It's been a mad few weeks I have to say, trying to keep up with daily family life and running my business. As it happens I also just finished reading Allison Pearson's book "I don't know how she does it" and haven't stopped thinking how much like Kate Reddy's life my life used to be and maybe still is!
I genuinely don't think women can have it all all of the time and when my daughters were young I did give up a fulfilling high powered job and ended up working several years for a local company that offered me flexible working hours, but a job that was unexciting and underpaid. Still it meant I could collect the girls from school, help out with the school choir once a week and even sing occasionally in an obscure punk band, Sputnik Weasel (we even landed a gig at the Zaidin rock festival in Granada Spain and played in front of 10,000 people, don't you know!).
Life really wasn't that bad, but I've always been incredibly ambitious and a small part of me still wanted an exciting career. So once I hit 40 and hubby Bill and our girls were growing up nicely, I thought, "right, now is my time." I just so happened to discover raw chocolate making and being a chocoholic my whole life I couldn't believe how easy and creative it was to make my own chocolate.
After spending several months making chocolates for my friends and family I decided this was definitely something anyone can enjoy and maybe there was even a business in this. So I sourced the raw cacao ingredients, found a wonderful sugar substitute (Sweet Freedom), printed up my recipes and set up an online shop selling my first CHOC Chick Kits www.chocchick.com.
It's now been three years and my business has been growing well. The CHOC Kits are stocked in a number of retailers (John Lewis Food Halls, Whole Foods Market, Planet Organic and more!) and I even managed to fly out to Ecuador to visit the farmers and cacao plantations where I source my ingredients from.
It's been an emotional and exciting journey so far and last week I finally received delivery of my first direct shipment of one tonne of cacao from Ecuador! Of course nothing comes easy and without complications and my joy of opening the boxes on the huge pallet was dashed when we discovered the cacao butter was sent in 25kg blocks and not in the small pieces I had paid for. To top it all this week is National Chocolate Week and we have lots of retail orders to fulfil and demos to carry out but had no usable stock in our warehouse!
After a sleepless weekend worrying about how to break down the cacao butter and spending time at a hardware store buying every type of chisel and hammer and any heavy duty tools that might work and I set off with my husband in tow to the warehouse in Essex to see if we could break the damn cacao ourselves!
We spent a full day hacking away at a mountain of cacao butter and working with the warehouse to pack as many cacao butter ingredient pouches as we possibly could. It was hard and exhausting work but everyone was so helpful and positive and we managed to load our car up with nearly 100kg of cacao butter neatly packed in our new pouches and drove home back to Sussex (it took 3 hours of slow and careful driving!).
We arrived late and exhausted and our ever understanding girls had come home from school on their own, sorted themselves out and were waiting for us with cups of tea.
Thankfully the next morning I was able to deliver the stock to the warehouse that fulfils all our orders (run by the amazing Jan Parker, who has the most incredible 'can do' attitude and operates a brilliantly organised fulfilment company in East Sussex) and spent the day with with the team packing up and preparing all the retail orders for this week. We just made it, by the skin of our teeth and thanks to the amazing efforts of everyone involved.
My business is truly a family effort and I couldn't manage it without the help and support of my girls and hubby. They are incredibly involved and help with everything from developing and tasting recipes (Maia is chief taster and Ella has come up with some fantastic chocolate creations), manning stalls at fairs and trade shows (Bill is the ultimate salesman), labelling bags in front of the telly, helping pack up boxes and kits at the warehouse and now even smashing up cacao butter!