Is this every chocolate lover's dream job?
PUBLISHED: 11:55 14 July 2016 | UPDATED: 17:30 14 July 2016
Laura Cotton, owner of East Harling based business Cocoa Delicious, a company that makes products from hot chocolate stirrers to rocky roads, explains how she went from working as a vet to the world of Willy Wonka.
Name: Laura Cotton
Job Title & Employer: Proprietor/Managing Director of Cocoa Delicious
Describe your job in a nutshell: As a chocolatier, I handcraft the products for Cocoa Delicious and as managing director, I oversee all other aspects of the business.
What’s the most enjoyable part of your job? The design process. I love coming up with new ideas for products, especially the hot chocolate stirrers, and then getting in the kitchen to try them out. Plus the actual process of making the products themselves of course.
What’s the most challenging aspect? Finding enough hours in the day! There’s always plenty to do, whether it’s admin, networking or work in the production kitchen. I find it incredibly difficult to switch off - my brain is constantly active, thinking of new flavours and the future of the brand.
Can you tell us something we may not know about your job? Many people have asked if it is as simple as melting some chocolate and pouring it into a mould - this is a common misconception. The chocolate tempering process is highly scientific and an art in itself. When the business was first started, I spent hours researching and practicing chocolate tempering.
What was your first job? I graduated from vet school in 2011 and my first position was an internship at the Equine Veterinary Journal near Newmarket. I then started working at an animal college in Herts and began having a go with tempering chocolate in my spare time. After leaving that job, I decided to keep going with the chocolate, with the plan being to try and balance both careers part-time. The chocolate business snowballed and fast became my full-time occupation, but I have remained registered as a veterinary surgeon so I can treat my own animals as well as friends’ pets. I love being self-employed, it’s super hard work and long hours but the flexibility of my work hours means I can spend time with my horse and family.
What does your ideal day at work involve? A productive day is a good day. There is nothing more satisfying than ending your working day knowing you have achieved plenty - many orders posted, a new product design successfully tested or a new stockist confirmed.
Where do you find inspiration? Everywhere. There is no such thing as a day off in my job. Even on a day out shopping with family and friends I can be found conducting market research or dreaming up new concepts for my brand. I think it is important to know exactly what competition you are up against on the market. It enables me to find a niche and make my brand and products different from anything else available.
What advice would you give to those looking to pursue a similar career? I am a self taught chocolatier. I started by learning to temper chocolate by hand and as the business grew I invested in tempering machines so my time was then freed up for other jobs. My advice for others would be to learn the science behind the tempering process, know it inside out. With this knowledge, you have a better foundation to achieve the best results for your product finish.
What advice would you give to those wanting to start their own business? Have a business plan. The best way to approach self-employment is to know where you want to go and what you want to achieve. Jumping in feet first without a clear view of your brand and product will result in a lot of wasted money and most importantly, wasted time. Equally as important is passion: “The only way to do great work is to love what you do” (Steve Jobs). You have to truly love your product and your brand, and have a belief that it will succeed. Many hours will be spent in building your brand, so make sure you absolutely love it.
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