Peter Harris, the serial entrepreneur who co-founded Hotel Chocolat – which sells chocolates online and via more than 130 stores worldwide – described launching, building and floating the business at a dinner for Fast Track 100 and Tech Track 100 alumni in London last night.
The dinner was hosted by Tim Cockroft, chief executive of N+1 Singer, together with Fast Track’s founder Hamish Stevenson.
Guests included James Butterfield, co-founder of resuable bottle brand Chilly’s Bottles; Giles Andrews OBE, co-founder of Zopa, the peer-to-peer lending platform; Lucinda Bruce-Gardyne, founder of Genius, the gluten-free food manufacturer; and Alan Pepper, chief financial officer of essensys, which N+1 Singer helped float on AIM last year for a reported £72.6m.
Peter and co-founder Angus Thirlwell started out selling mints branded with company logos, before setting up a mail-order chocolate retailer in 1993, which became Hotel Chocolat in 2003. It raised £7.3m issuing innovative “chocolate bonds” to members of its Chocolate Tasting Club in 2010 and 2014, to fund new locations and develop its luxury hotel and cocoa-producing estate in St Lucia. The bonds offered returns in the form of chocolate and have now been repaid.
In 2016 Peter and Angus floated Hotel Chocolat on AIM, valued at £167m. It is now valued at £514m, with sales of £132.5m and profits of £14.1m in 2019. Peter told guests how the business is expanding internationally, for instance in America and Japan: “People in these countries really like our chocolates.”
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Tim Cockroft, chief executive of N+1 Singer, welcomed guests to the dinner. “Hearing your stories as entrepreneurs is a great learning experience,” he said, “it’s fascinating for us as a business, and we love meeting people like you. Take Chilly’s – everyone in the room has either already got one of their reusable bottles or will do soon – what an amazing story.”
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