In today’s podcast, we meet Gillian and Stan Lyth, a couple who run the successful bespoke chocolate makers Hello Chocolate in Dunfermline in Scotland, which they started with a mere £400 ($640). Just a mere 4 years later they are making a full-time living from the business and have several employees. As if that was not enough, they have won the business of premium clients including the world-renowned Gleneagles Hotel in Scotland, venue for the 2014 Ryder Cup.
Gillian Lyth never aspired to be a chocolate maker. One day, whilst working as a waitress in the north of England, Gillian noticed an advertisement in the window of the local confectioner’s next door. “I, along with probably most of the town applied for the job. I was lucky enough to get it. I had really landed the dream job”, recalls Gillian.
Create Product Experiences
The journey to the present day has presented its owners with the sort of ups and downs to be expected in running their own show. The business has ‘taken a number of sharp right-hand turns along the way”, muses Gillian. Yet, Gillian and Stan somehow knew that they would be successful if they could sell ‘chocolate experiences’.
Rather than producing varieties of chocolates sold from the shelf to unseen buyers, Gillian and Stan have established a ‘bespoke chocolatier’, where chocolate is crafted directly to the customer’s requirements.’ We kind of ended up being bespoke chocolatiers after a long journey, taking lots of little sideways steps along the way”.
Seek the Customer’s Input
Despite the effort involved, Gillian feels that it is crucial that they witness the customer’s enjoyment of their product in person. She particularly enjoys seeing her customers ‘reminiscing over the past flavour they’d tasted when they were a child or on a holiday.’
“Where I’m working one on one with clients, I find out exactly what it is that they want for their event or hotel or company. I sit down with them saying ‘what flavours do you want? What kind of image are you wanting?’ This artisan passion for being as close to the customer as posible appears to suit the needs of corporate clients as well as those of smaller clients. Hello Chocolate in fact supplies chocolates which meet the specific requirements of the Gleneagles Hotel and golf resort, where the 2014 Ryder Cup was recently staged.
Build an Ethical Brand
Hello Chocolate is now far along in the process of ensuring that it is entitled to use the ‘Fair Trade’ logo on its products. Will this not affect their bottom line? Gillian concedes. ‘It was a big decision because obviously in terms of cost it does impact our profits. Delving further, we asked whether Gillian believes that the presence of the coveted Fair Trade symbol has any affect on consumer decision-making at the point of purchase.
For her part, she suggests that it would certainly make a difference to me when I’m shopping if I know and it’s guaranteed that I see the label there. Ultimately, ‘people are becoming more ethically aware’. There’s been an awful lot of publicity about child labour in Cocoa plantations.’
You Can Start at Home
So, how can someone start, if they are inspired by Gillian’s and Stan’s story? The Lyths started with a loan of £400 ($640) and have never had to seek investments from third parties or bank funding. “Depending on your scale, if it’s reasonably small scale, all you need is a moulding machine to keep it at the right temperature”.
Money and equipment are not everything Gillian points out. ‘You need to have an artistic ability, but I think with a lot of hard work and determination you can produce something that really is very high quality.’
Ultimately as with any entrepreneurial venture, your idea must eventually be brought to life through personal action or it will die in your office drawer. ‘I think that you have to eventually bite the bullet and go for it, so if you’ve been planning and planning and planning, stop planning and start doing’.
We could not agree more, Gillian!
Sharing the Microphone
Sharing the microphone today is Marks’ mother, Gillian Hayes, a cookery instructor, former restaurant-owner and food-hygiene insructor with over 35 years experience in the food industry to date. Gillian attended Le Cordon-Bleu Cookery School in London, though she would never make a big deal of it! She has been a passionate food writer for many years. She once co-hosted a food radio-programme and loves….simply loves ..taking about food.
We hope you enjoy the episode and look forward to reading your comments below.
In this episode, you will also learn
- How Gillian Lyth came across a life-changing advert which began her career in chocolate
- How she decided on the name and her logo to make her business stand out
- How Hello Chocolate has carved a unique position in her market as a ‘bespoke’ chocolatier
- Why you need to be there when your customers are consuming your product
- How Hello Chocolate markets itself to find out what exactly its customers want to pay for
- Where to start if you want to get into the chocolate-making business
- Why artisan food makers should consider acquiring ‘Fair-Trade’ status
- Why packaging is so important in making the right first impression
- Why you need to partner with different kinds of businesses to produce a unique offering
Links and resources mentioned in this podcast episode:
- Jelly & Gin (creative agency for food and drink production – Edinburgh, Scotland)
- Meridian Specialty Packaging (food retail speciality packaging – Malvern, England)
- Vantage House (supplier of professional chocolate-making equipment – Hove, England)
- Key Choc (supplier of professional chocolate-making equipment – Merseyside, England)
- Key Link (supplier of professional chocolate-making equipment – Sheffield, England)
- Home Chocolate Factory (supplier of professional chocolate-making equipment – London, England)
- Shopify (website for building online stores easily)
- Eden Brewery (Scottish craft brewery – St. Andrews, Scotland)
- Printed.com (printers – London, England)
- Gum Tree (classified advertisements – London, England)
- CraigsList (classified advertisements – International)
- Business Gateway (Scottish government business-support programme – Scotland)
- Hello Chocolate Facebook Page
Thanks to our guest and thanks to you!
A very special thanks to today’s guest, Gillian Lyth for sharing her tips and advice from her journey so far. Thanks especially to you for listening to today’s podcast here on makemoneywithfood.com, home of the food entrepreneur! If you have suggestions or tips to help us serve you in any way, please let us know.
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