5 simple business ideas to start tomorrow

5 simple business ideas to start tomorrow

Want to start your own business, but still struggling with a good idea?  I’ve compiled 5 simple business ideas that you could get started on straight away.

Each of these ideas is something I’ve popped on a list to consider, or I’ve heard about being a success from others.

Here are my 5 simple business ideas to start tomorrow:

Gin Tours

Two balloon glases and one tall glass each with gin and tonic, ice, lemon and lime

In my local town, there are ghost walks and history tours. I thought a gin tour would be a fab little one to add to the mix. There are plenty of distillery visits on offer, but I didn’t notice any specific tours (although I’m sure some of you will have been on something of this type!).

Speak to some local hostelries and see who would be up for a visit from a group of gin enthusiasts.  (That would at least cover off the licensing laws).  

If you wish to investigate getting licensed yourself so you could serve up the gins in different locations, speak to your local authority and see what’s involved.

Learn the history of gin (mother’s ruin?), brush up on your gin facts and intersperse these throughout your tour.  

Discover what’s produced locally and showcase some local gins, and well as some of your favourites or some wacky new flavour combos.  

Wander around with your group, drinking the odd gin, and having some fun!  

You may need to stick to tonics if it takes off, as I wouldn’t recommend several gins a day as a healthy option, hic!

Treasure Hunts in your local town

These are already in existence, but you could add in your own twists.

A group of people in a huddle on the street each wearing a deerstalker hat

What are your favourite spots in town?

What historic landmarks can you incorporate?

Are there some fascinating history or legends to weave into the game?  

Why not make it child or family-friendly?

Sell packs online or deliver hunts in person.  

Have package options – a short one, a medium one, and a more challenging one. You can charge accordingly. You could add food or drink options and picnics into the mix to maximise your profits or collaborate with other local establishments in your town. People love a package.

Handy Pandy

A younger person's hand over an older person's hand in care/support

So many people need help and support for those odd jobs, running errands, picking up stuff, a bit of good company, and generally you being their handy pandy.

Print some leaflets, pop them through doors, ask friends to tell friends about your services. Do the best you can for each client and watch the word-of-mouth recommendations flow in.

I bet you will be too busy before too long.

You might need to learn quite quickly when to say no.

Book a market stall

Sell something you’ve made.

Piles of pottery small plates in different patterns

If it’s food-related, you will need to register with your local authority and get a number to trade legally. Don’t forget your basics like food hygiene, insurance, etc.

If it’s craft-related and sales are going well, why not consider setting up some workshops teaching others how to do what you do?

Or simply buy stuff and sell it online (Esty, Not on the High Street, eBay etc) or on your market stall.

It can just be a hobby, something you do for fun that earns a few pennies on the side.

It might just turn into something else.

 Run chocolate workshops

 I had to include this one as I have a business opportunity where you can do exactly what I do where you live. 

Two people making chocolates

I’ve created a huge manual of procedures (you don’t have to remember everything). There is a comprehensive training course that includes how to work with chocolate and all the business elements too. Finally, there is ongoing support and encouragement on hand while you navigate your launch and beyond.

It’s a business in a chocolate box – who wouldn’t want to work with chocolate?

If this has made you think I want to do one of the above, but you don’t quite trust yourself to make it happen, I can hold your hand, badger you, convince you when you wobble and generally be a good thorn in your side to get your idea off the ground. Check out my New Dawn programme and see it if might suit you.

What business is right for you?

What business is right for you?

Many people are coming out of the pandemic ready to make a big change, and some of them are looking at starting their own business as an option.

Time for change written in chalk on a blackboard

I’d love to be my own boss, but I don’t know what to do” I so often hear you say!

Let’s explore what business is right for you:

What do you need to stop?

Something is driving your decision to seek to work on your terms.  

Grab a pen and paper or fire up the laptop and sit and write out a list of everything that drives you nuts about what you do now. Work out why you are getting disgruntled and fed up with your current situation.

It doesn’t have to be work-related. Maybe it’s about the lack of flexibility to explore hobbies or be more creative. 

Could it be related to family and wanting more time with loved ones?

Are you unfilled? 

Losing confidence in your abilities? 

Know it’s not the place for you to be anymore?

When does time cease to exist?

