Q & A with Ella McKay, Founder of Fatso

by May 1, 2024

What do you love most about the brand you’ve created? 

Our chocolate of course! FATSO has deliciousness, character and unrivalled ethical credentials. I love that we have created something that is bold, yummy and without compromise. We’re playing in a very complicated market with challenges around corruption, slavery and environmental issues. So we’re just happy to be making really great chocolate and doing so with integrity. 

Have you always wanted to work in this industry?

I don’t think I ever wanted to work in one particular industry. For me, I just want to work in places or industries where it doesn’t really feel “like work,” and the people I work with are kind and determined. That said, I don’t know many people who would say they wouldn’t want to work in chocolate, so I feel very fortunate! 

What are you most proud of? 

The fact that we’re proving our mission is possible:  to take the boring out of dark chocolate and put fun, character and wit in- without compromising on taste, quality and ethics.

When we came up with the idea for FATSO, we knew we wanted the chocolate to be good and ethical, but we were naive to the extent of the industry’s complexity; we didn’t know how deep rooted and vast the problems are. We knew we wanted to create the tastiest dark chocolate bar around, to show that dark chocolate could be just as much fun as milk chocolate. But our mission got bigger very quickly- which was to deliver all that fun, wit and play to the mouths of all, totally guilt free. And we’re doing it! 

What advice would you give to someone keen to start a business but unsure where to begin?

Talk, talk, talk! Chat to friends, family, colleagues and reach out to other business owners (in your industry of interest or not. If you don’t know anyone, LinkedIn is a great place to start) to get advice, bounce ideas and generally stress-test and build confidence in the product or service you’re wanting to launch.

Delve deep into understanding the industry and its customers/consumers to ensure you’re solving a problem that needs solving. Speak to potential suppliers about your idea to gauge feasibility. 

Starting your own business is like raising a child- it takes a village. So don’t feel that you have to do it all alone! I am part of a founding team of 3, an extremely lucky position to be in. We all have different strengths and skill sets, which we all play to, to keep momentum. If you don’t have a running mate, then find one or two people that can give you guidance on the areas you don’t feel as confident in (be that finance, packaging design or social media!). 

Who is one of your biggest inspirations – either professionally or personally?

Renee Elliot, Founder of Planet Organic. Only recently has Renee told the real story behind what happened with her exit from Planet Organic before buying the business back; it really struck a chord. She kicked back after being siloed and forced out by the male dominated boardroom, she is unapologetic in her motherhood, and she puts her integrity and values at the heart of her approach.

So many businesses lose their way when investment starts rolling in, founders dilute (or exit) their equity, and the bottom line becomes more important than the brand, its product, its purpose and the people behind it. Whilst Planet Organic was one of these businesses, with Renee Elliot being a minority shareholder with no seat at the table for a number of years, when faced with collapse she decided to face into the storm, take it back and nurture it back to health, her way- with integrity, purpose and conviction. I guess she’s an inspiration to me because she’s demonstrating that value, people centric businesses can win too. 

If you could attribute your success to anyone who gave you your big break?

Gosh, I’m not sure I’ve had it yet! Maybe it’s best not to know if you have or haven’t; keeps you driving forward, striving for more. That said, I owe my co-creators a great deal for putting their faith and support in me to “quit the day job” and make it feasible for Fatso to be the full time day job (even though I’ve never run a business before, let alone a chocolate brand). And my ex-boss, mentor and now friend who has been my cheerleader, blindspot and guiding ear for nearly 7 years. 

What’s the hardest thing about your job?

I’m sure I’m not alone in the small business world on this one: managing cashflow vs ensuring we have enough stock to sell! 

Which part of your job do you most enjoy?

Oh I love all of it. Working with our female-powered team to get more bars in mouths’, chatting to our customers to gain feedback or help them drive more sales, ideation sessions about new flavours & formats, P&L meetings: watching the peaks & troughs of the business, and of course… EATING FATSO (someone has to check it’s up scratch!) 

Do you find it easy to balance work and play?

Yes- because for me, to play is to work. The play is what brings the creativity, the weirdness and the wonderful. It’s what breaks down boundaries and reveals ideas that challenge the norm. FATSO is all about challenging convention- forget the serious and the boring- this is chocolate! It’s about the tasty eat, the fun & the swag, with all the goodness and heart baked in.

About Emily Eaves

Co Founder and Editor at To Work or Play, Emily has been Freelance Copywriting for over 10 years. She is passionate about food, drink, travel, design and finding ways to keep her two children out of trouble.

With a background in Luxury Restaurant and Hotel PR, Emily moved from London to Dorset in 2019. She now spends weekends at the beach and daydreams about her vegetable garden.