We were savaged on BBC’S Dragons’ Den for our chocolate business…now it’s worth £1million & Prince Charles is a fan
CHOCOLATE shop owners who were savaged on Dragons’ Den have managed to turn their business around into a £1million success story.
Paul Maden and James Findlay beat the odds after their firm Cocoa Mountain got a dressing down on the hit BBC entrepreneurial show.Cocoa Mountain owners Paul Maden and James Findlay turned things around despite getting savaged on Dragon’s Den[/caption] The business has become a hit with celebs – and even Prince Charles is a fan[/caption]
The business was ridiculed by the Dragon’s Den tycoons who branded it a place for “hippies”.
But the savvy Scottish owners didn’t give up and tasted sweet success with a turnover heading to just under £1million.
The chocolate shop is located in Sutherland, the most north westerly village on mainland UK.
Their confectionery has proved a hit with a range of famous faces said to include ex England cricketer Ian Botham, former Rangers boss Ally McCoist and actress Juliet Stevenson.
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And even Prince Charles is a big fan with the royal reportedly wanting to marry his whisky Barrogill with a truffle produced by Cocoa Mountain for sale through his Mey Selections brand.
But the company actually turned down Charles because they were asked to add preservatives.
The duo have been working around the clock, seven days-a-week to fulfil online sales of truffles with orders as far as America, Canada, Australia, Dubai, and even from Switzerland, the home of chocolate.
Demand is also steady for their hot chocolate drink – which the dragons rejected – and the entrepreneurs have an outlet in Dornoch in Sutherland and a factory in Perth.
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However, the remote location combined with Brexit and Covid meant that Paul and James’ dream was very nearly wrecked.
Cocoa Mountain has had to temporarily shut due to problems attracting staff out into the wilderness.
Paul said: “We had to shut in May we just did not have enough staff to cope.
“We are really gutted but we need ten people to fully open. We became a victim of our own success.
“We potentially could open with three people in July but that would be just selling chocolate bars etc – no drinks or food.
“Brexit has caused recruitment difficulties without doubt and it is remote here. There is not a sufficient local pool of staff.”
James added that they pay £12.50 an hour and offer “good accommodation”.
And crucially: “We expect our staff to taste the chocolate – they have to know the products. It is a dream job in a dream location.
“It is fast paced environment, but would appeal to students and those on a gap year.”
The owners did not manage to secure the £80,000 investment for a 15 per cent stake on Dragons Den when they appeared on the show in August 2015.
And to add insult to injury, the Dragons variously described their location as a “diabolical” place to do business.
However, after Paul and James appeared on the show they were approached by more than 80 potential investors.
“It got to the stage where I based myself down at Heathrow for three days interviewing them, one by one,” said Paul.
“One guy wanted to give us £100,000-a-year just to use the Cocoa Mountain name.
“But in the end we decided to do things ourselves – none of the investors were going to share our passion for the product or add value to it.”
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It comes after Dragon’s Den tycoons refused to invest in a “fat-shaming” brand which is now worth £5 million.
And a business whiz who defied the Dragons by turning down a £75k investment has had the last laugh as he now owns a six-figure tech firm.The duo’s ideas on Dragon’s Den were not met with enthusiasm but they managed to beat the odds[/caption] Paul and James[/caption] Ten jobs with accommodation are up for grabs at Cocoa Mountain[/caption]
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