Go to that happy place. 

The moments when time hardly exists, you are so absorbed in, and enjoying what you are doing.

Who are the people you are spending time with? How are you interacting with them? What tasks do you manage to complete with great satisfaction? Which hobbies or special interests do you do that fill you with joy or a sense of satisfaction?

What are they, when are they? Write them down and think about exactly what it is you are doing when you are loving the moment.

If you are not sure, keep a diary for a while and identify those things you like to do. Notice those moments and make a note of them.

You dared to dream

Let’s cast your mind back to those days when the world felt like your oyster, you had ideas and ambitions and you always dreamed you would………..

Now fill in the blank.

What jobs/careers/people inspired you and made you want to grow up to be like them?

Add all the jobs/roles/people/industries you ever dreamed of working in.

What have you learned?

Since those early days, you have followed a path, chosen a career, or experienced various roles. You may have also raised a family, been a supporter, carer, played sports, entertained family and friends.

How many skills do you bring to the table?

What do your friends always say you are good at?

Why do they come to you, what advice do they seek?

Write a list of everything you have done and can do and add this to your notes too.

What do you believe?

I’d love to do something but:

  • someone already does it
  • it’s been done before
  • I don’t think it has legs
  • no one would buy that would they
  • I’m a bit too scared
Hugh Laurie quote

How many excuses can you think up to convince yourself not to try a business venture?

What if you dare to try?

Write a simple plan or what you are going to do, how and when, and stick to it. Give it a go and see what happens. You don’t have to leave the day job.

Here are some surprising things you learn about yourself from running your own business.

Imagine it starts to become a success. It may enable you to leave a job you don’t enjoy anymore and focus on doing more of what you do.

When you do decide, let us know what it is and how we can buy it from you.

Still stuck? Here are some great reasons to consider chocolate? These other ideas might also provide some inspiration.

Good luck.

5 reasons you need to say NO

5 reasons you need to say NO

You have started a business. 

Keen to not miss any opportunity, you are agreeing to all sorts of things.  

Here are 5 reasons you need to say NO to make your business a success:

Your time is valuable

Value yourself and your time.  

Lots of stopwatches in a pile in different pastels shades

You will never get a day back again and nothing is as priceless as your time.  

We often waste time and energy on something that doesn’t work out. Learn and move on. Don’t beat yourself up for time wasted but do take the lessons from what you don’t wish to repeat!

Set Boundaries

Set regular time in your diary for growing and developing your business and honour this as if it was the most important event EVER.  

Family and friends do not always appreciate how disciplined we need to be working for ourselves and may think you are available. It’s your job to educate them as to when you are free and when you cannot be disturbed (except in a real emergency).

Some people are just time vampires. Make sure you set boundaries with them and personally. Stick to them.  

Set start and end times for meetings, let the other person know how long they have with you.

Be a good time-keeper, so you are not on the back foot apologising for being late and allowing this to blur boundaries.

Stick to your principles

Why did you start your business?

If you went through my start-up training this is the first module we cover. Without knowing your why, it’s difficult to plot your path, keep to your long-term strategy.

It’s never just about the money. The money is a lovely bonus, but you didn’t start what you are doing just for money. 

There were other reasons involved.

Take a moment to remind yourself of what you want to achieve, and where you want to go.

Are you allowing someone or something to dictate the direction of your business?  Do you need to say no to someone or something, so you stay true to your path?

It’s your choice

You get to choose. 

One of the most wonderful things about running your own business is you get to do things the way you want to.

I work Monday to Saturday but in a flexible manner. Except in exceptional circumstances, I don’t work on a Sunday, as that is my family time. 

During the week, I take time out to do things like play tennis or meet with friends. It’s not full-time Monday to Saturday, it’s when I want to work, factoring in what works for my customers too of course (like a weekend option). Some years ago I stopped offering evening workshops as they made me too tired. I want balance in my life.

You choose when you say no.

Look after yourself

Most importantly, take some time for yourself.  

Flowers

If you need to re-charge it’s so important that you allow some time each week doing those things you love. Exercise, nature, good food and hydration, sleep, quiet time. Whatever it takes – make sure you say no to those things that stop you from looking after yourself.

