‘Whatever made you think of opening a chocolate shop?’ I have lost count of the number of people who’ve asked me that. To me the answer is so obvious I am amazed that anyone need ask. I have always been obsessed by chocolate, as far back as I can remember, and I thought that everyone dreamed of opening their own chocolate shop. Perhaps they did, when they were small, but then forgot about it or got sensible and decided to follow conventional careers. My dream was recurrent; many a time I walked through landscapes from Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, where the trees were swathed in sweets, blades of grass made from soft minty sugar, and rivers filled with molten chocolate. Each time I picked the sweets, gathered them in my skirts and returned home to hide them under my pillow, so that they would be there when I awoke. So vivid were these dreams, so bitter the disappointment on awaking and finding nothing.
Everyone thought I was crazy when I said I was going to open my own chocolate shop. I saw a niche for something completely different – along the lines of a French boutique de chocolat – which would allow the customer to indulge in their wildest chocolate dreams, and no one managed to talk me out of it. I did a 10-week ‘Start Your Own Business’ Course, sponsored by the Manpower Services Commission, and was 23 when my bank manager agreed to lend me cash to start up. As I was penniless, my dear mother secured the loan with her house. Was this an act of supreme indulgence on her part, or did she believe I had inherited the female entrepreneurial streak from her side of the family (her mother and grandmother had both had shops)? For my part, business failure just wasn’t a possibility, due to a mixture of blind faith and youthful chutzpah.
© 2003 Chantal Coady. All rights reserved.