Paul and Emma Morris are the husband and wife team behind Chocolate Café, which has been manufacturing chocolate and serving the people of Ramsbottom since 2008.
Having successfully weathered the worst of the recession, Paul and Emma were keen to start to grow the business, which mixes the production of a range of chocolate products, a cafe with a chocolate shop and online sales. But they knew that it wasn’t something they could do alone.
Paul was invited to a Business Growth Hub breakfast event in Bury and soon discovered that the services the Hub offered would be perfect to help him to develop the business. In particular, he was keen to increase online sales and develop the e-commerce capabilities of the café’s website.
Paul explains: “We’d been very careful not to over-stretch ourselves at first because of the uncertainty around the economy, but we’d still been planning for growth once the time was right.
“I think growth with any small business is vital. If you’re not growing, you’re shrinking. There’s no treading water, with business you’ve got to be going one way or the other.”
Paul was teamed up with Rahim Lakha, one of the Hub’s digital growth advisors. “Rahim was a breath of fresh air,” says Paul. “He didn’t come in and start dictating what we should be doing but from the start he took time to really understand what we wanted to achieve.”
Rahim helped the business successfully apply to the Hub’s Co-Investment Fund which offers businesses the opportunity to receive match-funding of up to £3,000 to buy expertise and advice that will drive growth.
Paul used the finance to develop a new website for the café which has had a huge increase on sales.
“Digital skills are vital for any small business owner that is serious about actually growing their company,” explains Rahim. “Most small businesses don’t have their own in-house IT teams, which is why more and more SMEs are taking advantage of the workshops and masterclasses that we offer.”
"As well as Rahim’s enthusiasm and expertise," says Paul, "the Hub’s support also gave some structure and format to their plans, while Rahim also proved to be an excellent sounding board for new ideas."
Paul adds: “The great thing about the Hub is that it’s so flexible – it’s not a one size fits all approach. They will adjust their services for each business and each sector, so that you can access the help that you need.
“Small businesses are the beating heart of the UK and without them the economy just doesn’t work. And what’s great is that the Hub really gets this.”