It’s empowering to say NO. You may find it a little worrying or difficult initially. If you focus on what you want to achieve and stick to your guns, you will find the decision process becomes more obvious.

Until you need to say YES – but that’s a story for another blog!

100 Ways to WOW

100 Ways to WOW

Making your customers go ‘WOW’ from the service they have received from you will help build loyalty and commitment. You need to get the basics right first. Here are some ideas that might help:

How chocolate makes you feel

100 ways to WOW!

1. Smile – it really does go a mile, even if it’s on the phone you can still hear it!

2. Send a thank you email

3. Even better, send a thank you card, handwritten and sent in the post

4. Pay tribute on Twitter – dedicate a #ff (follow Friday) to them and explain why!

5. Send a link to a video that would make them laugh

6. Send a link to a song that captures something you have shared

7. Send a link to an interesting/funny/relevant article

8. Send cupcakes

9. Even more stand out, send customised cupcakes – a picture of you or them or a message included

10. Send chocolates

11. Send a chocolate slab with a piped message

12. Send chocolates with a logo embossed on them (yours or theirs)

13. Have chocolate business cards created (everyone loves chocolate!)

14. Send flowers

15. Send them a money box with a promise of savings

16. Send them a football (or something related to their favourite sport)

17. Get it signed by their favourite sports personality

18. Do something quicker than you said you would

19. Hand deliver something that you said you would post, say hello

20. Phone and ask how it went (when you know they were exhibiting, speaking, training etc)

21. Wish them a happy birthday on Facebook

22. Send them a birthday card

23. Sing ‘Happy Birthday’ to them – get you/your team to don silly hats and record a version of happy birthday to send

24. Wish them a happy anniversary – and don’t think wedding, think their first year in business, two years since they became a customer with your business

25. Send them a birthday gift

26. Send them a gift for being a loyal customer

27. Send them a business book that you have recently enjoyed – tell them why

28. Invite them to an event

29. Turn up at the airport with a steak dinner (after reading a tweet that they were hungry) – true story from the USA!

30. Blog about them

31. Write an article about their business and publish in your newsletter

32. Buy a roof rack via eBay on their behalf for their camper van (another true story, honest)

33. Send them a cocktail

34. Make them a tea or coffee

35. Fill up your coffee loyalty card and send it so they can claim the free cup

36. Buy them a beer

37. Listen

38. Retweet one of their tweets to your audience

39. Share their event or product on Facebook/Twitter/LinkedIn

40. Write a recommendation on LinkedIn

41. Say thank you to everyone that RT’s your tweets

42. Say hello and tell them why you are pleased that they are following you on twitter

43. Send a personal message on Facebook telling them why their post really spoke to you

44. Remember a face and greet warmly using their name

45. Be kind

46. Send something for their pet

47. Deal with an issue yourself, don’t pass someone around the system and don’t let them go until they are satisfied with the outcome

48. Follow up – check to see that they were satisfied

49. Care about them – get in touch about a family or personal issue

50. Put someone in touch with your recommended plumber, builder, electrician and help with a domestic issue

51. Wish them a happy holiday

52. Recommend a good place to visit on their holidays

53. Send them a travel book

54. Send them a map – highlight attractions

55. Recommend a good restaurant

56. Arrange for a bottle of wine to be sent to their table

57. Send tickets for the theatre, museum, theme park (family ones ifapplicable)

58. Recommend a good person to work with them

59. Say sorry

60. Admit to your mistakes, explain what you will do to fix

61. Ask them what they would like by way of an apology

62. Treat them like a visitor to your own home

63. Send them a wall planner – populate with key events/dates

64. Send them a diary or calendar – ditto above

65. Send them a mouse mat with a great message

66. Be helpful

67. Make them a special offer

68. Support their charitable activities

69. Choose to raise funds for a charity that is significant to them

70. Get involved in a community project and invite them to take part

71. Be genuine and honest

72. Be friendly to everyone – whatever their position

73. Introduce people to each other at events – saying something nice about each of them on introduction

74. Have a positive ‘can-do’ attitude

75. No matter how bad a day you are having, keep it to yourself when dealing with customers (it’s not their fault)

76. Don’t react to anger, stay calm and empathise – show you understand and really care

77. Make people laugh

78. Tell a great story

79. Send them a mug – everybody loves a cuppa

80. Send them a t-shirt

81. Send them a baseball cap

82. If you are relying on information from a third party, explain that to the person waiting for your response

83. Send a bookmark, write a personal message on the back

84. Solve their problem

85. Say YES!

86. Record a video saying thank you – upload onto YouTube and send out the link

87. Have some prescription spectacles to hand for people reading your menu (an award-winning restaurant in Leeds does just this!)

