A passion for European-style chocolates led former chef Sally Meikle to set up the Colestown Chocolate Company in May 2006 after training in luxury chocolate-making at the Savour Chocolate & Patisserie school in Melbourne.
She chose the name Colestown after a street in Battersea where she and her husband Tim lived during their OE in London.
Four years after Colestown was launched, Tim joined the business, and last year they sold their Balmoral home to put all their resources into it.
The couple, who have three girls, have no regrets. "There is no looking back," says Sally, who says they are following their passion.
"With us being in it together, the kids see how it all works," she says.
The couple operate the business from premises in Sainsbury Rd, Mt Albert, and opened a small store in Newmarket's 277 Broadway, near Countdown, in March. Another small store is planned in Auckland's CBD next year.
Colestown chocolates are also sold at Farro Fresh, Nosh, the Sweetest Little Chocolate Shop and Kirkcaldie and Stains in Wellington.
The Meikles were talking to Christchurch department store Ballantynes the day before the February 2011 earthquake and the couple, both from the South Island, haven't had the heart to follow up. They would like to supply the store one day.
The business has had a real boost since Tim joined in March 2010, says Sally. He has worked in sales and marketing at New Zealand Post, Carter Holt Harvey and Fletcher Building, and has built up the corporate business for Colestown.
"It's all about making things easy for them," says Tim, who worked in the mail-order divisions at both New Zealand Post and at Marks & Spencer in Britain.
"At Colestown we say we can do the packing, address them, put a courier label on. It takes the problem away and it's all done with one email. Our customer service gets us jobs and we can do business quickly because of trust."
Colestown has picked up corporate work through the shop in Newmarket, which also has 10,000 school children in its environs. The Colestown range is not just $60 boxes of chocolates, it includes 100g cookies and cream chocolate bars for $9.80, peanut chocolate bars for $4, easter eggs, lollipops and chocolates for Halloween. "We have all the price points," says Sally, who says the average order is $18.
Sally uses Callebaut chocolate imported from Belgium.
"We have not tried to do anything quirky or different. We have the best or as good as anyone else. Chocolates are a personal taste," says Sally.
"We have the best packaging without a doubt and the best-located shop," says Tim.
The company has seven staff. "We are bringing more people on board. We have pastry chefs working at the factory in Sainsbury Rd," says Tim, who has high hopes of the company's online business. "We have to be better than everyone else," he says.
Turnover this year is expected to be under $500,000, with growth at about 50 per cent.
Because of the need to supply a fresh product, overseas sales would require manufacturing in the target markets. Shanghai or San Francisco are possibilities because of their time zones, the massive markets and being one plane ride away, says Tim.
Always focus on what customers need and how they are going to use the product. Listen to feedback/requests and act on them.