‘I like to see my business as the Home of Treats’
Wow what a women!! She worked in the NHS for 27 years, until nostalgia and a childhood dream came knocking at her door and presented a new career opportunity. Her talents include baking, nursing and coaching.
Being International Women’s Day, I could not think of anyone more lovely and talented than Susie from Beyond Cocoa to feature.
Below in our recent interview, she discusses being the ‘Home of Treats’ for all things chocolate and baking and how her Ghanaian roots and her grandmother have attributed to her business.
What is your background?
I have been interested in cooking and baking since the age of around 10 and my childhood dream was to become a chef. I was always quite adventurous when I was young and I remember during a famine in Ghana, I made cookies from cornmeal and sold them all.
However, despite my childhood dream, I ended up being a health visitor and enjoyed working in the nursing profession for 27 years. During this time, I continued to bake and attended training courses with Squires Kitchen and the Chocolate Academy. I had also already started a baking business at home, however due to health reasons I had to end my career in nursing and stop the baking business.
During my recovery, I came across the field of Neuro Linguistic Programming (NLP) and life coaching. I decided to train and become a Master Practitioner in this area, providing help and support to women through coaching. Last year during the start of the pandemic, I also decided to restart the business again and officially relaunched last September.
Why did you choose the name Beyond Cocoa?
I was born and raised in Ghana and somebody who played a big part in my upbringing was my grandmother, who Beyond Cocoa is actually attributed to. On Saturdays as a child, I used to go to my grandmother’s farm. A big portion of her farm was made up of cocoa which she used to harvest.
My grandmother was very strict with the cocoa beans and would not allow them to get wet or allow any moisture onto them. As soon as she saw signs of rain she would panic, as she put a lot of care and attention into the drying of the cocoa beans. I always wondered as a child why my grandma paid so much attention to this, as it didn’t make sense at the time. My grandma would then sell all her dried cocoa beans to men from the cocoa board.
When I started the course at the Chocolate Academy, I learnt about how cocoa is grown and processed. I then began to realise why grandma used to shout and be so protective over the beans. Drying the beans is actually a very important part of the process and it is only now that I really appreciate all the attention and effort that my grandma went to.
My grandmother passed away around five years ago and when I decided to launch the business, I thought it would be such a nice tribute to bring her into my business in some way. Thinking back on our time together, I had lovely memories of us at the cocoa tree enjoying the fruits.
Although I realised that for my grandma, the only cocoa product she knew about was a drink called Milo. She never saw the finished product and the process which cocoa goes through. I chose the name Beyond Cocoa to honour my grandmother’s memory, because for me there is more beyond the cocoa fruit.
What do you sell?
I like to see my business as the home of treats, because it has all the little pleasures that we take for granted. What you will find at Beyond Cocoa is delicious treats including chocolates, cakes, cookies and brownies. I also prepare favours and dessert tables for events and I sell treat boxes which give you the opportunity to try a variety.
What differentiates Beyond Cocoa from other businesses in the industry?
Being a small business, we can provide the human touch with our customer care. We are flexible with our services and allow customers to choose and modify their order according to their needs. Most of our items are produced fresh and are made to order.
I source most of the ingredients for the cakes within the UK, however I source the chocolate from a company who sells ingredients mainly from West Africa. I use the finest and highest quality ingredients, because personally I do not like to put anything into my body apart from the finest ingredients. I try to use free range and organics ingredients as much as possible.
Where do you find creative inspiration when you bake?
I love nature and a lot of the ingredients we use in cooking and baking begin from natural sources. For example, cocoa starts from a tree in another country and then goes through a process to get to us in a form of a chocolate bar. That’s intriguing and inspiring for me.
I gather a big source of inspiration from other talented and creative bakers within the industry. I like to look at trends and discover what is happening in the industry, as learning is important and never stops. I try to look at myself, evaluate and reflect on the things I have done, and how I can improve.
What challenges have you experienced since starting beyond Cocoa?
The journey has been quite challenging, but I didn’t expect anything less. Just like anything else in life, there are hurdles that you have to climb over. Due to the pandemic people have scaled down on their purchases, which has been challenging and affected business.
My family help me, however the main aspects of the business i.e., the baking and chocolate making is all completed by myself. I have struggled with exposure and getting myself out there for people to know more about Beyond Cocoa. At the moment I have my website, Facebook and Instagram pages. Once lockdown is finished, I hope to be able to do some tastings and meet more people in person and also start advertising on other platforms. Because of the pandemic, it has also been challenging trying to get deliveries to clients on time, as sometimes there are delays outside of my control.
What are your future goals?
As mentioned earlier, I also want to continue life coaching, mentoring and supporting women on their journeys too. I plan to introduce more plant based products in the future, as I know people are more aware and conscious of what they put into their bodies and vegan products are becoming more popular.
I would also like to increase the selection of products that we sell and aim to reach and attract a wider variety of people. I would like to be more visible within the industry, still providing a human touch and quality products, whilst taking my business to the next level.
You can continue to follow Susie and Beyond Cocoa’s journey by visiting: