Life is sweet for Sheffield best friends Kate Shepherd and Anne Ashforth after going into business together.
The pair were barely in their twenties and both finishing university when they decided to go into business, running their own chocolate shop.
The duo, now both aged 28, have run Cocoa Wonderland, on Ecclesall Road, since 2006.
The shop is a chocoholic’s dream, selling chocolate and sweets from around the world, as well as those closer to home, like hand-made truffles from the Peak District.
And now the self-confessed chocoholics have decided to take the dream one step further – making and selling their own chocolate.
Anne said: “Business is booming right now and this is something we’ve wanted to do for a while.
“We just decided that, this year, the time had come.”
The shop is described as a cross between Willy Wonka’s Factory and Joanne Harris’s Chocolat meets Alice in Wonderland’s Tea Party.
The pair host chocolate-tasting evenings, after-hours chocolate lock-ins, a knitting club and a book club at the shop – and there is even a cafe in the back serving an entirely chocolate menu.
Kate said: “We sell unique and handmade items you can’t get in many places and have worked hard on the decor to make the shop feel special when you walk in, like taking a step back to your childhood.
“We always knew making our own chocolate was the next step, so we took the courses and waited for the time to be right to expand into producing our own stuff.”
The pair have been experimenting with flavours and fillings in their ‘tiny kitchen in the back’, creating slabs of rocky road and novelty chocolate moustache lollipops.
Anne said: “We’re still getting feedback and experimenting.
“Some of our items have proven popular already, it’s been an exciting start.”
Both girls were students at Sheffield Hallam University and working part-time at the shop when it came up for sale seven years ago.
They borrowed money from family and took out loans to be able to afford the business, days after graduation – despite friends warning them they would regret the decision.
Anne said: “We learnt so much by making so many mistakes, but have never regretted taking that decision.
“We would probably never have the guts to do it now.
“We were young and naïve, but had nothing to lose and no responsibilities – and our friendship has seen us through.”
Kate said: “People always want to know how we can work with chocolate and not be enormous, but we’re careful not to hoover it up. We both knew it would be such a shame if we got to the point we were sick of it, so we’re careful to keep it as an occasional treat where we can, though we’ve definitely been indulging a little more since we began making our own – we have to be sure it tastes right!”
n For details, visit www.cocoawonderland.co.uk