossible to find in England so we use the best American biscuit available which is, of course, the quintessential Oreo, to create our S'Moreo.

Incidentally, we go through a lot of milk chocolate along with our signature salted caramel sauce. We don’t use chocolate sauce, just melted Belgian chocolate.

 

What’s been the highlight so far?

We worked with Kellogg’s to create a special cereal for the Queen called Queen Flakes.

Shopping during menu development is fun. There is this magical place called Hancock’s, which is a grown-up’s version of Willy Wonka's factory, with aisle upon aisle of confectionery.

Last but not least, we love working with local patisserie chefs, bakers and caterers to create specials with locally produced treats.

 

What do you wish you knew when you first started in business?

Not to try to do too many things at once. It’s easy to jump at every opportunity. Over time I’ve learned to focus my energy on one project at a time.

 

What are your three tips for your industry?

  1. Create something customers truly care about. Next, provide customers with all the right tools, content and incentive to sing your praises.
  2. Surround yourself with like-minded, driven individuals. There’s nothing more rewarding than bouncing ideas and concepts off people that you either aspire to emulate, or whose knowledge you value.
  3. Use the power of social media sites like LinkedIn and Twitter for B2B networking. You can make invaluable connections that would once have taken far more effort. Effective networking can allow you to quickly achieve your goals through mutually beneficial relationships.

What would you like to ask the Voom Pioneers community?

Who would like to collaborate with us to drive our business further?

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