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One of the Lake District’s most popular confectionary shops is growing rapidly and expanding its offering following enterprise mentoring support.

The Chocolate Cottage, based on Stock Lane in Grasmere, was launched by husband and wife team Richard and Angela Barker. The couple spotted an opportunity for a local confectionary shop specialising in hand-made chocolates and decided to capitalise on the area’s tourism heritage by launching last year.

Starting with their own range of 12 chocolates as well as other branded confectionary, Richard and Angela were keen to see the business grow as much as possible. In order to help them with their expansion plans, the couple sought guidance from a qualified enterprise mentor who could provide sound, impartial feedback on their business plan.

The couple were introduced to Lloyds Banking Group volunteer mentor, Derek Gibbon through the Institute of Enterprise and Entrepreneurs (IOEE) and have been working with him through a series of regular meetings over the past 12 months.

Richard Barker said: “As a young start-up business we are still very much on a learning curve and we knew that we would really benefit from some guidance in order to help us achieve our goals. The idea of an enterprise mentor really appealed to us because we knew we could get a free, impartial third opinion from someone who is very skilled and experienced in their field.

“Working with Derek has been incredibly beneficial as it has meant we have a regular sounding board for all our plans. We can constantly bounce new ideas off him and he is able to give us up-front, honest guidance which enables us to make more informed decisions – plus his background in finance is particularly useful when it comes to our accounting and business planning.”

Since working with Derek, The Chocolate Cottage has grown rapidly, expanding its range of homemade chocolates from 12 to 30 and launching an online presence. Furthermore, Richard and Angela have secured a significant contract with the local tourism board and are preparing to hire two new members of staff early this year.

Furthermore, The Chocolate Cottage was named ‘New Business of the Year’ at the annual Small Firms Enterprise Development Initiative (SFEDI) awards held in October, and were presented with the prestigious accolade at a ceremony held at the House of Lords.

Angela added, “Richard and I would definitely recommend enterprise mentoring for other small businesses. No matter how much experience you have in running your own company, it is always useful to have additional support and guidance and it can make a huge difference to the progress of your business.”

Derek Gibbon, senior manager, Lloyds Bank Commercial Banking, said: “Working with businesses and helping them grow has always been one of my biggest passions which is why I first became interested in volunteering as an enterprise mentor. Lloyds Bank played an integral role in the development and launch of the government-backed mentoring scheme for some time now and after seeing many of my colleagues support businesses through the initiative, I was really keen to volunteer myself.

“Richard and Angela are very ambitious and they have some fantastic ideas for The Chocolate Cottage. Helping them shape and refine these ideas, and indeed see them come to fruition, has been incredibly rewarding and just goes to show that true entrepreneurialism is alive and kicking in the UK.”