From factory floor to retail shop
My first business, Just a Little Chocolate, was operating out of a friend's factory (the year was around 2006). At weekends I'd pack all my wedding favours off to wedding shows. I now think back to how much money I used to spend on advertising; leaflets, newspaper adverts, magazine adverts, even radio adverts, all the craft shows and wedding shows. Now I know how lucky I am to have the internet/social media and access to customers without leaving my house or spending a penny. I really do feel the difference and am so grateful for it.
One Sunday as I sat behind my prettily decorated table at a craft fair, I pondered the idea of having my own shop. I loved talking to customers, I would have a permanent base that was mine. The memories of how I felt when I walked around a chocolate shop could be passed on to customers of my own. It felt like it was something I really needed to explore. I started calling around commercial agents in London's Islington. I knew the area well and loved its quirky, individual vibe. There was a vacant shop on Camden Passage. I arranged to look at it and turned up to the agent's office feeling like a big shot but absolutely terrified inside! How would I be able to afford Islington council's rates? I would need to sell hundreds and hundreds of chocolates! The agent told me he was unable to show me the shop himself but was happy to give me the keys if I didn't mind looking at it alone. I preferred it that way as I would get free time with no pressure. I walked to the shop and fell in love with it straight away. It had a beautiful white ornate window and was only a few feet from all the gorgeous antiques. I opened the door and smiled. It was just gorgeous. I started imagining where I'd make the chocolate, where the counter would be, the displays. It was big enough to have tables so I could also serve drinks and maybe cakes. My adrenalin started pumping through me with excitement. To the side of the main floor was a winding white metal staircase. I climbed down the narrow twisty stairs into a basement. There was a kitchen, toilet, storage space. I wanted it. I needed to think. I called the agent but he'd left for the day.They told me to hang on to the keys until Monday. The day was Saturday so I had all of Sunday and part of Monday to utilise having the keys. (I can never see this sort of thing happening in 2021 but at the time I thought, wow they are very trusting!)
The next day I took a packed lunch, some drinks, a note book and went off to the shop. I opened the door as if it belonged to me and went inside. I had such a good feeling and so many visions for the space. I sat crossed legged on the floor and looked at the financial side of buying this shop. The numbers were large, very large and terrifying. Giant pound signs filled the room and the realisation of how huge the commitment would be, formed a dark cloud above. I called a friend of mine for advice. We chatted for a while and concluded that it probably wasn't the right move for me at this time.
I was so upset. My dream had physically manifested itself in that shop and I resigned myself to going back to the factory. Just a few months later a very well known chocolatier opened a chocolate shop a few doors down from where 'my shop' would have been. Mr Paul A Young.
There was no way I could have competed with his expertise and craftsmanship and realised that the timing just wasn't right. In retrospect I'm glad I didn't take such a massive risk so early on in my journey.
Another opportunity was just around the corner for me and my chocolate journey continued....