For the love of chocolate
Not many people would be brave enough to start their own business in the middle of a global financial crisis. Particularly not a business selling a non-essential, high-end product like luxury chocolate.
But Stu Jordan was determined to start a new career doing something he loves.
He was made redundant from his IT sales role in January 2009 and was pleased to escape the "soul-less" corporate world.
"I made a list of 10 things I am passionate about. Chocolate was No 10 - it only made it on to the list because I was eating chocolate at the time."
For someone who loves baking, pastry and desserts the idea of becoming a chocolatier seemed the best option. Not everyone agreed.
"It was amazing, the negativity that I hit. Not one person said ‘Go for it'. My accountant said ‘Don't do it'."
But Mr Jordan believes that if you're passionate about something and you have the skills and experience to make it happen, you should follow your dream.
He opened the Queen St branch of The Sweetest Little Chocolate Shop in 2009. To begin with he sold other people's products, but the long-term goal was to learn how to make chocolate himself.
"I went to Melbourne and spent a month with a chocolate master. It gave me a fantastic foundation."
These days his knowledge of chocolate making is impressive and he's even started a school where he teaches others the tricks of the trade.
The treats he and his team produce in their Glen Innes factory are designed to surprise and impress.
Bite into one of their white chocolate hearts and be blown away by the intense passionfruit flavour of the ganache inside. Try the chili and lime and you'll be hit by a wave of sweet tangy citrus, followed by a subtle burn.
Chocolates that taste of lemon lime and bitters, feijoa vodka and fresh raspberries are other highlights.
Mr Jordan worked as a retail troubleshooter for many years, so while he admits that opening three stores in three years was risky, it wasn't a complete gamble.
He's particularly proud of his brightly coloured Sylvia Park store.
"You have to be in those prime retail spots where people walk by."
Mr Jordan compares having a three-year-old business to having a three-year-old child, in the sense that he works non-stop for the thing he loves and earns very little.
"You've got to back yourself in business. No-one else is going to do it. You've got to believe in yourself and try things and have fun."
He admits business is tough, but there's no way he's giving up. Even the nay-saying accountant says things are on the right track.
- East And Bays Courier
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