How did you first start Dandelion Cocoa? Can you remember where you had the idea, was it a slow process dream or an epiphany?
Dandelion Cocoa was definitely a slow process dream that began late 2013. I was in a terrible place with my mental health and entering my last year of university, studying for a degree that I had absolutely no interest in. There wasn’t really a question of getting a “real” job as I wasn’t even coping with the basics of life, however this feeling of failure only made the situation worse, so I think I subconsciously tried to find something I knew I’d enjoy but that I could at least frame as progress into the world I felt was leaving me behind. One thing I have always loved is Chocolate, call it a cliché but I eat more of it than anyone I know and always have done! And who doesn’t want to grow up to be Willy Wonka? So it seemed like the perfect hobby to take up and focus my energy on.
How long did it take from vision to launching your brand?
Goodness, this is a tough one to answer, I’m 6 years in and still launching! I think as I never saw it as a business, it’s just been gradual organic growth, both the vision and “brand” continually adapt. In terms of the first idea of making chocolate to taking action, I suppose a couple of months, I booked myself onto a hobby course and went from there.
What was your vision? What did you want to gift to the world?
Really, it was just to make things that people liked. I’m still a nightmare for not producing certain flavors (I’m looking at you Marzipan) because I dislike them, so don’t trust that I'll be able to know if it’s good enough for my customers! I’ve received bewildered comments from other business owners who wonder why I use such expensive ingredients or do things a certain way, and it reminds me that I want to run a business differently, I have no interest in squeezing out every penny I can, I want customers to know they’re getting a great product & to feel happy when they shop with us. Happy and full of sugar.
Tell us a little more about your product, what did you want to create and why? Did you create it to fill a market or out of pure natural evolution? How long did the sampling take to get it right? Did you have market research of taste testers for your yummy treats?
I have quite a big range, basically all things chocolate and an ever-expanding range of baked goods – although so far so actual cake, as you’ve guessed it, I don’t like cake or buttercream! It was pure evolution for me, and I continue to tweak constantly as my skills improve. Each step has been a huge learning curve, but having taken that step 100 times over, I'm confident in my ability to perfect it with enough practice and determination – this has been a massive business, and life, lesson.
I’m sure there’s been a few teething problems along the way, share any here which you feel would help another avoid!
Oh lord, thousands! Mainly, if you have market stalls, secure them properly so they don’t 1. fly away in the wind and pin someone against another stall, 2. allow someone to break in and steal all your Christmas takings in broad daylight!
I’d say above all, you’re going to make so many mistakes, but you absolutely need to. There is no way I could do what I do now without all the experience the teething problems provided, and in another year I’ll be that much further ahead, don’t try and skip the steps and don’t beat yourself up for making bad business decisions – it's better to make the big mistakes earlier than later.
Tell us about your logo, boxes, store – what has been your vision, the harder moments, and the best way of saving the pennies along the way?
I enjoy being creative, so this side of the business I’ve always felt quite confident on, however on a tiny budget it can be really tough getting your vision into reality. I’d been sketching out of my shop as a daydream for a year before I even found premises. The best way of saving pennies? You can do so much more than you know, yes it’s 100x harder but if you don’t have the luxury of taking risks with your cash spend your time learning. I learned to plaster from DIY videos for the shop, drove all over the place for the best deals on what I needed, and must have downloaded every free trial on the planet for designing packaging/logos/ editing photos. Then you’ll know when you’re ready to splash out on something, it'll make sense to spend time working on your business rather than spending 6 hours trying to do a job a professional could do in 20 minutes!
How did it feel to start receiving orders, with customers sharing their photos of your product?
It still feels fantastic, I work so hard on our recipes and getting everything perfect, that each little comment we receive feels so personal! I hold my breath each time in case it’s something negative, but it seems people really just do love to email to let us know how much they love their treats!
How would you describe your brand in 3 words?
Fun, Friendly, Carefree
What are your little moments of happiness throughout the day?
Hearing my little dog plod down the stairs excited to greet me. Getting to our kitchen really early in the morning and making a coffee
What’s your happy place?
Locked away at home with my boyfriend and puppy. Also Alton Towers.
What do you wish to see more of in the world?
Genuine kindness, authenticity, and less greed
What inspires you?
Women bucking the trend.
Favorite adventure you’ve ever had?
Paris, I couldn’t tell you why.
What do you wish you’d known when you were young?
That it’s an option not to take the academic route!
Thank you so much, Sorrel for taking the time to share your story with us and our readers. If you'd like to explore Sorrel's Chocolate wonderland, follow @dandelioncocoa and check out her website (with UK postal!) www.dandelioncocoa.co.uk.