88. Body language and posture matter, act like you mean it

89. Personal appearance speaks volumes

90. Send them a prize – best customer of the week, month, year (and why)

91. Put a small bag of sweeties in with each order

92. Start a like-ladder on Facebook and get your community to offer mutual support

93. Make time to think (about ways to show your customers that you really love having them around)

94. Do a little jig

95. If you know them well enough, give them a hug and/or a kiss

96. Have happy music playing in the background

97. Send a lottery ticket

98. Share your values

99. Be so much better than average

Dawn Fry

100. Did I say SMILE?

101. Don’t stop there . . . .

Hope you found this list fun and useful and that it prompted at least one good idea!

Do tell me how you got on, it’s always great to get feedback on WOW moments.

How to work in some WOW

How to work in some WOW

As a small business owner, you are in a unique position to create some wonderful customer experiences in your business.

Quotation about customer service from Maya Angelou

Make it a top priority, it will reap rewards. 

Here’s how to work in some WOW for your customers:

The J word!

Yes, your customers are embarking on a journey with you.

This experience starts before you know they are looking at you. 

Your business personality, via your website and social media platforms, is providing an impression of you and your services/product.  

Have you created the right impression to attract your ideal clients?

Is the journey to purchase something clear, correct, and delivers exactly what is promised?

Not everyone is ready to buy right now.

How can you ensure you encourage further interaction?

Create a strong business personality

Be you. You may be providing or selling something that many others do too, but no one else is you, so you will bring something unique to the interaction.

People see through fake and quite frankly, we have had enough of that sort of thing – be authentic and customers will love you for it.

Feel the fear often. If you are sharing a story or posting something that brings a little fear into your being, then you are most likely hitting the right note. We are programmed to be reserved, especially in a business setting, but bring your whole self and your customers will feel they have got to know the real person behind the brand.

Keep in Touch

Provide some useful information.  

Write a blog!  

Send out a fact sheet or relevant information that would prove useful for your customers.

Invite them to subscribe to a newsletter – then regularly write to them.

Not everyone is ready to buy when they first meet your business. They may be ready to buy some months down the line.

Keeping in touch provides an opportunity to strengthen a relationship with a potential customer. It may also provide an opportunity for previous customers to buy again.

Be Disciplined

Post regularly on social media channels.

 Deliver the newsletter when you said you would.

Respond quickly to enquiries.

ALWAYS do what you said you would, or explain why you can’t.

Gain Feedback

Ask what people liked and didn’t like about working with you.

Listen to what is being said.

Hone and improve where you think it’s necessary.

Talk about what you have learned, inform clients of changes you are going to make.

Get the basics right

You can provide fancy gifts and make grand gestures as much as you like. If you are not providing exactly what you said on the tin in the first place, then this will fall very flat.

Review the whole journey a customer will experience with your business and ensure that everything works properly.

If you employ staff, make sure you train them properly and empower them to be able to make the right decisions.

The right mindset

As soon as we mention customer service, you start to be bombarded with examples of disasters and sob stories. They might be amusing, or we may learn a lesson or two – but this is not the right mindset for creating some WOW.

Let’s give examples of how a company turned a disaster into a success. Let’s get thinking positively. Most importantly, let’s try and get in the mindset of our customers and focus on their needs and what would make them happy.

A wonderful opportunity

Here’s the great news. You only have to do exactly what you say you will do to win some brownie points from your customers.

Then, and only then can you start to add in some WOW. 

These are little extras that make you stand out from the crowd.

I recently came back from a camping trip. Each night the owner would drive around and deliver giant marshmallows on sticks for the guests to toast on their firepits. She did it with such joy and enthusiasm, we all looked forward to the marshmallow run each evening. Inexpensive, a bit of fun, but a huge tick in the WOW department.

