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The Story Behind The Site: The Hardihood

The Story Behind The Site: The Hardihood

After giving up sugar together as a New Year’s resolution in 2015, flatmates Daisy and Leah founded The Hardihood as a solution for the lack of healthy dessert options on the market. They now create beautiful raw vegan cakes and desserts in London. They published their first cookbook in March of 2017 which includes recipes that are free of refined sugar, gluten, dairy, wheat, and soy. By archiving their visually stunning and delicious confections on their Squarespace site—ultimately sharing their vision with the world—Daisy and Leah are working to redefine what it means to eat healthily.

Making a product that is both visually beautiful and healthy is what makes your treats so unique. Can you tell us about the vegan scene in London and how The Hardihood fits into the broader movement of healthy living?

When we founded The Hardihood in 2015, you could just about feel the rumblings of the healthy movement beginning in London. We had returned from respective extended trips to Japan and Ibiza and wanted to live a little more in line with nature. We’d given up refined sugar and were experimenting with making our own raw recipes as well as getting really stuck into the healthy food London had to offer. One of the things we noticed was that many brands weren’t challenging the misconception that natural food should be brown, bland, and boring. We saw an opportunity here and made it our mission to create delicious, natural desserts that looked good, tasted good, and felt good too. We market The Hardihood like a lifestyle brand, placing heavy emphasis on the aesthetics. Three years later, it’s this that has allowed us [to] cut through in an increasingly competitive market. Our products [have] been featured on the pages of Vogue, Marie Claire, and Tatler to name a few.  

Each of your confections seem to tell a story. Where do you find the inspiration for your unique recipes and gorgeous color palettes?

In the early days we were inspired by the desserts of our childhoods. Connection to food is incredibly emotional and we were fixated on recreating the puddings that gave us a feeling of sweet nostalgia. Our book documents this well and you’ll regularly see references in the titles and descriptions to how these treats made us feel as kids. Colour palettes are a reference point for us—more often than not, we’ll brainstorm how we’d like a cake to look before we get to work on the flavor combinations. In hindsight, I think our backgrounds in fashion, journalism, and hospitality have also come into play when reflecting on the decoration, naming, presentation, and customer experience. We go to great lengths to make sure that every element of the process feels like a celebration for the customer, whether it’s placing the order, opening the cake box, or taking that first bite. It has to look good, taste good, and feel good.

Do you have a favorite culinary project that you’ve worked on, or collaborations that you’ve been a part of?  

Writing our first recipe book “RAW CAKE” is probably up there. Although it was stressful, the preparation around it was exciting. We travelled to LA together on a whistle stop trip (just long enough to fall in love with everything about it) and came back full of ideas and inspiration, not just for the book, but for our brand too. One of our goals is to take The Hardihood to LA.

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Can you tell us a bit about the evolution of the company, from friends to successful entrepreneurs, over the last few years? How has building a website been a part of that evolution?

When talking about how long we’ve been in business, we usually refer to the day that we launched the website as being day one. Before that was a lot of trialing, planning, and emailing from a Gmail account. It’s funny to look back and remember how scared we were to launch the e-commerce segment of the website. We were both still moonlighting in other jobs at the time and the number of enquiries we were receiving was increasing daily. We were worried that if people could simply order through the website then we’d be inundated with cake orders that we wouldn’t be able to deliver on. These days, we’re delighted with the amount of cake orders that come our way. We were lucky enough to outsource a large portion of our production to a manufacturer who still makes everything by hand—only with more hands. This allowed us to really dedicate ourselves to the commercial development of The Hardihood. We’ve had some difficult lessons to learn and surely many more to come, but we’re committed to growing the most exciting, innovative dessert brand in the UK.

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Has the process of creating a cookbook deepened your connection to your community or each other?

We probably don’t need to increase our connection to each other anymore—we’re already hilariously close, turning up to the studio in matching outfits, finishing each other's sentences, and calling each other out like sisters. “RAW CAKE” has definitely been a very tangible way for us to see The Hardihood working its magic in the real world—little things like spotting the book on people's bookshelves on Instagram and seeing the creations that people have made from it. It’s always touching to hear from someone who thought they’d never eat anything delicious again after giving up “insert food group”, only to make something from the book that blows their mind. It brings us back to being in the business of celebration. We like the idea that our desserts find themselves at dinner parties, weddings, birthdays, christenings, bar mitzvahs, you name it. We love that people think of us at their happiest moments!

The gallery of treats on your website is absolutely stunning. Can you talk about how you use your website to showcase your products, and any advice that you would pass along to a new entrepreneur looking to boost their online presence?

Our website is not only a platform for showcasing our offering but also a way to communicate to everyone who googles “RAW CAKE”, “VEGAN CAKE”, “HEALTHY CAKE”, “LONDON CAKE” who we are, what we believe in, and how we see the world. We made our website as unique as possible, focusing on sensory essentials and minimal clutter, much like our products. We don’t  preach or wax lyrical about eating raw, vegan, free-from, whatever. We provide a choice, an alternative, but never a compromise, and the rest is up to you!

Our advice to other entrepreneurs would be to make sure your website reflects you as a company. If you’re promising something innovative and forward thinking, make sure your website reflects that. Daisy built our website over the Christmas holidays. It was time consuming but she loved it and I think that shows. If you’re someone who’d rather be absorbed in Excel than faffing around with fonts (that’s me, by the way) then find someone who is excited to help build your website for you. Even if you’re not creative, you’ll know what represents your brand. It’s just about finding someone who can actualize that. Most of all, make sure your website does your brand justice. As a startup, it's one element of your external facing [image] that you can control entirely and at a relatively low cost. Use this to get ahead of big corporate brands who might underestimate or overlook the importance of having an exciting online presence!

The Hardihood is powered by the Adirondack Squarespace template.

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