Name: Helen Pattinson
Job title: Co-founder
Company: Montezuma’s Chocolates
Twitter url: @chocolatehelly
Linkedin url: N/A
Tell us about your job/company/role?
I am one of the founders of Montezuma’s along with my husband Simon. We set up the business after a packing in our lives as London lawyers and embarking on a life-changing trip to South America. Here we were inspired by all things cocoa; its incredible history, botany and of course, the amazing end product!
Simon and I still run the business with a fabulous management team, so a lot of our time is spent dreaming up new products as well as focusing on the direction of the business to ensure it has a long future.
What drew you to working in the confectionery industry? (Apart from the free chocolate!)
We were always chocolate lovers but when we saw how such a fantastic product came from such a humble looking tree, we were immediately attracted to the possibilities it offered. At the time, in the year 2000, the chocolate offering on the British high streets was also very limited and we felt that there was a huge opportunity to create a chocolate business that offered the best quality combined with a fun, quirky approach to flavors and design as well as a strong ethical stance.
What do you love most about your job?
Obviously the chocolate, which I still eat every day to excess. But I also love seeing new products that we’ve dreamt up hitting the shelves; it still gives me a buzz that something that came from our imaginations is worthy of people parting with their hard-earned cash.
‘Fun’ has always been one of our core values and perhaps we put more of a focus on this than other companies.
What do you dislike most about your job?
Nothing! I can honestly say there is nothing I dislike about my job but that’s probably because, if I think a task is awful, then I’m in a position to change the way we tackle it as a business or to even question whether it’s necessary in the first place.
What is your biggest creative achievement so far?
I wouldn’t call myself creative and, although I have loads of ideas for new products, these are normally selfishly based on something I would like to try. But clearly, the biggest creation is the business itself. When you start from nothing, you can aim to create a business that you want to work in and that’s what we did. ‘Fun’ has always been one of our core values and perhaps we put more of a focus on this than other companies but it’s important to enjoy your time at work as we all spend a lot of time there.
Where do you see yourself in five years time?
Probably still dreaming up new chocolate products!
Describe a typical work day.
My day normally starts around 6.30am getting three children up and ready for school, along with the right combination of bags, musical instruments and sports equipment. Coffee will be involved early on. When I eventually get to my desk by 8.30am, sometimes I feel like I’ve already done a full day, so another coffee and most likely some chocolate, followed by catching up on emails and having a few discussions with people normally takes me to about 10.30am. I will sign off some new product designs or have meetings about the next season that we’re looking at (starting from 18 months ahead of the actual season). Then I may catch up with our retail manager to hear about how the shops have been performing and discuss their next focus themes as well as have a meeting with our e-commerce manager to discuss online performance and strategy. More chocolate (and probably coffee) will be consumed throughout the day and I will try to head off at 4pm so that I can be home for the children.
But it should go without saying that no day is the same!
What do you enjoy doing outside of work?
As a family, we are very into our sport and all of us race bikes for fun. We live very close to the sea so also love to go out on the water when we can.
What do you think will be the next big thing in the confectionery world?
Customers will increasingly look for higher cocoa chocolate, so bizarrely, less sugar is the next big thing.
Apple or Android?
What is your favourite book?
The Great Gatsby – F Scott Fitzgerald.
Where do you stand on social media – can’t live without it, or an evil necessity?
Evil necessity and sometimes I like it.
If you could change one thing in the confectionery industry, what would it be?
The need to source cocoa ‘ethically’. The industry should never have put so much pressure on the producers to keep costs down. It’s led to a situation where unethical practices have become the norm.
What’s the biggest misconception about working in confectionery?
That you go off eating it after a while…
What advice would you give to other people looking to get into the confectionery industry?
Be passionate about the product, passion is almost tangible and is the main thing we look for when interviewing for new team members.
Time's up! Thank you Helen
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