Word-of-mouth recommendations are the holy grail of marketing. Nothing says buy from this company than a friend talking about a great experience.

Here are 100 Ways to WOW that you might find useful!

Chocolate Works Wonders

Heart drawn in chocolate

Add a little chocolate into the mix and you have a wonderful recipe for success.

My Getting Sticky Customers workshop works with teams and business owners wishing to focus their efforts on customer experience and of course, includes chocolate.

“Having time out from everyday work to focus on what we do and why we do it was amazing! The session has reinvigorated my desire to help and wow customers and to make a difference to someone’s day. Dawn is excellent at making you think about things in a different way – lots of light bulb moments for me!”  Sarah Henson, delegate, Solihull

What customer experiences have been positive for you – come and share your story on my Facebook page.

Or maybe this has inspired you to start your own business because you know you’d be brilliant at creating some WOW moments for your customers? Why not give us the opportunity!

7 reasons to try camping

7 reasons to try camping

We love a bit of camping in our family and have travelled all over Europe with our trusty tent.

Two tents, one small, one large with awning.

It was one of the main reasons I started my business.  

I wanted to be able to take the summer holidays off and enjoy them with the children. Camping was an affordable and fun activity that made this possible. We didn’t quite achieve the whole six weeks in our tent, we did have regular three or four-week holidays to wonderful locations. It has created some fab family memories.  

We still love camping!

Here are 7 reasons to try camping (and some of my fav campsites):

You can enjoy nature at it’s best

The top of the list has to be the campsite setting. You are in nature. It’s totally good for you to experience living outside. Enjoying a slower pace of life in wonderful surroundings with all that fresh air. Even if it’s raining, you can sit inside listening to the rain on the tent, playing cards, or reading your book.  

Sunset over sea, with tent in the foreground
Photo courtesy of Troytown campsite

Sunrise, sunsets, watching the wildlife – what’s not to love about that? 

Favourite spot for a glorious sunset – St Agnes, Isle of Scilly – Troytown Campsite.

It’s affordable

Admittedly you need to get your kit together and this can be a bit of an investment at the outset. We opted for a huge tent to accommodate our family of five. We each had a bedroom (more than we had at home at the time) and a huge living space for those rainy moments.

It has given us 10 years of fun and memories (so far) so it was well worth it.

You can stay in wonderful locations, for a fraction of the cost of a holiday rental. The shores of Lake Garda, the mountains in Austria, stunning beaches in Spain!

View of lake, boats and mountains

The best value campsite in a wonderful setting goes to Camping Le Brec in Entrevaux (South of France). 

A natural lake, with a cool bar, swimming, free boats, mountains all around and very reasonably priced!

It’s worth the extra effort

Now, all that wonderfulness comes at the cost of a little more effort.

You need to plan where and when you want to go. In normal times, I will spend January pouring through books and choosing my favourite campsites. Then it’s plotting a route, trying to take in all those things we want to visit/see/do.

Getting all your ‘stuff’ together takes some effort too.

We have boxes of kit stored in our shed now, so we just take it out, give it a quick check, and pop it in the car.

A checklist is a great idea.

We swear by the people that are behind Cool Camping. Such accurate descriptions of sites, really well-researched, in great locations. There are helpful descriptions of the vibe and energy of the site included too. Something for everyone either on their website or in their guide books (I use both).

Although there are lots of more expensive Glamping sites covered now, you can still find affordable gems!

Best books/website:  Cool Camping

Enjoy the community spirit

A friend once quoted a wonderful line:

“If everyone could camp together, the world would be a better place.”

I couldn’t agree more. 

There is such a friendly, community spirit on a campsite. People wandering by, stopping for a chat. Sharing bathroom facilities and chatting while brushing your teeth (that takes some practice!)

We got chatting to a family on one campsite and he was a real gin enthusiast. He revealed his extensive gin bar and send us some samples over one evening. It was just like visiting the cocktail bar, with nice glasses, ice, and all the trimmings!

Most campsites will organise some activities like volleyball, boules, pizza nights, etc. It’s fun and friendly and you can mix in as much or as little as you want.

two marshmallows on sticks in front of a firepit

Camping is a real leveller. 

Everyone is the same and that’s just great.

