The Gourmet Chocolate Pizza Co.: Helen Ellis

Helen Ellis reveals how she's getting a slice of the action with her handmade chocolate pizzas

After her children started full-time education, Helen Ellis wanted a business project she could manage from her own home. She started making chocolate and, after finding her novel chocolate pizzas always sold well at fairs and fetes, decided to build a business out of the niche product.

Company name: The Gourmet Chocolate Pizza Co. Website:http://www.gourmetchocolatepizza.co.uk/ Founders: Helen Ellis Age: 37 Based: Nottingham Staff Numbers: myself + 1 part time Date started: September 2006

Tell us what your business does: We make hand-made solid Belgian chocolate pizzas, with a delicious selection of toppings ranging from marshmallows, fudge and biscuit to coffee beans and nuts. They are cut into slices, and come presented in an authentic pizza box.

How did you know there was a market for it? I felt sure there was a market, the British are amongst the biggest consumers of chocolate in Europe, and really there are very few people who don’t enjoy it. Our unique selling point was in offering something new, a new concept in the chocolate gift market.

What were you doing before starting up? I worked from home on my own doing a small admin job for my sister’s company in holiday rentals. This gave me the chance to realise I enjoyed working for myself. I was committed enough to put in the hours required, including evenings, and I can stay focused. I had no experience in catering or working with chocolate. I did a one day chocolate workshop locally, and have just learnt through trial and error from then on.

What planning did you do before you started up? A lot of advice came through family with their business experience. We also found Business Link very helpful. I didn’t do a business plan until after the business had started to evolve, and I haven’t really been back to it, but now the business has grown a little, I can see the usefulness of it and plan to update and use it more regularly.

Where is your business based? At home – I have a very understanding husband and children. My husband is excited for the business and gets involved with the web site, and our house is bulging at the seams.

What has your growth been like? Our growth has been good, but we’re still learning. We’re not profitable yet. I’m not paying myself and everything is ploughed back in, but I’m happy with this as a lot of satisfaction comes from seeing the business grow.

What was your first big breakthrough?Having a collection arrangement with a local shop has been a real breakthrough, as before we were having to hand deliver local orders and this was so time consuming.

Where do you want to be in five years’ time? In five years time I’d like to be in a shop with a couple of members of staff, with local sales running well, increased national sales through the web site, a larger product range, and have a good community presence in our area.

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