BUSINESS OF THE WEEK: Choccie Bar

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Welcome to Business of the Week, where we point the spotlight on a local business and see what makes them tick. This week we're meeting one of Tiverton's newest arrivals: Katie Jones, whose Choccie Bar luxury chocolates are now on sale in the CooperaTIV.

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It's becoming a running theme in this fledgling series of articles that people leave unfulfilling jobs to do what they love. Tina Mosley left a boring office job to launch Chic' It, Jack Copeland created The Flying Pickle after 20 years as a professional chef, and then we have Katie Jones, who has gone from surveying coasts to award-winning chocolates in less than two years.

BUSINESS OF THE WEEK: Choccie Bar imageI caught up with Katie at her chocolate kitchen in Broadclyst, where she designs and concocts all the delicious treats that are currently stocking the CooperaTIV on Fore Street. Following a successful launch there in March, Katie's also there in person every Friday and Saturday morning should you have any question or want to place a special order.

"This all started because I was fed up of working in an industry I didn't enjoy," Katie says. She goes on to explain how her last company used laser technology to survey shallow and coastal waters.

"If you were a government looking for a new island - such the government of the Maldives - you'll want to know about the island's geography and probable lifespan, and that's where we came in."

After several years of flying around the world in the name of hydrography, Katie decided she needed a change of scene. She describes the moment where she hit upon the idea for Choccie Bar.

BUSINESS OF THE WEEK: Choccie Bar image"Originally I was thinking of just going freelance", she says. "Then one day about 18 months ago I went with my husband to Cockington. He got talking with a friend of his and I was cold, so I just stepped inside and found myself in a chocolate shop!

"I took in this wonderful place, with all its glittery, exciting chocolate. There was a girl curling ribbons for packaging the chocolate on the counter, and it was all so creative and esoteric. I said to myself: "I could do this", and my husband said: "So why don't you?"".

After this light-bulb moment, Katie very much fell on her feet. She trained under Ruth Hinks, the UK representative for the World Chocolate Masters. Last year Hinks finished 5th in the competition, the highest finish of any English entrant.

Katie's own chocolates have come in for awards attention. At the Food Magazine Reader Awards earlier this year, she walked off with the award for Best Foodie Product. She also carries a Taste of the West Award for her Chilli Chocolate range, as well as being a runner up for New Company of the Year in the Natwest Venus Business Awards.

So her credentials are impeccable, but what really drives Katie?

"I'm quite a foodie", she muses, "I love anything to do with creating flavours.

BUSINESS OF THE WEEK: Choccie Bar image

"I get a real buzz when I create a flavour, and I give it someone to try and they love it. There's a huge amount of enjoyment in that." And not just enjoyment: several of Katie's current flavours have been created in response to customer feedback.

But as glamorous as it sounds, running a small chocolate company is no bed of Roses.

Having melted her chocolate overnight, a typical day starts with Katie tempering the chocolate, constantly stirring and heating it to ensure the perfect texture and taste. While doing this she will create cases into which the molten chocolate can be poured, or spend her time making ganaches to go inside the finished chocolates.

In all, production of a batch of chocolates can take about two days. And that's not to mention all the other aspects of running the business, including advertising, marketing, networking, maintaining and buying in equipment, packing, labelling, testing, updating the website and - most importantly - coming up with new ideas.

It can all be overwhelming at times, even with a number of willing volunteers, but as Katie states, "there's nothing I would substitute".

BUSINESS OF THE WEEK: Choccie Bar imageSo where next for Choccie Bar?

"I’m attracted to the retail route" she says. "The CooperaTIV gives me an outlet as unique and creative as the chocolate where I can test the market and develop the business.

It's about developing a presence: an online presence, an in-store presence and an interactive presence."

Katie's putting her desire for interactivity to the test in two workshops happening at her chocolate Studios in the run-up to Easter. Click here to find out more...

We at the Portas Team wish Katie every success as she takes her business forward - and we'll be stopping by the CooperaTIV again soon to try her latest offerings!

For more information on Choccie Bar, follow Katie on Twitter @katiechocciebar or visit ChoccieBar.com. Join us next week for another Business of the Week!