First, A Big Thank You!
Welcome to The Pod - Hand Made Chocolates & Fudge's Crowd-funder campaign and thank you so much for being here. It means a great deal to us that you are following our journey. We can't do this without you and we hope that you will donate, share and follow our progress. Thank you again for your support.
The story so far....
We are a family business of small batch chocolate producers, established in 2007 all our recipes are created by us and made by hand on our premises in Harleston, Norfolk.
From childhood I have always been creative – whether play dough models or my first naïve attempts at making Easter eggs, so it came as no surprise to my family that I chose to take a BA in Fine Art (Sculpture) and gained a 1st Class Honours Degree. After graduation, my partner and I established and ran a successful business as community artists organising and tutoring at workshops across Norfolk, alongside taking commissions for our own art work and selling at craft fairs.
My adventures with chocolate began almost by accident when my younger sister, who was recovering from a lengthy illness, concluded a family BBQ by offering round some gluten and dairy free truffles that she had made that day. In no time we found ourselves discussing their commercial potential and had devised an outline of the business that was to grow into The Pod.
We developed clear, guiding principles, which remain as true today as they were at the outset:
- Everything hand made to our own unique recipes and designs
- Recipes to avoid gluten and be vegetarian friendly
- Uncompromising in the quality of our ingredients
- To only make in small batches to ensure freshness at all times
- To use only natural ingredients in all our products
- To offer stock, personalised and bespoke products to suit all needs
- To provide excellent customer service
- To have strong environmental principles and awareness through all aspects of the business
Several intense weeks followed - learning, experimenting, testing sample ingredients and developing our products, with the intention of making at home and selling through a variety of food fairs, markets and craft fairs. At that point I imagined that I would integrate sales of our chocolates with my art work. Our parents were roped in to help with aspects of business planning. We sold our first chocolate truffles in October 2007, launching with an initial range of 12 dairy cream flavours, quickly followed by a dairy free selection.
Within a year my sister had resumed school, my business had out grown the home environment and armed with a wealth of ideas and ambition, practical help from parents and grandparents and a small loan from the family, the business moved to its own premises (a barn conversion on a farm) and chocolate became my full time obsession!
Over the following 3 years we continued to sell our products through food fairs and markets but reached the point at which demand was outstripping the time available for production, given that we seemed to be constantly in transit! We knew that continuing at the farm was not sustainable, particularly when winter conditions caused the water supply to freeze, wind-damaged power cables made work impossible and the local, rural telephone exchange failed to deliver any broadband service for a week!
We were lucky to acquire our current home, a 200 year old barn, which we named “The Pod”, in the centre of the historic market town of Harleston, Norfolk and within walking distance of home. Moving to The Pod instantly gave us a high street presence, combining production and retail under one roof and where we have built a loyal customer base in this and the surrounding area.
The last 10 years have been an amazing journey, with key landmarks being opening our retail facility, recruiting our first employee (we now have 3), expanding our dairy cream truffle range to 28 flavours, developing new ranges of creams, caramels, liqueurs and praline chocolates, launching our sugar free chocolate and vegan chocolate ranges, developing bespoke work to include unique chocolate wedding and celebration cakes, and on a personal note becoming a proud parent of a young son, who seems to share my passion for chocolate!
Why should you make a pledge?
Looking ahead, we are working to ensure that the business will remain sustainable for future generations.
Our home town, Harleston, is a historic gem situated in the heart of the Waveney Valley on the Norfolk/ Suffolk border. It has a close-knit community, a small retail sector in the Conservation Area which is renowned for its independent, unique shops and a weekly market that has existed since the granting of its charter in 1259.
Despite this unique heritage, Harleston and its businesses, face the same challenges as many towns nation-wide, with reduced footfall due to the closure of key services, such as banks and main post offices, and the well documented increase in online shopping. Most locally based businesses employ local people, so every closure not only affects the business owners, but also the livelihoods of other families.
We know that we make wonderful chocolates – we have many testimonials from our customers who value the quality and diversity of our products – but we also know that increasing our customer base is key to achieving our future sustainability and we have to establish a wider reach for our products than can reasonably be achieved by footfall within our very rural area.
To date, every stage of our journey has been self-financed but to achieve our next milestone – to sell to a national market - we really need your help. Achieving our funding target will enable us to develop a strong web presence and online shop and to kick start our web marketing plan.
We would love to have you on board and we have some sumptuous chocolate goodies to send you as a thank you.
Reward options are shown below and contain a selection of the chocolates which we sell through The Pod in Harleston, Norfolk.
£20 Pledge: box of 16
£50 Pledge: Hamper
£100 Pledge: Deluxe Hamper
£250 Pledge: Hamper (4 times for 1 year) Plus: A surprise Christmas Eve box filled with goodies!
What will we use the funding for?
With the support of a business consultant we have developed a strong business plan and marketing strategy that envisages the development of a vigorous online presence to promote our brand and a marketing plan to enable us to sell nationally. We have a website that has served well as a shop window for The Pod over the past 3 years and although it offers online shopping it was never set up to be a mainstream online market and fails to meet the expectations of online shoppers. The website needs a major restructure to enable customers to shop with ease, that gives us a market place we can update and maintain efficiently and where we can offer our full range of products.
The increased income derived from our online sales will allow us to create more employment locally as well as increasing opportunities for our existing, very loyal employees.
We can't thank you enough for taking the time to read our story and for pledging towards our campaign.
Bespoke celebration cakes
Selection of Shop Products