Why you should write a business plan for your Chocolate business

luxury handmade chocolates

It’s the New Year and a time for exciting new business ideas and ventures! As you’ve landed on our website i’m guessing you’re considering a chocolate related business – perhaps you’re planning to open a chocolate shop this year? In our book How to Make Money selling chocolates we explore why you should write a business plan.  

“Why you should write a business plan..

Writing a business plan is probably the first of a great number of things you might not want to do but absolutely should in order to make your venture successful.

Bottom line, the more you’re avoiding it, the more likely it is you need one!

I’ve met a great number of creative, intelligent people capable of making the most glorious products, engaging and thoughtful in their customer service, insightful and innovative in their shop design who went bust or gave up because they “don’t do maths” or “leave the figures to the accountant”.

Harsh truth #2 Your accountant won’t prevent you from losing money, they’ll just charge you for telling you that your business has gone bust!

I’ll bet some of you are sitting there at this very moment, justifying to yourselves why this chapter doesn’t apply to you! So before you skip the page, glance over my myths about business plans.

#1 Planning takes away flexibility. Well no, actually planning gives you flexibility as the very best plans are constantly being reviewed and updated to reflect reality
#2 I don’t need one – it’s all in my head. It might well be that you have a perfectly formed vision of your business in all its glory in your head – but it’s just that, a vision. Life happens. I promise you that the reality won’t look like your vision, so get real, write down the vision and be prepared to adjust to realise your dream.
#3 It’s all about the ideas. Ideas are two a penny. Do you think Howard Schultz (CEO of Starbucks) was the first person to come up with the idea of a coffee shop? It’s all in the execution of the idea. And that takes planning!
#4 It’s only any good for getting funding. In truth your business plan is of more value to you than to any investor or bank, and investors might say that they never read business plans – what they don’t tell you is that they have staff who do that for them!

The Business of Chocolate.
The purpose of a business is twofold…

1) to provide you with a living or lifestyle by

2) offering a service or product for which people are prepared to pay. That’s it. So far, so simple. And yet, that second part is often woefully overlooked. In our enthusiasm and passion to produce the embodiment of our vision, we entrepreneurs are all too often guilty of forgetting that our vision must also serve, or solve a problem for, a customer base, otherwise we have no business.

What “problems” might a chocolate shop solve?…

It’s a family member’s birthday, the customer needs a gift which says “ I chose these especially for you”, the customer is out and about shopping a needs a cup of coffee or a chocolate fix, the customer has relatives visiting and they want somewhere exciting to take them. These are the “problems” you solve.
Encouraging customers to come to you rather than the competition is the finer detail of the problem solving, but never forget the purpose of your business – serve the customer, not your own ego!

Self Indulgence
People love to treat themselves to a chocolate Treat. If your shop looks inviting and you’re in a touristic area then you are part of that touristic experience where people will treat themselves to chocolates to eat whilst meandering.
This is one of the nicest aspects of running a chocolate shop as your customers are almost always relaxed and happy.
All of our own chocolate shops have been in touristic areas with lots of weekend visitors from London. Consequently we offered a level of sophistication equal to the finest London stores. You’ll need to judge your own location and customer base and we’ll talk about that in detail as location is a make or break choice.

Liberty Chocolate Room
We sold for several years through Liberty London. Their chocolate room has a high touristic footfall.

At particular times of the year people have a need for a gift – Christmas is the number one in the UK followed by Easter, then we have birthdays, thank you occasions, Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, Valentine’s, exam results, teachers gifts etc.

So you are solving the problem of a gift, chocolates make a great gift and can be given again and again.

So the question then becomes what is unique about your chocolate shop that would make people want to choose you over say a supermarket or other chocolate brand. That’s a little harder to answer but as a specialist shop you will be able to curate your collection, advise the customer, and perhaps with a fresh chocolate counter allow the customer to make their own choices offering a unique gift.

As a chocolate shop you will be heavily weighted to Christmas and Easter purchases. We’ll talk about seasonality later but unless you’re a very small shop you’ll almost certainly need to find ways to even out some of the seasonal fluctuations.

You probably already have an inkling that chocolate purchases are seasonal, but you probably don’t realise just how seasonal.
In the UK Christmas is the number one selling season for chocolate with a long run in of around six weeks retail. Most chocolate shops will want their Christmas range in place after the October half term holiday. It peaks the weekend before Christmas depending which day Christmas Day falls.

Easter is the number two chocolate selling season with a run in of around two weeks peaking on Easter Saturday. It is complicated as Easter moves by up to a month producing a compressed selling peak when Easter falls in March. Easter Saturday was always our busiest day of the year.

As a chocolate shop you absolutely have to hit these two selling seasons to compensate for the quieter times. It’s all about the averages and for some parts of the year you’ll be breaking even at best.

So what can you do increase sales in the quieter times?
For a successful shop you’ll need to create some retail theatre. So you’ll want to cycle your window displays and range to hit the current on trend occasion….

I hope you enjoyed this snippet on business plans. You can read more including an actual graph of chocolate shop seasonal sales over two years from our book – “How to make money selling chocolates” 

The books are available in three formats

  • PDF – available to buy and immediately download from our website
  • Kindle format – available to buy from Amazon
  • Paperback full colour – available to buy from Amazon