Meet: Neil Robson, Founder of Rebel Chocolate

Hannah Brice Written by
Hannah Brice
Finally, chocolate IS good for you!

Meet Neil Robson

He decided that he wanted to create a chocolate product that contained half the sugar of market leaders, 25% protein for nutritional value, 57% cocoa (twice as much as the market leaders), with no gluten or lactose. Oh and that tasted amazing too.  And Rebel Chocolate was born….

1. Why did you start Rebel Chocolate and what were you doing before?

I have a Master Degree in Protein Biochemistry and PhD in Immunology, have published more than 20 peer-reviewed scientific papers and have been awarded three prestigious fellowships. But in May 2016 I decided to make a significant career change and I left academic biomedical research. The reasons for this were multifactorial but a major contributing factor was that I have a disability in the form of chronic back pain. This became an insurmountable hurdle for my progression in academia.

Nevertheless, this career move did not change my desire of wanting to do something worthwhile for society. I have always been interested in nutrition and its role in health, so the challenge of reformulating confectionary to improve its nutritional profile was of particular interest to me. My love of chocolate made it an easy decision to first take on the challenge of reformulating milk chocolate.

2. What were the biggest sources of inspiration and support when you were starting out?

Belief from family and friends and surrounding myself with like-minded individuals who are willing to share experiences. 

3. What’s the biggest lesson you’ve learned since starting the business?

Keep in mind that you don’t know what you don’t know. Starting a business is a massive learning journey, which is exciting, but also quite scary. That’s why it’s important to keep an open mind and learn from others. 

4. What has been your proudest moment/biggest achievement so far?

Keeping the business going for 1.5 years! And we won the 2018 Scottish SME Business Innovation awards. The best moments are when you hear your customers telling you how much they like your product.

5. What advice would you give to anyone starting out?

Be tenacious and don’t take rejection personally – you can’t win them all. There is a lot of support available for starting a business so talk to lots of people and seek out that support. 

6. What piece of investment did you make in the business that was worth every penny?

Chocolate equipment is very expensive – we had to buy a 30kg grinder and a tempering machine which was essentially all our savings. It was worth every penny because otherwise we wouldn’t have been able to make and sell our product. 

7. Which element of marketing has made the most impact on your business?

We have basically no marketing budget so we do the best we can ourselves with the usual social media channels. We have been lucky enough that our story has received some press interest and we’ve had a few newspaper articles written about our company. We are now doing responsive PR with SmoothiePR which I would highly recommend. 

8. What do the next 12 months look like for you?

Expansion – hopefully! We want to expand our production capacity and sales routes. We also have a number of new exciting products we would like to bring to the market. 

Have you got a network of support around you to take your business to the next level? Rebel Chocolate did and now look at them.