Life is sweet for Cheshire chocolatier Oliver Dunn
PUBLISHED: 09:14 02 December 2020
Oli the Choc is Cheshire’s own Willy Wonka
Kalini Kent in Conversation with chocolatier Oliver Dunn, aka Oli The Choc How did the family business start?
How did the family business start?
My dad Simon started the company in 1984 with my mum Anne, the year I was born. Prior to that he worked for a sweet company in Stockport who sent him to Germany to learn how to work with chocolate. That’s where his passion developed as he realised he could make a business in chocolate. So we now have premises on Canal Side High Lane, Stockport, – a lovely little spot we call Chocolate Street.
What has life been like growing up surrounded by chocolate?
The business had a humble start. We had a little room in the house (the chocolate room), which was like a mini chocolate factory, with dad making the chocolates and mum quality testing. Growing up surrounded by the smell of chocolate and all the creativity had an effect on me. Having a chocolate room like something out of Willy Wonka was great fun for me and my sister Camilla, and we would sneak down in the middle of the night to get a handful of chocolate buttons. When I was 17, dad was looking to grow his business so I joined him in 2001 and it was an exciting journey. In 2005, I set up Oliver’s Chocolate Parties.
Where does your inspiration come from?
I was always inspired by dad’s courage to start a business from nothing and we share the same passion for working with chocolate. Although I’ve got my own business now, we still brainstorm. But it isn’t only working with chocolate and the creativity that excites me: it is giving people something that makes them happy. Chocolate is such a feel-good product, and if it looks and tastes good and you give it as a gift, it makes that person smile.
Tell me about your venture
We use only the best quality Belgian chocolate, made from Ghanaian cocoa beans and dad and I went to Ghana in 2017 to get a fuller understanding of where chocolate comes from. Quality and consistency are really important, but with chocolate parties it is all about creating an experience and memories. So children, for example, get chocolate moustaches and chocolate tattoos.
What impact has Covid had?
It has been an opportunity to look at my life and redesign it. I was doing up to 25 parties a week all over the country and never switching off. I am now able to be more creative and focus on online events, doing virtual chocolate parties including corporate events. The website is now our shop, with chocolate kits and smashes, and I make demonstration videos for YouTube.
What does the future hold?
I am focused on being the best version of myself and learning all the time. I believe in the law of attraction so as long as I can make a living and enjoy life, that is when opportunities present themselves. Going forward I want to keep that balance of business and family life, valuing the downtime and having a Sunday off. I’m now in my happy place, doing what I love and enjoying the journey, rather than just thinking about the destination. u