An Altrincham couple have gone from operating out of their in-laws’ garage to being one of the UK’s biggest vegan chocolate brands.
Rimi and Manav Tharpar, both 38, set up their LoveRaw brand of vegan chocolate back in 2013 with just £600 — now, they employ 16 permanent staff, despite seeing parts of their trade ‘completely die’ during Covid.
What makes the Tharpar’s journey even more remarkable is that they appeared on TV’s Dragons Den — and rejected an offer from Deborah Meaden.
“We had a very small room in Manav’s parents garage,” Rimi tells the Manchester Evening News .
“It had a sink, a few cupboards, and a window out into the garage — that was it. It allowed me to start manufacturing our products at home.”
Although Manav’s parents hosted the business’ first kitchen, Manav himself was not there to witness LoveRaw’s birth — but that’s not to say that Rimi’s mission was a solo one.
“We tried to set up the business in Spain but it was too bureaucratic,” Rimi says, “so I moved back to the UK and left Manav back there for nearly a year.
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“His parents helped out producing orders and with the pallets of ingredients turning up on the driveway, but we made it happen.”
Throughout that period, Rimi was still the driving force behind the company, working long days — including one night when she woke up at 3am to check on the drying process of some bars in the works.
After six months of ‘extremely difficult’ toil and home cooking, orders were large enough to start taking production to factories.
Since then, the firm has gone from strength to strength, with a major change coming in 2018, when it narrowed its focus from vegan food to just vegan chocolate.
Like all businesses in the UK, the Tharpars took a hit when Covid-19 struck.
“We had to furlough people because certain areas of the business completely died,” Manav says.
“Our food business, hotels, cafes, everything closed.
“We just tried to find enough work but it was very difficult.”
Having overcome those problems, Manav is now confident that LoveRaw will go from strength to strength in the coming years.
“We had to shift online, and we really had to shift a lot online,” he says.
We’re testing a new site:
“In a way, it’s really helped build the brand — we’re doing a lot of digital marketing, a lot of transformation with existing customers.
“Even when things got relatively back to normal we still have those gains. Online’s really strong, and it’s growing and growing — we’re going to have a fantastic year from it.
“It just shows that all the effort from the team has been worth it. We have a small team and everyone got stuck in. It’s paying off now, all that hard work during the first lockdown.”
Whatever the future holds for the company, two things look to be constant.
Firstly, that the couple love making vegan chocolate, and that they’re just as in love with Altrincham — Manav’s hometown
“It’s really becoming a hub and a great place with the market,” he says.
“It’s convenient with our kids’ schools and nurseries, so it has to be convenient for us as we’re still working six or seven days a week.
“Having our office nearby is really helpful.”