On the eve of the new year, having finally tidied up after the chocolate making marathon that is December, I have been thinking back over the year in general as one does, as well as looking forward to the next.
It has been a strange year - feeling very uncertain in lots of ways. The economic climate has not helped - everyone feeling insecure. The snow has been amazing - but definately limited Christmas sales - we had signed up for loads of Christmas markets, many of which were either cancelled or very poorly attended. The chocolate sector has got busier - lots of new businesses out there, lots of new ideas - all good but means a little more work keeping up with it all!
I did at some point early this year set myself an ambition to 'crack marketing' - well at least focus on it, gets to grips with it, invest in it. I don't think I have been as systematic about that as I had intended - but despite that do feel that I have learned alot and feel I have a clearer direction on this. I have spent a lot of money on advertising in the foodie press and yet to receive one order on the back of that, so one New Year's resolution will definately be to say No to Ad sales people when they phone.
One of the highspots was definately the Perthshire Open Studios week - I really did enjoy that and it opened up relationships and ideas, not least the work with Ruth Atkinson on printing chocolate and then the fantastic work she did on the 12 Days of Christmas images. It also connected me to other craft workers - I hadn't particularly felt isolated before that but it did really feel good to feel part of a group.
Another was a weekend of chocolate making at The Cocoa Tree in Pittenweem; this was great fun and Sophie Latinis prepared the most incredible chocolate themed dinner to round off a busy day of chocolate workshops (and another is planned for February 2011)
Flavour of the year must go to Scots pine - both as a ganache (that won 2 Great Taste Award stars in the summer) and as a thin chocolate - we could have sold a forest of that this Christmas.
And the year coming? I would love to find out more about making chocolate itself and I would really like to develop a link with cocoa producers (this has always been an ambition since I started the business - but I feel unless I start to articulate it and put the idea 'out there' it will be so hidden even to myself that I might miss the seed of an opportunity should it ever arise).