About the Founder
Chocolate Creator, Adventurer & Mental Health Advocator
Why the move into Chocolate?
From the age of 8, I have loved hot chocolate - it was, and still is, my happy place. I vowed from a very early age that I would make my own hot chocolate recipe without the bitty-ness of powdered chocolate, nor the granules or taste of sugar. As much as I need sugar, I didn't need to be overloaded with it and I found the taste unpalatable.
When I was travelling a lot, it grated on me that hotels only ever served packets of powdered chocolate; household names that everyone knew and loved and therefore regardless of the quality, people would drink it. It was as though no real thought had gone in to servicing people with quality in the hot chocolate arena. Where the tea and coffee selections were a bountiful feast of quality, it felt like hot chocolate was the last choice in the raffle. I see it as my path in life to serve everyone with great quality hot chocolate and raise the quality to the same level of tea and coffee, if not above and beyond!
Why the name 80Noir Ultra?
I wanted a name that would be synonymous with what my brand was trying to achieve. Noir reflects the dark chocolate so from the get go you know what you are getting.
The very fabric of the brand is about changing societal norms around the current perspective of dark chocolate and pushing our limits to the extreme, not to mention incorporating the various elements of fitness training from endurance, ultra and extreme adventures. Calling it Ultra was, therefore, ultimately an effortless conclusion.
"Noir Ultra” never felt complete. The addition of 80 balances the name whilst also giving insight to our goal of the quality percentage of the chocolate. Additionally I have just found out that having the number at the front puts me top of the pack when lists comes out, like it did in the yellow pages, which can only be a great thing, an unconscious one but a great one nonetheless.
What was the major turning point in your career?
I soft launched 80Noir Ultra in Jan 2019 and it only became my full-time focus in October 2020, so it is still in its infancy. However, the biggest point was submitting my chocolate to the Great Taste Awards and the Women's Product Awards and coming back with great wins. I always knew that my chocolate was great, and to have it independently verified lifted me from 'wishing' to 'acknowledging' that I have something to be proud of - something that will change people's minds and prove to myself as much as others that the years of research and development have given me an excellent stand point to stand toe to toe with everyone else.
What challenges do you face running your chocolate business?
The challenges are continuous but I have learnt, and am continuing to learn, to go with the flow and learn from every one of them, and embrace the journey.
Cash-flow - As a product-based company, the start up cost is immense. From packaging, production to recipe creation and everything else beyond that. I initially funded this myself but I’m now at a point there I need a lot of blue sky thinking, planning and researching to identify new ways to inject money. This is why I started the Crowdfunding Campaign.
Lack of Resources - Man Power and Cash!
Knowledge - I went into this business with my eyes wide open but with no specific experience about how to do it. It has been one (often steep) incline after another. The trial and error method to find out how to do something has not always been the most sensible strategy but it has allowed me to be open about what I can and can't do and ask for help when I need it.
Juggling my roles - Running your own business is both exhilarating and tiring at once. I have to be conscious of not spreading myself too thin wearing so many hats. Dependant on the day I might be the CEO, Creative Director, Finance Director, Sales & Marketing Director, PR Director, Product Development Manager, Packaging Designer, Social Media, Blogger, PA, order processor, in-house taster, customer service or general skivvy! (But they do say variety is the spice of life!)
Delay in Chocolate - When your supplier delays the arrival of your chocolate by a month at the busiest times, it causes some real creative brainstorming!
Rest - As a one woman show doing something I love, it is often very difficult to find the time to stop, take a half a day off and rest, relax and chill out. Something I am learning and will continue to do!
What have you learnt about the importance of wellbeing and self care?
I have always been sporty and the higher the cardio the better, however as I have gotten older, I have really had to take a second look at my body and what it needs. In 2018 I was in running mode, running every day, mainly to help my mental health following a break up. However, it quickly became addictive and when it was time to race the Man V Mountain, unbeknownst to me my body was exhausted and falling apart. It was largely due to this that on the sprint down from Snowdon, I snapped my ATFL. Not knowing this, I continued to finish the race.
It wasn't until about 2 weeks later when I kept falling over my ankle that the scans showed what I had done and I was forced to go in for surgery. This was a huge knock to my sense of being and all my exercise had to come to a crashing halt. With several complications off the back of it, I slowly realised that I had to start listening to my body and that high impact sports weren't necessarily what my body needed. It is something I am still learning to recognise and I’m adapting. I find some days more of a struggle than others but it does come with a renewed sense of understanding myself more and learning to honour my mind and body as it needs to be.
Share with us a few things you do for your wellbeing nowadays?
I have my phone on silent, and try not to look at social media first or last thing in the day. I have regular routines for sleep and waking. I meditate every day and have a morning hot chocolate routine to wake me up and bring me to my senses with clarity and focus. I exercise and/or stretch when my body wants to, whether that's walking, running, gym, adventures, stretching, yoga or Tai Chi and I allow myself to relax (not as often as I would like but it's a process). I eat a mainly vegan/vegetarian diet, and avoid eating late. Lastly, I have 80Noir Ultra every single day, and more often than not, twice a day!
What are your 3 greatest achievements/highlights?
This is such a difficult one to articulate but here goes:
Having the most supportive and fabulous customers who love my chocolate drinks, bars and training bars and branching out to supply Stores, Hotels and retail spaces.
Creating a chocolate brand out of thin air and an undenying love of wanting to share with everyone what I learnt from an early age - great quality chocolate in small doses can be had every day to make our lives better inside and out.
Winning and/or being nominated for awards.. not in an ego centric way. I am not trained in running a business (it's all self-taught) which has made each award/nomination mean a huge amount.