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Joe Quinlan & Kalem Brinkworth, Founders: The Bonbon Boys

The Bonbon Boys was founded by Joe Quinlan (left) and Kalem Brinkworth (right).
The Bonbon Boys was founded by Joe Quinlan (left) and Kalem Brinkworth (right).

And now, the boys behind the business that brings classic sweet treats to your door. Joe and Kalem, a.k.a. The Bonbon Boys!

We have seen a number of lovely businesses come out of lockdown, but they don’t get much sweeter than this. Drawing on a lack of pick-and-mix availability in the midst of the pandemic, Joe Quinlan and Kalem Brinkworth decided to create their own venture, bringing classic sweet treats to their customers’ doors. Our interview unveiled more…

WHERE ARE YOU FROM ORIGINALLY AND WHEN DID YOU COME TO THE AREA?

KALEM: Well I moved to Poole back in 2002, so I’d say I’m pretty local. I’ve more-or-less grown up here, but I was in the Forest of Dean before that.

JOE: And then I’m not from here either – I’m from Portsmouth originally. I came to the Bournemouth-Poole area for university in 2012 and I’ve just never left – can’t get rid of me!

DO EITHER OF YOU HAVE A CATERING OR CONFECTIONERY BACKGROUND?

J: The short answer is, “No”. I used to work in event management, which is probably as close to catering as you’re going to get without touching catering at all, if that makes sense. So this is all very new to both of us.

WHAT INSPIRED THE IDEA FOR THE BONBON BOYS?

J: It was a mixture of things, really. Kalem and I have known each other for eight years, and we’ve always wanted to do a business together. We have worked with each other in the past, so we know what one another’s styles are like. But it took us a while to figure out exactly what we wanted to do and what the product was.

And so, during lockdown there was a lack of pick-and-mix — for two people who love sweets, that’s not very good. Obviously now, places are slowly starting to reintroduce it, and there are places that have done it all the way through. But in those cases, they’ve wrapped it up and they haven’t done the classics that we’re all used to. So it was that mixed with wanting to start a business. I come from a marketing background; Kalem comes from an interior design background — between us, I think we knew that we could do something with it. It just seemed right; there was a bit of a niche there. And yeah, we know that there are other people doing what we’re doing, so we can’t lie and say we weren’t a little inspired by that.

YOU STARTED THIS VENTURE IN THE MIDDLE OF LOCKDOWN. HOW MUCH OF A CHALLENGE HAS THAT PROVEN TO BE?

J: I would say it has been more of an opportunity than a challenge. In actual fact, I think if we were never locked down, we never would have done this. People have been stuck indoors, turning to a digital tide of getting luxuries brought to the home and getting home-making kits and things. So yeah, it has been a real opportunity.

K: And being stuck in the house has given us the time to actually do it.

J: Yeah, I mean we both work full-time, but having the evenings and weekends to ourselves definitely helped.

WHAT HAS THE RESPONSE BEEN LIKE?

J: Excellent. Overwhelming.

K: Yeah, those are the words for it.

J: I think we knew that people would like it; I just don’t think we knew how much. We spent many late nights and weekends on it. It has been popular — exceeded our expectations in terms of orders. And actually, we have had a lot of outreach from the media, bloggers, things like that. Never expected that at all – we thought it would just be a little sideline — and it still is a sideline.

K: We just didn’t expect it to be quite like this. It has really helped push us along.

HOW DO YOU HOPE TO DEVELOP THE BUSINESS AS LOCKDOWN STARTS TO RELAX?

J: I think we have a few concerns about that, because we were founded on the basis of lockdown pushing us along, and now we have to make sure that we can diversify and still keep going, even though people are returning to the shops. It’s a case of building on the brand — we have always aimed to be quite a tongue-in-cheek brand, we want to be fun and relatable, and I think that’s a matter of ensuring our marketing is targeted there. It’s building our product development; it’s making sure that we’re releasing boxes that are different, that are fun, that capitalise on people’s nostalgia.

K: And keep things fresh.

J: We also want to break into the events market a bit. Weddings and similar events — there’s always a demand for pick-and-mix at those sorts of things.

IF YOU WERE PUTTING TOGETHER YOUR OWN DREAM PICK-AND-MIX BOX, WHAT WOULD IT INCLUDE?

J: I suppose the boxes are really based on our favourites.

K: If I could have a box of giant cables of different flavours, that would be my ideal. But yeah, like Joe says, the boxes we sell do contain all our favourites.

J: Yeah, we tried to make them popular for everyone, but we’d be lying if we said there weren’t a few in there for us. The watermelons that are in our classic box are fantastic — we love those. And Kalem thinks I’m boring for liking these, but I really like the bubblegum bottles. They’re just a retro favourite of mine.

K: I prefer the sour dummies.

AS THIS IS A RELATIVELY NEW VENTURE, WHAT ARE YOUR IMMEDIATE NEXT STEPS?

J: We do have another box on the horizon. A lot of our competitors are doing a huge array of different boxes and, sadly with time constraints and both of us having full-time jobs, that’s just not viable for us. We want to make sure we put quality into our boxes. So the next box we’re doing is themed around the ’60s, ’70s, and ’80s. It’s going to be very retro — the kind of thing our parents got as children. Trying to appeal to that older market — that’s the next step.

WHAT IS THE DREAM OR THE END GOAL FOR THE BONBON BOYS?

J: When we started this, it developed more-or-less in the space of two weeks — we didn’t really come with a plan. But if it continues to be successful, and if we did have the opportunity to go into physical retail (obviously, we don’t know what direction the high street is going to go in over the next couple of years), the shop would be very Willy Wonka-esque. Hopefully very fun to come to. And we would like to invent our own sweets — become the next Willy Wonkas. But that’s a long way off — we’ve only been going for three weeks.

Find out more about The Bonbon Boys on their Facebook and Instagram pages, as well as their website. Also, click the following link for our Catering & Hospitality stories. Plus, you can follow HQB Media on all our social media channels: FacebookTwitterInstagramLinkedIn and YouTube

Dale Hurst
Dale Hurst is the Content Editor of HQB Media, as well as an author, restaurant critic and presenter. A graduate in Multimedia Journalism from Solent Journalism, Dale has a wide variety of journalistic experience, ranging from reviewing top London restaurants to interviewing MPs for BBC Radio. As a writer, Dale specialises in entertainments, lifestyle and culture.
http://dale-hurst.com

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