Valentine’s day 1994, and I had a liquorice business concept forming, mostly in my head but I’d taken practical steps too. I secured an exclusive contract to import a brand new liquorice product to the UK. A small bank loan and all my savings bought me shipping, storage and a stall. I had a list of shows and events that liked my idea. What I didn’t have was the brand name. But on a cold February morning in my dear friend Julie’s kitchen, Saint Valentines Liquorice Company was born.
The story goes, I’d met an old Yogi, whilst travelling in India who’d instilled an idea in me. Through mediation, kindness and a stick of liquorice root for good health, I can find happiness. My encounter with Guruji was five years earlier, and the only part, I’d taken to heart of the sage advice given me was about the liquorice. Well, that’s what I told myself anyway.
Liquorice from the Fjords
The liquorice I was about to start importing, I’d first come across four years earlier in Oslo, Norway, where I lived and worked. It was nothing like the liquorice root stick I was diligently chewing. No, this was different. Long, shiny, black twists, looking like an edible rope. It was not only black, but there were also reds, greens, browns, blues, and orange—a rainbow-like kaleidoscope of liquorice confectionery.
Not only did it look and taste amazing, but the good folks of Oslo also loved it. My friend Magna, (there’s a right old Norwegian name) sold it from a small wheeled barrow boy cart. Most days during the summer he’d roll it out, and set up shop in the popular Aker Brygge, amongst the restaurants, bars, cafe’s and shops next to Oslo fjord. I managed one of these restaurants, so I provided the overnight storage for his stall and stock. That’s when a small seed of an idea settled somewhere in my subconscious, and I became quite an expert in product tasting to boot.
A Valentines Day & Liquorice Name
It was Julie who suggested Saint Valentines on that cold morning. I understood people who liked liquorice were very passionate about just how much they enjoyed it from my earlier Norwegian experience. They claimed they loved it. What can’t we do when we are in love? Quite a lot, apparently. Our rational thinking mind disengages, but that’s another story. On a day that commonly celebrates the notion of romance and love, what has rationality got to do with it? And so the Valentines Day Liquorice Co. name began to form.
Long Liquorice, Long Name
Personal brand names are hot in 2021—Microbusiness names attract the generation Zs and millennials. They don’t trust big corporations, like Netflix, Airbnb, Apple, etc., but they love their branding. In 1994, I wanted to create a memorable brand and liked Valentines Liquorice and its long-form. It seemed to suit the products, after all until now, nobody sold liquorice sticks 50cm long in the UK. And so after bouncing ideas, listening, drawing and umpteen cups of tea, we settled on St Valentines Liquorice Co.
Cupid shot your arrow
Brands are continually searching for new ways to engage audiences, and many of them are discovering that art and illustration is an excellent way to go about this. A few years into the business, we did this when Elaine (my wife) illustrated Cupid in our logo. We love our Cupid, and so it seems do our customers. Incorporating art is vital and Elaine is our resident artist. We want our customers to connect with our brand because it is personable and familiar, even though the name is long and not automatically on-trend.
Saint Valentines Liquorice Company
And so, after 27 years, on the eve of our naming day amid a global pandemic, we’re incredibly grateful, that we have this unique story. You reacted with interest, passion and enthusiasm when we did our first show in May 1994. The same year we went to Glastonbury Festival because the trade manager liked our concept so much, but had no allocated space. We had to wait 24 hours in the wholesale compound until he found a small gap between two long-standing caterers stalls. The Festival was open, and hundreds of thousands (this was before the fence) were onsite. We set up, opened, and sold from that kaleidoscope of liquorice confectionery and made friends, some for life. And our name stuck, just like the mud.