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Gareth Blake - Hipo Hyfryd

Computer Science graduate and self taught Chocolatier Gareth Blake launched his business from a passion for chocolate and the desire to work for himself. “I couldn’t possibly work for anyone else. The only way to make a career was to work for myself”, he says. Gareth knew nothing about chocolate, other than he liked them, so he taught himself the art of chocolate making.

The idea of Gareth’s business, Hipo Hyfryd, founded in 2005, and now with 3 part-time employees, is to bring high quality dairy-free truffles to the market. “The core idea is to have everything as ethical as possible,” Gareth explains.

Hipo Hyfryd started out with no funding whatsoever. “I put together a simple round truffle in basic packaging, using a self taught recipe and some scraps of brown paper lying around the house”, Gareth explains. Realising the importance of funding, he started to research possible options. “The first was a grant for bilingual packaging, and I now offer a completely bilingual company”, Gareth says. Through Cardiff University and Student Enterprise, Gareth also received a business start up bursary from the Welsh Assembly, which provided him with funds for nine months to help with initial costs.

Gareth then began to learn about basic styles and types of chocolate, supported by this extra funding, and started to tweak and improve the quality of the chocolate and packaging. “The chocolates started with a six week life span and this is now 10 months”, Gareth explains. “I try to keep on improving the quality of my chocolates by completing research and saving up funding and the new professional packaging can speak for itself.”

The business is now growing, with the introduction of new chocolates, including a white chocolate dairy-free truffle. “It took 4 years of development but I’ve made it!” Gareth says.

As well as honing his skills in chocolate making, Gareth has also been able to improve his financial skills along the way. “When I started, my responsibility with money was non-existent”, he admits. “Being a student, money came and went, and starting a business with controlled finance was a big skill that I have now mastered.”

Through Student Enterprise, Gareth has been able to receive advice through a business adviser. “The mentors made available were just amazing”, Gareth says. “They prodded me in the right direction from start to finish. Just having someone to talk to about business, when you yourself have no idea, is highly beneficial, and for them to be interested in it was amazing – I bored the hell out of my friends!”

Gareth’s advice to others is “No matter how scared you are, do it, but do it slowly. All my steps are baby steps, as if you make a mistake at the beginning, it really won’t matter. If you make it later on, it may cost you a fortune. Learn early and don’t be afraid of making those mistakes.”

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