“We had a load of possible names on a list – but none of them were exactly exciting,” admits Thirwell, who co-founded the Royston-based business with Peter Harris (“he’s the most un-accountant-like accountant I’ve ever met”).
“Then we hit upon the name ‘Hotel Chocolat’ and we instantly knew that it was the right brand name for us.
“Many of the other names we were looking at were very two dimensional. The great thing about Hotel Chocolat is that it’s highly escapist.”
Starting out 14 years ago, the pair now own 27 chocolate stores across the country and recently invested in a cocoa plantation in St Lucia.
“Essentially, we went from retailers to farmers,” says Thirlwell. “It was completely outside our comfort zone. Suddenly, we had to learn how to recover from hurricanes that would rip 300 trees off the ground and control cocoa-eating rats that would destroy 30 per cent of our crop.”
Ironically, their next step is to build the real “Hotel Chocolat”, comprising of six cocoa lodges and allowing people to stay on a real chocolate plantation.
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