Most friendly campsite: 

Parke Farm Campsite, Pembrokeshire (free tea/coffee and marshmallows delivered each night)  

The world is your oyster

You pack up the car, and you take off and you can go wherever you are willing and able to drive to.

We’ve visited sites in the UK, France, Germany, Austria, The Netherlands, Spain. When you drive to your destination you get a sense of your bearings, the accessibility of other countries and cultures.  When you jump on a plane and arrive at your destination, you just don’t get the same sense of where you are in the world.

We add the odd hotel stop en route for the longer journeys. You appreciate the luxury of your hotel room for the odd night here and there. We love a quirky hotel stop and try and avoid chains where possible.

Saying that some of the campsites we have stayed in have bathrooms posher than most hotels.

The prize for this has to go to a wonderful site in Austria, Grubhof. The gorgeous site is surrounded by mountains (lift passes up to explore the mountains are free) and with stylish, private bathrooms included too.

Campfire cooking tastes great

Nothing tastes as good as campfire-cooked food! 

We haven’t worked out why, but cooking outside is a lovely experience, and whatever you make it seems to taste better.

We tend to go for one-pot wonders. When you have only two gas rings, you need to get a little creative when you are feeding a crowd.  

There are some fab camping cookbooks you can pop into your kit too.  

A great tip is to make some treats before you leave so that you have some lovely cakes and bakes to hand. 

I have some wonderful chocolate recipes to inspire you.

Spend quality time together

There’s plenty of space, so you can invite your family or friends along too. The great thing is you can enjoy each other’s company and have a lovely sociable time. Eating, drinking, and playing together but then head to your tent for your own space.

Two glasses on a table with a view of the sky

Our great friends have been our camping buddies for many years. We cook independently (there are just too many of us) but time things just right that we can all sit and eat together.  

Cheers to that

You miss the outdoors when you get home, all that fresh air is so refreshing. Having your own bathroom and being back in your bed is very welcome too. It makes you appreciate what you might take for granted otherwise!

Is there anything you’d add to the list? Pop over to Facebook and share your top tips.

Happy Camping.

Me, Chocolate and Channel 4

Me, Chocolate and Channel 4

Chocolate has created some amazing opportunities for me personally. It’s amazing what the world of chocolate can open up for you.

I’ve regularly been featured in the local & national newspapers, including The Sun and The Independent. Been a guest on various radio shows and yes, even appeared on TV.

Here’s a little true story about me, chocolate, and Channel 4

Just say YES

Choclate key with the words success written on it

My first experience of TV was as a guest on Gala TV.

A scout approached me via email as they wanted a chocolate expert to chat with the presenter. I was a bit scared, but I said yes anyway. You have to feel the fear regularly and this definitely fit the criteria!

Gala Bingo

While clients are playing bingo, they have celebrities (not me) and specialist guests (that’s me) to talk about various topics of interest. I asked what to wear (no green) and told me to put on more make-up than usual! 

Ushered into a tiny studio, miked up, then told which camera to talk to.  

As I was scared to look at the wrong camera, I think I was a bit wooden at first. Once I got chatting about chocolate and getting the presenter to take part in a chocolate tasting I was in my stride.

I was a guest on numerous occasions for Gala Bingo and it was always great fun.

Channel 4

On my way for another visit to the lovely people at Gala TV, I was on the platform waiting for my train to London.

My mobile rang and the voice at the other end said:

“Hi, it’s Simon here from Channel 4 are you free to talk.”

Now I just presumed this was a wind-up. I’d been teased a bit about my appearances on Gala Bingo. Here I was on my way to Gala TV and I was convinced someone was pretending to be from Channel 4.  

So, I said rather sarcastically:

“Yeah, sure it’s Channel 4, now who is this?”

The rather offended reply came back:

“This really is Channel 4, we are doing a ‘small spaces’ special with George Clarke and wish to consider your summerhouse in the ‘shed of the year’ competition!”

Whoops, back-pedaling quickly – I made all the right noises and listened to what was required.

Opportunity Knocks

What a fabulous potential opportunity. I couldn’t believe the irony of heading off to London to appear on TV and being approached by another TV company!

Now despite numerous phone calls, copious form-filling, and being ‘available’ on certain dates, I didn’t get a visit from the lovely George Clarke or the film crew.  

