From rocky road to chocolate city

Amy Sargeantson and Chris Thomson from the Noosa Chocolate Factory

Case study: Noosa Chocolate Factory

Applying foot traffic lessons from running market stalls to opening 2 stores, Fresh Rocky Road and The Dark Chocolatier, in a prime Brisbane city location has proved a winning formula for the Noosa Chocolate Factory.

For business partners Amy Sargeantson and Chris Thomson, finding the right business location instead of trading at the markets allowed them to trade for 12 months of the year instead of just in the colder half.

Chris said the overheads for market stalls were constant, but poor weather and market location could significantly reduce takings.

'Being chocolate, you can only really trade outdoors 6 months of the year. The rest of the year is just way too hot,' Chris said.

'At the markets, at certain locations there was no foot traffic and your takings would be very low.'

'In the end the rent for running farmers' market stalls is pretty comparable to a shop for us, which not many people believe, but it's just the case.'

Amy and Chris still credit the markets with allowing them to test product demand and develop the confidence to open their own stores.

Both Amy and Chris have a strong eye for retail design and shopfitting. Chocolates are displayed in wooden boxes stamped with the Noosa Chocolate Factory logo, an idea from a winery they visited in Hua Hin, Thailand.

Chris said things they did to attract market goers can be seen in their product displays in the front store windows.

'The backbone of the business at the markets, up until when we got the shop, was the rocky road,' Chris said.

'I really think you need an entertainment factor when you've got a market stall. Everyone's walking past at a fast pace. And our entertainment factor was sometimes a 5 foot high pile of rocky road at the markets. So people would stop and they'd have to try, and then possibly buy.'

To tempt passing shoppers and commuters, Fresh Rocky Road and The Dark Chocolatier feature large slabs of rocky road and dark chocolate in their front windows to entertain and entice.

'We really like to concentrate on niche products from a niche business,' Chris said.

The partners have a strong sense of their unique selling proposition and they keep a keen eye on industry and market trends. For example, Amy and Chris single out Margaret River Chocolate Company and Mast Brothers as their chocolate making idols.

Amy and Chris encourage new businesses to also look interstate and overseas for business inspiration.

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