An Interview with a Founder Linda Barrie of Choc Affair


Meet Linda of Choc Affair

Linda is the founder of Choc Affair, a family-owned chocolate manufacturing business based in historic York. A restaurant owner at a young age, Linda went on to a role within the Cosmetic surgery industry before setting up Choc Affair from her home in 2006. Part of a team of 16 within the manufacturing of the chocolate, Linda is the creative force behind the business and looks after the new product development, design and marketing. 

1.Can you explain to us how the idea for your business came to you and how the whole process kicked off?

The Choc affair journey started in 2006 when my daughters were both young, and we realised they had an intolerance to milk. Alternative diets were not as widely recognised then as they are now; and there were few options available for the girls. So, with a little creativity, lots of soya milk, dark chocolate, and raw sugar, I made them a hot chocolate they loved. I had a feeling there could be a business idea here, and so explored the idea with a designer; and the concept of our hot chocolate on a stick was born.

Due to launch in February, I contacted the chocolatier who was due to produce for me, to then be told he was off during the month of January – so wouldn’t be making me any samples. This was to be our first pivotal moment in the business, and with no samples, there could be no launch; so, there was nothing else to do other than buy a mini chocolate machine, a box of chocolate couverture, and after reading the instruction book, have a go.

2.What were the biggest challenges you faced when bringing the idea to market?

The biggest challenge was for me the production of the actual product – I’d never intended to make the chocolate myself, but needs must, and I had to get started. I had no experience of working with chocolate and the science behind it, so I made many mistakes throughout trying to get it right which took a lot of extra time – time which I didn’t have to spare. Like many other small start-ups, I still had my part time job and with two children, 2 dogs and my husband, it was hard to juggle everything, whilst trying to invest energy into the chocolate.

3.Where do you think good ideas come from and what inspires you?

I can be inspired by so many things – on a personal level I’m inspired by nature and people. Everywhere you look there is a story being lived out – in the faces of those around us, whether worn down, or full of vitality, they have their hope and dreams.  When I’m walking to work first thing, there’s no traffic and the birds are out in force, and I find it sets me up for the day because there’s something so powerful in being outside. Good ideas come from all around us, we’ve just got to keep our eyes open and often we see those ideas which align with what we’re passionate about. 

4.What are your company’s values and why are these things important to the business?

Our values are about the people behind the chocolate – the farmers and their families, those who need a chance of employment, it’s understanding that everyone is important and ensuring we’re doing what we can to encourage and ensure we’re doing right by people.

5.What is next for your brand?

We’re always looking of ways to improve on what we do and our packaging designs are a large part of that, so this year we’re revamping some of our range and that’s always exciting. New flavours are also in development, we’ve got a new range of oat milk chocolate bars coming out shortly and we’re currently developing some stunning flavoured bars due out for Christmas. 

6.What one piece of advice would you have for someone just starting out on their business journey or currently going through a setback?

It’s hard to limit it to one piece of advice, so I’ll try to keep it brief!  Only start something that excites you and that you’re passionate about, because it’s that passion and drive that will keep you going – it’s going to be incredibly hard work, you’re going to have to wear many different hats, juggle lots of different roles while you begin to grow, but know that it’s worth it – IF it is what you’re passionate about. I can’t imagine dreading going to work, I love what I do and so working long hours is just something I do, because if you don’t, how can you expect other people to. Expect it to take longer than your business plan suggests breaking even, don’t overestimate the financials and be prepared to fail and admit you’ve got it wrong. You’re going to make mistakes, that’s a given, it won’t all be plain sailing, but have fun and enjoy yourself along the way.

7.What resources and tools do you use to remain productive or up-to-date on industry trends etc?

We use Klaviyo for our email marketing, it’s a great system and simple to use yet affordable, scaling with us as we grow. We receive industry publications, we’re constantly talking with our retailers who are on the coal front and we listen and engage with our customers on social media. We’ve learnt over the years that it’s important to be working with the right people who are knowledgeable in their own field, we can’t do it all and we need expertise in areas across the business which we bring in as needed. 

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