With Easter approaching, we spoke to artisan chocolate maker Amelia Rope about her lucky break and the highs and lows of starting her own chocolate business
Easter is approaching fast so in the spirit of all things chocolaty we spoke to Amelia Rope, artisan chocolate maker, about starting out in the confectionary business. Here she us how she got her lucky break and set up her own business from scratch and how you can go about setting up yours — so take off those ties and put on your aprons.
How did Amelia Rope Chocolates come about?
I found myself with chocolate as my ‘vehicle’ purely by chance. I wanted to be a food journalist after my first time on MasterChef and wrote to William Sitwell as I loved the way Food Illustrated was done. He politely informed me that without a degree in journalism I stood little chance.
He then tried a truffle I had made using chocolate mint from my mother’s garden and I was propelled forward into the world of chocolate. He gave me huge confidence to think I could do something. I then played around making different truffles (with as little fat in as possible and pure ingredients with no junk in them) and created my unique crystallised flora (rose petals, mint leaves, violas and pansies) that I dipped in hand tempered chocolate and decorated with a fleck of gold or silver leaf.
A friend who worked at Condé Nast suggested I drop them off at the food editors so I took the day off work (I was practice manager of a doctors practice) to deliver them. They received a lot of media coverage, but I still had no kitchen, no experience in running a business, no cash and no packaging. Nevertheless, that was the start of Amelia Rope Chocolate.
The major turning point was when Patrick Reeves, co founder of sofa.com, put in a commission for chocolate bars in November 2009. He ordered 1000. I had just six weeks to design the recipe, find someone to help make them, design the packaging and get them to sofa.com before Christmas.
Pat was the one who suggested I use brown paper and I said I have to have colour — hence the multi-coloured foil. He didn’t pay me in cash, but with 1,000 bars for me to go and sell. So I did.
In 2010 I created a milk bar (Pale Edition 01), dropped them off to Ewan Venters (ex director of Selfridges’ Food Halls and now CEO at Fortnum & Mason) and he immediately said Selfridges would take them – and so it began!
Amelia Rope with lots and lots of her chocolate
How did you learn the skills required?
I never had the luxury of training. In many ways this has been hugely frustrating but it also removed restrictions in other ways as I just go for it. So for instance, few chocolatiers would attempt my crystallised chocolate-dipped flora, because the flora has moisture in which stuffs up the chocolate tempering and so storage has to be very fine-tuned, as I learnt.
Business-wise, my father sent me on a secretarial course (hoping I would be married in my early 20s and off his ‘payroll’!). I then sold a flat, educated myself and went to university to study nutrition and herbal medicine and then qualify as an aromatherapist. In essence, I have learnt my business skills from my working life and continue learn on a daily basis!
If you had to give advice to people starting out now what would you tell them?
Be prepared to hit a saturated market place, so come up with something that is unusual and will appeal to consumers. You need to be able to have a product that has scalability, shelf life and is as ‘pure’ with the ingredients as possible.
Amelia Rope is stocked at Selfridges, Liberty, Whole Foods and other selected stockists: www.ameliarope.com
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