Innovation and enterprise blog

07 November 2016

Growing a love of chocolate into a successful business

Founded by Helen and Simon Pattinson in 2000, Montezuma's is a family-owned, British chocolate company and has rapidly built a reputation for producing some of the finest and most innovative chocolate available in the UK. The creative team of chocolatiers take every opportunity to experiment with new flavours and ingredients specialising in the use of spices, herbs and essential oils. Montezuma's entire range of chocolate bars, truffles, fruits and drinking chocolate is made by them near the beach in West Sussex. 

We caught up with Helen ahead of her panel discussion as part of Question Time for Entrepreneurs on Monday 14 November for Global Entrepreneurship Week 2016, which has since concluded. 

  Helen Pattinson - Montezuma's co-founder


Hi! Where did the idea come from to start your own business?

The idea for Montezuma’s originated whilst myself and my husband [Simon Pattinson, co-founder] were exploring South America back in 1999. While we were on our travels, we visited a small town in Argentina and saw first-hand the incredible chocolate retailing that was going on out there. The town was simply full of amazing chocolate shops and stalls, selling great quality chocolate with mouth-watering flavours we had never experienced before! At that moment we had a brainwave. With the UK chocolate market in a state of lull, with tired and tested flavours being churned out for years, we felt compelled to change this. Once we arrived back in the UK, we immediately left our stable careers as city lawyers and entered into the chocolate industry. After sixteen years and countless chocolate innovations, we haven’t looked back!

How did the Business & IP Centre help you along the way?

The Business & IP Centre was incredibly helpful in fact, without it Montezuma’s would have been much harder to create! I spent days researching trends in the chocolate industry: the economic climate, consumer buying behaviour, price perceptions – all sorts of things! It really was helpful. It’s amazing the amount of work that has gone on behind-the-scenes at the Centre over the years, and it’s interesting to look back and know first-hand the positive impact it had on us starting Montezuma’s. It’s an outstanding resource and I would advise anyone thinking about going into business to take full advantage of the facilities and information the Centre offers.

What have been your greatest achievements since starting up?

There have been a number of achievements we’re really proud of at Montezuma’s, ranging from opening six stores to being able to create exciting new chocolate flavours! But, I believe the greatest achievement is that we have created a brand that people love and want to shout about as much as we do. We started with a simple idea that we believed in and now here we are, sixteen years later, with an outstanding workforce of over 150 people, helping to bring the magical creation of chocolate to life. That is incredible – I must say, I’m very proud of that.

What one piece of crucial advice would you give to anyone thinking about starting a business?

There’s plenty of advice I would suggest to anyone thinking of starting a business, but my number one pointer would be to stick to your values. That’s not to stay you shouldn’t be flexible, especially at the start, but I believe if you stray too far away from your original beliefs, then you quickly lose sight of why you started in the first place. Our childish enthusiasm for creating innovative and fun chocolate has been the foundation for Montezuma’s from the start, and now after all those years, we’re arguably Britain’s most innovative chocolate brand. Stick to what you believe in, expect steep learning curves along the way, but above all, enjoy the ride!

Are you a budding entrepreneur or small business owner seeking guidance and inspiration on how to grow your business and protect your ideas, products or services?

You’re in luck – as the Business & IP Centre are hosting weekly online events, workshops and talks, structured to further develop your entrepreneurial knowledge. Thus, helping you to grow aspiration to the somewhat daunting process in starting a business and maintaining it.

Don't forget you can rewatch Helen Pattinson's (Co Founder of Montezuma's) segment from Global Entrepreneurship Week 2016. As Helen Patterson amongst our other panel members of big-hitting entrepreneurs and leading business experts, express how they went from small start-ups to big-time successes, here's their stories and top tips.