Future 50: Brownie business aims to become ‘world’s most-loved food brand’
- Credit: Anna Horne
Bwownies, a Suffolk-based chocolate brownie business with ambitions to become “the most exciting and most-loved food brand in the world”, has secured a new kitchen unit near Colchester.
Keelan Waldock, 21, launched Bwownies in 2016 while studying at St Joseph’s College in Ipswich and working part-time at McDonald’s.
“I used to just bake brownies for people's birthdays,” said Keelan. “One day, my nan told me to turn it into a business, and the next day I went into sixth form with free samples. In order for students to get a free sample, they'd have to shout me out on social media and follow me.
“That got the ball rolling, and then I managed to persuade my mum to let me quit McDonald's. Ever since then, it's just been an absolute whirlwind.”
Social media has been a key part of Bwownies’ growth to date. “Without it, I don't really know where Bwownies would be,” said Keelan.
The brand has close to 30,000 followers across its social accounts – while Keelan himself has more than 4,000 followers on LinkedIn. “I've built such a loyal community of people, and they're supporting me just being transparent and authentic with everything I do,” he said.
“There are so many big brands on social media, but you don't see faces, you don't hear stories, you don't hear anything about their journey, basically. They almost come across like robots – and that's something I didn't want Bwownies to be. I really wanted the personality of the brand to come across.
“I always say I want Bwownies to be like that one person at the end of the night, dancing on the table at the bar and singing Mr. Brightside.”
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The business was put on hold when Keelan went to the University of Exeter to study for a sport and health science degree. When lockdown cut his first year short, he relaunched Bwownies online.
“We all went home and it resulted in an ecommerce boom,” said Keelan. “I was looking for different ways to try to take advantage of this, and one of them was influencers or people with big social media followings – celebrities, YouTubers, you name it.
“I remember being sat there on my phone sending email after email to these people. Luckily, some of them got back to me, and that really kickstarted it and showed me that all you have to do is ask. You never know what might happen.”
Dragons’ Den star Steven Bartlett invited Keelan to sell Bwownies at his ‘Diary of a CEO’ show after Keelan posted a video online. He also teamed up with former employer McDonald’s for April Fool's Day to tease people into thinking they had created a ‘Bwownie McFlurry’. “For me, it's about spotting opportunities, then using your initiative and making sure you execute it,” said Keelan.
Bwownies’ new kitchen unit is double the size of its previous unit in Exeter, and will allow Keelan to take on new recruits.
“I'm definitely going to need to bring on a few bakers and different people around the team,” he said. “At the minute, we're still running our ‘direct-to-consumer’ model online, but a big one for me is getting into some retail stores. I want to get into the likes of Tesco, Waitrose – even Selfridges and Harrods – but also local farm shops.”
Keelan would also like Bwownies to become carbon-neutral in the next five years, but the immediate focus is on the product.
“This might sound biased, but I do really believe that I have the best product on the market,” he said. “I don't see why this can't be the most exciting and most-loved food brand – not just in the UK but in the world.”
For more information, visit www.bwownies.com