How did you get started?
I worked for the Civil Service for almost thirty year but have always had a passion for cooking and fine food, something encouraged by my mother. I was one of thousands who lost their jobs in government cutbacks following the onset of the recession but I was lucky enough to receive funding for retraining. I enlisted on a variety of cookery courses but the one that captivated me was a course with master chocolatier, Ruth Hinks. Indeed, I changed a couple of the others so that I could take more courses with Ruth. With the help and support of my husband, Niall, we figured out the look and feel we wanted for the business and set about perfecting the recipes. Incidentally, I am Carlotta's Chocolates rather than Charlotte's Chocolates simply because that domain had already been taken and in this day and age if you can't be found on Google you don't exist!
What’s the best piece of business advice you could give?
Figure out your cash flow before you start, don't invest in equipment until you can't progress without it, know what it is that makes your offer distinctive and promote it remorselessly. Paid for advertising is a waste of money these days; inbound marketing, such as social media platforms, is where it is at.
Where would you like to see your business in 5 years time?
We are not interested in endless growth, for philosophical as well as practical reasons. There are plenty of examples of artisan businesses which have become anonymous by growing too big. We want to keep the personal feel to our business and to keep that authentic. But we do want to develop our brand into an attractive model for franchising.
If you could only cook one of your own products/recipes, what would it be & why?
Right now, it would have to be our dark chocolate bonbon: it's the first of our lines to receive a Great Taste Award and is very distinctive.
You can invite one person (living or dead) to your last meal – Who would it be and why? …and what’s on the menu?
My last supper...? Well, it would have to be something I would like to eat: sorry if that seems selfish! So that would be a fillet steak, chips, and a large freshly picked salad followed by my apricot brioche. I love fine dining but under the circumstances I would go popular. And it would have to be outside on a June day at my parent's place in rural France. I see them too infrequently and would like to be with them.
To make these award winning chocolates number 6 of your five and day, pop into any of the stockists dotted across the country, however if their isn't a stockist near to you, why not ask your local deli to get in touch with Carlotta's Chocolates or simply log on to the website and buy online