I think the researcher was a big fan of chocolate and thought what better than to consider a visit to me for ‘shed of the year’ and lots of chocolate tasting.

Shed of the Year

Large shed in the garden with the double doors open

This is a fabulous competition. If you have seen any of the finalists over the years, people have created incredible spaces to work in. I love my shed full of chocolate, but I’m not sure it could compete with some of those entries.

She Sheds

Summerhouse in the sunshine

I did get contacted again by Channel 4 a couple of years later. This time for a pilot that was to be hosted by Davina McCall. She wanted to do a feature of what women were doing in their sheds. The shed was no longer considered the domain of the man only. Women were doing some amazing things in their spaces too.

At the time of writing, I didn’t hear further.

Once you say yes to an opportunity, who knows what might happen next!

How to be the best teacher

How to be the best teacher

Tales from the chocolate tank – part 2

I visit lots of primary schools, running chocolate workshops for classes.

You can imagine the excitement when a visit from ‘the chocolate lady’ is on the cards!

How to be the best teacher?  Just add chocolate – look at what you can do:

The history

Astec drawing

Chocolate has a fascinating past. Originally thought to be discovered by Mayans. It was so valued; it was used as currency at one point. Emperor Montezuma would throw lavish banquets, where many jugs of chocolate were served. Shocking fact: women were not allowed to drink it! (You can imagine how that fact is received in class!)

The geography

Chocolate is grown in exotic and faraway places. It needs a particular climate to survive, which is only found close to the equator. 

The science

The art of working with chocolate is real science. Learning about the crystalline structure to allow it to be tempered. The science community is still learning facts about this magical substance. As chocolatiers, learning this element of working with chocolate is crucial for success.

The process

Cacao beans

We cover the bean-to-bar story. Harvesting pods from the trees, fermenting, drying, and shipping the beans. Then what happens to turn the beans into chocolate. 

It’s food that everyone loves, and the process is complex and fascinating to learn. Of course, I throw in a tasting for good measure!

The design

chocolate lollipop with sprinkles

Children are designing, making unique hand-made lollipops as well as creating chocolate bars wrappers on paper and harnessing Willy Wonka powers!

I enjoy going into schools, the children are truly original and creative in their designs. 

They ask lots of wonderful questions, and they are so affectionate and funny too.  

Pupils will constantly come up to me and throw their arms around me and tell me ‘You’re the best teacher we’ve ever had! Or ‘I love you, Miss’.  It is amazing the effect a tank of chocolate has!

Depending on their age, I might help them create a lollipop. They let me know the design they are thinking of, then I just help with the outline. Best request from a young man was:

“Miss, can I have me, in my car driving along, with my dog with his head out of the window and his ears flapping in the wind?”

Everyone is Equal

One of the things I love the most about working in schools with the children is the way that the chocolate projects are completely inclusive. The abilities of the children in a class are often very varied. Lots of extremely bright and capable children and a few that find things a struggle.

The sense of achievement that you get from helping every child make something original and delicious is rewarding. The compliments often come from the children that struggle the most, as they were able to take part and enjoy their chocolate project as much as everyone else.

What a wonderful way to spend my time – helping, inspiring and having fun. A large cuppa is required when you get home. There are more reasons to work with chocolate than you imagine!

Follow other tales from the chocolate tank, including the odd disaster.

Thank you to all the teachers out there – you are the best. You may have some lovely/funny stories (with or without chocolate)? Pop over to my Facebook page if you want to share!

Tales from the Chocolate Tank (part 1)

Tales from the Chocolate Tank (part 1)

I’m not so keen on telling this story, as the re-telling brings back ‘bad’ memories.

Two tanks of chocolate

Most of the tales from my chocolate tanks bring back happy memories, inspiration, and joy. I will be sharing more tales in future blogs, so watch this space!

I’m kick-starting my tales with a total chocolate-disaster though darling!

It’s all in the planning

I was booked for a corporate chocolate team-build, and I always check the venue and access beforehand. I had some concerns as there was no on-site parking, but I was assured of a loading bay for access.

On arrival, the loading bay was blocked. As time was ticking on, I had to find somewhere else to park. The nearest alternative was a multi-storey car park. I found a spot and told the venue I had arrived. I was unloading my car when it all went very wrong!

