Planning your new Chocolate Business

It’s almost 2019 and a new year where some of you might be planning your new Chocolate business. In the current retail climate you could be forgiven for feeling a little nervous but there are still business opportunities to be had in the changing face of the high street.

We ran our own retail chocolate shop for five years as well as several pop-up shops. During that time we had a lot of success and also made a lot of mistakes. During the five years of running our shop we were listed in Lonely Planet as one of the top visitors locations in the Cotswolds, named as small business of the year, and used as a BBC film location with Jay Rayner pictured above.

We distilled all of our experience into a book ‘How to make Money selling chocolates‘ to give potential new retail businesses the benefits of our hindsight.

So before you leap headlong into signing a lease, here’s an extract from the Planning your Chocolate Business section of our book asking the following question… 

Why are you starting a business?

This might seem like simple question but it is key to plotting your way forward.
A change of lifestyle and the chance to control your destiny, be your own boss are often the driving reasons to start a business, but unless you have no mortgage, no bills and are fully self sufficient, you will want to do more than break even. (..and if you are in the above position, what are you thinking?! Get back to your armchair and enjoy the sunset! )

Harsh truth #1 -Becoming your own boss may sound like a fantastic idea but the truth is you’ll be working for a mad person!

Not only will you have to do the things you like doing – perhaps conversing with your customers as the benevolent patron or creating mouthwatering confections in a flurry of cocoa powder and a “Vianne Rocher”1950’s headscarf but you’ll also need to find time to do the accounts, payroll, Human Resources, Marketing, Ordering, Stock Control, Cleaning…. you get the picture!
To start your business you’ll probably be making a significant financial investment of your own money and possibly that of family, friends, the bank or even crowd funding. You’ll also stand a chance of burning through a significant amount of cash in the early days once your business has opened.
So let’s assume you aim to make money, you just need to decide how much. Easy. You’re potentially going from a position of financial security to one of high financial risk. So how much money does your business need to make to be worth that risk, or how much will your lifestyle change to make the risk worth it?

REALITY CHECK Decide at the start why you really want to open a shop – is it to grow your wealth or for a change of lifestyle?

What do you want to achieve – money – how much?

If you’re a starting a business to try and earn more money than you could in your existing job, it’s worth taking stock of your current income and associated security. Write it down…and not just the salary, but the paid holidays, the pension, the subsidised canteen lunches, the free cups of coffee, the pilfered biros, the paid sick days and the gratis Christmas bash!

So how much money do you want or need your business to pay you per year? 20,000, 50,000; 200,000; a million?

Pick a figure that you’d like to achieve and write it down as your 5 year goal.
What will your business need to look like in order to generate that kind of money?
This is where it gets more difficult as you’ll need to speculate. We’ll break this down into more detail later to help you plan but in order to earn any amount of money, you’ll need to be generating profit from sales and covering all your costs.
Your costs will depend on the planned size of the business – how many sites, how many staff, how many people needed to run the business?
Any small business owner will tell you that you need to wear many hats. Whether you are planning a single small shop or an ambitious chain, the required roles will still need to be allocated to someone – even if that someone is always you! As your business grows, the roles can be delegated to new staff.
The roles you identify might include…

  • Sales Manager
  • Production operative
  • Cleaner
  • Accountant
  • Payroll
  • Human Resources
  • Operations Manager
  • Marketing
  • Ordering and buying
  • Managing Director

TIP Decide how much money your business needs to make you and what the business looks like to achieve that

What do you want to achieve – lifestyle?

In a world where growth is the Holy grail and everyone dreams of pitching to Dragons’ Den, setting out simply to maintain a lifestyle for you and your family, with perhaps a small profit at the end of the day, might seem rather unambitious.
The idea of being your own boss, able to come and go as you please and potentially give employment to family members is appealing. There is however a big, fat fly in the ointment!

REALITY CHECK There is a fundamental contradiction between a family friendly lifestyle and running a retail store alone as “owner occupier”.

The times when you want relax and be with your family – at weekends, in the summer and bank holidays are the times when everybody goes shopping. Particularly so if you’re in a touristic area. You’re going to need to employ some reliable staff.
It would be a mistake to believe that a business does not need planning and tight management in order to achieve that perfect work life balance. Training is everything. Most people want to get things right. There’s a reason that big franchises work – everybody knows what to do and they have the tools to do it. If you fail to train your staff adequately, you’ll most likely be the one who opens the shop every morning and the one who cleans and cashes up at the end of the day. It’ll be hard work and it will be very hard to find staff members who’ll be as passionate about the business as you are.

Mitch, Nicolas, Diana and Matthew at Allington Farm Shop

Running a chocolate shop is ultimately a nice thing to do. Almost everybody who visits a chocolate shop will do so because they love what you do and you’ll gain many regular customers and meet new people all of the time. To make it successful you’ll need to be committed to the highest service and customer satisfaction levels and that requires hard work, good organisation and great products.

If you’d like to read more (and if you’re contemplating opening an independent retail shop why wouldn’t you, it could save you your shirt!) 

The books are available in three formats

  • Kindle format – available to buy from Amazon today
  • Paperback full colour – available to buy from Amazon today
  • PDF – available to buy and download from our website (shop reopens 5th Jan)