Chocolatier Amelia Rope started her business carrying her own name with just £7,000. Today, her products which boast unique flavour combinations are purchased by customers across the globe, and stockists include Liberty, Selfridges and Fortnum & Mason in London. We caught up with her to find out more.
LM: Your background is in aromatherapy. What made you decide to launch a business making chocolate, and are they complementary fields?
AR: I was never really aware of making a decision. It all just happened and I found myself establishing Amelia Rope Chocolate. If you had asked me a few years ago whether I would have been involved in a chocolate business, I would have said no way! It is strange how one’s life can thread together as I have been a jack of all trades (a PA, worked in bars, waitressed, and even sold mousetraps for a day!). Apart from the last one, I feel that I can draw on all the skills I have gleaned from these jobs. I always though wanted to run my own business.
I think aromatherapy and making chocolate are complementary from the point of view that there is a symbiosis in my mind between blending recipes and allowing flavours to rest at the right level for them and not forcing them. I strive for the flavour to resonate in the mouth at the end of the mouthful whether it has shot in as a top note or seeps in as a bottom note. I create my recipes as if I was creating a massage blend aiming for a balance but with different notes to amuse the tastebuds coming forth at various levels.
Dark Peppermint and Pale Rose are intense bars with the oils sitting at the top of the chocolate mouthful. Dark ginger rests in the middle of the chocolate and dark lemon, the most subtle of all, sits right at the bottom of the Madagascan chocolate just leaving you with a clean palate. This bar is more for chocolate lovers who like more chocolate than flavour.
LM: You successfully started the business with just £7,000 of funding. What have been the significant challenges since you founded Amelia Rope?
AR: These have to be a lack of resources – both finance (working capital) and manpower (just me running the business, creating the recipes doing all the admin, in store tastings, sales, marketing, online sales etc), growing a business with absolutely no experience in food production and retailer requirements, no experience of accounting or training in starting up a company and then having to grow it. Looking back though, I wouldn’t have done it any other way. The learning and growth has been incredible and still scares and amazes me!
LM: Your products are now available in Fortnum & Mason amongst other high-end stockists. Who are your prime customers and do you just retail in the UK?
AR: Having built the business on my own, I have got to know my customers from in- store tastings as well as doing all of my online orders. What I love about my clients is that they are a total cross section: all ages, from all walks of life and seemingly global. I have begun to export – my largest order was to Qatar at the end of last year. I have fantastic shippers who take care of a lot of the legislative side.
LM: You have recently launched your first ever white chocolate collection following the success of your dark and pale ranges. Is there a growing preference for this type?
AR: I always said that I would never do white chocolate (it’s not really chocolate but more a wildly decadent feast of sugar, milk and vanilla!) but…….I was ill over Easter with the flu and couldn’t eat chocolate for four days! The one thing I craved was a Milky Bar, and yes, sales are good so I presume there are a lot of white chocolate fans who like the salt combination I came up with.
LM: What is your favourite flavour combination and where do you get your inspiration from?
AR: That is difficult to say because I love each flavour that I create. I find the recipes come into my head because my taste buds are demanding to eat the flavour(s). My inspiration for design and packaging is from architecture, stain glass windows and mosaics…..For recipes, I have absolutely no idea. They literally just come into my head and away I go. Quite bizarre but may they continue to do so! I do find I have sudden pockets of creativity as it can get squashed with running a business single handedly. My happiest is when I am playing with chocolate and new recipes or dreaming up a new design. More will come next year!
LM: How do you see the confectionery market in the UK developing in 2014?
AR: I think it will continue to split into premium and everyday. The consumer is demanding a lot more and terms of quality, sustainability etc. This is all good but what they need to remember is we as producers carry a huge cost for it all and have to pass this on. I believe what you pay for is what you get. The market is saturated but I believe we all have our own stories, own vision, own recipe blending/palate and therefore create our own following and there is room for us all.
LM: And about you Amelia, what are your biggest luxuries in life?
AR: The biggest one is switching off from my business – I absolutely love it when I put it to one side. The other ones are buying flowers, seeing family and friends, eating oysters, sipping Sancerre or St Joseph, being able to rent a little flat after 5 years of camping (at one stage I moved 15 times in 15 months to keep rent free and keep the business going), lying out in the sun, dancing all night and not having to work the next day and a heap more too!
LM: Do you ever indulge in extravagant purchases?
AR: Yes! My latest indulgence was a pair of shoes by Walter Steiger which fit divinely. They are very understated in their appearance. The time before that was a pair of unbelievably high slinky red suede shoes from LK Bennet which when I saw them reminded me of the tango. They are still in their box.
LM: What are your favourite travel destinations and do you have any preferred luxury properties when you go abroad?
AR: For the past four years I have not really been anywhere exotic or exciting as my money has been used to establish my business. I did though go to Bahia (Brazil) for a week in January, nip to Paris where inspiration is poured into my mind (one of my favourite places is the Musee Rodin) and Zurich where I fell in love with Chagall’s stain glass windows. 2014 will be a year of travel – my excuse will be for my business but I know I will dive off for the odd luxury adventure too!
LM: If money was no object, what would you buy?
AR: I have a long list! This includes a flat in Pimlico where I could have a little Staffie from Battersea Dogs Home and have a library for all my books, a small house right on the sea, an incredible holiday for my amazing friends and ever patient family, tickets to amazing travel destinations, a contestant place on Strictly Come Dancing, a very old Mercedes convertible, a piece done by Hepworth, Moore or Rodin, as well as a painting I saw at this years ‘Masterpiece’ that I didn’t write down the name of!
LM: Thank you for your time Amelia and for giving our readers such a great insight into your business.