Disaster struck

In case of access issues, I had bought a trolley (premonition on my part?). Including my large chocolate tank, I loaded up the trolley and set off.

Two paces from the car, the whole trolley load fell to the ground. My chocolate tank toppled off the top, spilling all its contents (eight kilos of molten chocolate) all over the car park floor.

Not only did it spill, but it also splashed all over my body and clothing leaving me dripping in chocolate and a total mess.

I couldn’t deliver the event for the client at all. Even if I had gone along and ‘made do’ with the other chocolate activities we had planned I was unfit for purpose. Covered head to toe in chocolate is not the best look!

Honesty is the best policy

I phoned and explained what had happened, and to my shame I even found myself getting upset on the phone. It was only a fun thing for them, but I always wish to deliver what I promise and I was truly devastated to let my client down.

Of course, I offered their money back and to do the event on another day. To their utter credit, they just asked me to make the chocolates on their behalf and deliver them at a later date. No question of me giving them a refund. How kind is that? Of course, I bought an extra treat for each of them and popped that in their bags of chocolates too.

Meanwhile…..

Back at the car park, kind people were coming up to me and asking if I was OK. Snivelling, covered in brown ‘stuff’ – how brave were they to approach me at all!

The icing on the cake came when a lady driving a huge 4 x 4 drove straight through the chocolate puddle and got me covered in even more chocolate. Without even a backward glance – it was the final straw!

So I packed up my wares and headed out of the multi-storey, only to find that I had forgotten to validate my car park ticket in the mayhem. Getting out of my car to go and see the attendant, he saw me approach, took one look at me immediately opened the barrier. I thanked him and said, “I think you will find there is a bit of chocolate on Level 3”!

It was a great to experience how good people are when you are honest, open, and do your best for them, despite the difficulties you are facing! I have also definitely learned from this rather messy mistake.

It’s also provided a good few laughs at a dinner party or two – you can borrow it if you like, but I don’t recommend repeating the experience!

Come and tell us your funny stories over on my facebook page.

Chocolate’s on the menu

Chocolate’s on the menu

Of course chocolate’s on the menu, but usually as your favourite dessert.

Have you considered trying chocolate in all your dishes, both savoury and sweet?

Rabot 1745

Head to Borough Market in London and you will find this little chocolate gem of a restaurant.

Restaurant Rabot 1745 is part of the Hotel Chocolat empire, and in fact there is a shop and cafe beneath the restaurant if you just want a hot chocolate and a chocolate treat.

Book a table at the restaurant and you will find every course includes chocolate, even the mash! It’s a wonderful experience and well worth a trip.

Read on to see what I chose from the menu…..

One for the Bucket List

The London restaurant is inspired by the original, located on the island of St Lucia in the Caribbean. You can visit the Rabot Estate, stay in the boutique hotel, book yourself and tree to bar experience, and eat in the restaurant.

It’s definitely on my bucket list when the world opens up again. In the meantime, if you can make it to London you can try the next best thing.

Head to the Toilets!

If you want to get into the mood, then firstly head to the toilets. You can hear cicadas (piped into the loos) and (almost) imagine you are in a rather more exotic location.

A great first impression

Once you sit down you are greeted with a small plate of freshly roasted cacao beans from the St Lucia Estate. They are wonderful, and really set the tone of the evening.

The menu

I started with a bread and dip selection, that included cacao pesto & cocoa infused oil. It was really tasty.

Next I opted for some fish that included a cocoa nib crust. Chocolate is quite savoury in it’s natural state, so it did not seem odd for the fish to have a cocoa addition at all.

We had to try the mash as we’d heard it talked about by others. A white chocolate-infused mash sounds quite disgusting, but i can confirm it was delicious.

A trio of chocolate mousse

Of course, by the time you get to pudding, it’s all very familiar territory, but I opted for a trio of mousse which showcased different strengths and styles of chocolate and it was truly decedent and another scrummy dish. Sorry that I took the picture after I’d eaten a bit too much, there definitely should have been a before shot!

The menu changes with the seasons, so why not take a look and see what you would choose!

If you decide to visit, don’t forget to pop to my facebook page and tell us about your experience.

What’s was on your chocolate menu?