Sunday, 16 September 2012

Inspirational Women: Kate and Anne of Cocoa

Who doesn't love chocolate? Anyone who doesn't isn't to be trusted in my book! A little bit of what you fancy does you good I say. I couldn't resist the chance to go to my local chocolate shop, Cocoa on Ecclesall Road in Sheffield, to chat to the owners, Kate and Anne, about all things sweet [well maybe a little business chat too!].

Kate and Anne have owned Cocoa for the last 6 years since the previous owner decided to sell up. Students at the time, they grabbed the chance of owning their own chocolate shop with both hands. Unhesitating and unflinching they took on their own business just as they were leaving Sheffield Uni where they were studying Psychology and English respectively. 

Our conversation soon comes around to one of my favourite words - serendipity - after all, they both admit, that had Rachel not been selling up, both their lives would have turned out very differently, but their passion for the quirky shop and it's wonderfully rich interior and philosophy was too hard to resist.

 Image via Pinterest

Together they set about expanding the business into a room to the rear of the shop, to create a cafe where they serve teas, coffees and indulgent hot chocolates and cakes. "For the colour of the room we were inspired by a candle box we found with gold around the edges, but everything was done on a budget. We wanted the room to have a relaxed feel to it, like being at home, so if there was some chocolate spilled we wouldn't worry!" Kate tells me.

I ask it they were at all fazed by the competition, a Costa Coffee sits just opposite the shop? "No, we didn't worry about competitors, because we don't just do one thing, I think we're quite unique," says Kate. "It was pre-recession and Rachel convinced us that we could do it. She was very supportive as there were lots of complications with taking over the business. Most people laughed and said we'd fail, but we very much followed our hearts! 

"We just had a love for it, and it was that passion that we ran on for the first year."

Their inspiration for the interior of the shop evolved from the original design which was dark and Victorian in style. "We wanted to put our own stamp on things, so we added to her look by injecting lots of colour". It's this colour that adds the personality and warmth to the shop, which also hosts special events like a Book Group and Knitting Club once a month. Chocolate 'lock-ins' are another favourite with regulars who hire out the shop for special occasions, it feels like a special club that you want to be a member of!

I ask what advice they would offer other women looking to set up their own business? "Follow your heart and be prepared to work really hard". They may live in a fantasy world but their feet are very firmly on the ground.

Their quirky, vintage inspired style suits the shop, and they both confess to being thrifty sale shoppers. "A lot of our friends have more money than us, but aren't as happy in their jobs. We're both very cautious with our money because we're not earning a lot." Anne admits to embracing  opportunities when they come up "it's a bit like sale shopping", she confesses, "I know if I don't get it then and there it will have gone". In characteristic style her favourite shop is TK Maxx for digging out those one-off bargains. Her favourite accessory is a beautiful jacquard bag from Collard Manson
Kate's choice is a luxurious vintage-style carpet bag, but I have to admit surrounded by chocolate I quickly lose interest in talk of handbags! Who knew chocolate was so stylish? The beautiful packaging, saturated colours and covetable designs of the chocolates feels a little like being surrounded by Tiffany boxes. How they stay so slim is the only mystery?

If I owned a chocolate shop I'd be the size of a house by Christmas.

You can find Cocoa at 462 Ecclesall Road, Sheffield, S11 8PX.

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