Founded by husband and wife duo Matt and Ish in Edinburgh, Ocelot Chocolate use only the highest grade organic and Fairtrade produce in their micro-chocolate factory. Matt took a break from producing their exquisitely flavoured confectionery and enticing packaging to tell us their story and what it's like launching your dream business with the one you love.
Matt and Ish of Ocelot Chocolate
It all started when Ish had just moved back to Scotland from London, and I was living in Glasgow and we were both at home staying with our parents for Christmas when we met at a party. Within a few weeks of being together we were discussing leaving our jobs and running off to the continent to become chefs. It had always been our dream to work with food but it was only when we met that we got the confidence to just go for it – damn the steady job and any hope of a mortgage, an exciting life doesn't come from being too comfortable! Being starry-eyed and in love makes anything seem possible, so we went for it.
We worked as chefs for a few years and had both always enjoyed working with (and eating, of course!) chocolate, so then we started Ocelot Chocolate from a spare room in our flat. At first we sold our bars to a few shops around Edinburgh, as well as braving the Scottish weather every weekend at farmers' markets. Four years on we're selling our chocolate across the world and have three amazing full-time staff.
We had a long hard road; there were plenty of tears and banging-head-on-wall moments. Chocolate is an immensely complex and demanding product and we are still learning every day we work with it. It's been a difficult but amazing and gratifying process for us, and we feel pretty proud of ourselves. Not giving up is the hardest challenge any small business will ever face and the only way you will keep going is by having ludicrous optimism and confidence in what you are doing.
"High-grade dark chocolate – like a fine wine or a specialty cheese – is up there with the most special things in the world."
We've both travelled quite a bit and eaten some wonderful food in our time, so we channel our best memories and experiences as the inspiration, and barometer, for our creations. We tend to create flavours that we personally enjoy, flavours we find delicious. Early on we learnt the lesson that you can't try to please everyone. As a chef, and as a producer, all you can do is make what you believe is delicious and be patient while your true customers find you; the greatest food comes from being true to your own tastes and values.
We are obsessed with good chocolate; to us it's in a food group all of its own, and cannot (and should not) be compared to a regular chocolate bar. High-grade dark chocolate – like a fine wine or a specialty cheese – is up there with the most special things in the world and it is an experience to savour, with flavour notes that come in waves and linger long after you finish.
We take great pride, and joy, in designing all of our packaging ourselves – Ish studied illustration at art school, while I've always loved art and graphic design – so this is a hugely important part of our business. We knew that we could draw on these skills to our advantage and create a product that looked as good as it tastes.
We always start with the bar; our relationship with it, how it makes us feel, the colours and pictures we see when we think about that bar. For us, it's not just about creating pretty patterns, there is always a deep connection between that bar and its origins, its flavours, and us as the people who made it. When we created our Almond bar we had just come back from a trip to Barcelona and our minds were filled with sunlit memories of Gaudi's stained-glass windows, sun-warmed mosaics, tapas on the pavement. So these feelings inspired the bar and also the wrapper. Our packaging design usually starts with a long (sometimes argumentative!) discussion about our ideas, then Ish will make drawings or take photographs before I work on them digitally, and finally we both pull together the final design.
Working together as husband and wife is an incredibly rewarding experience but it can also be challenging at times. At first it was hard to separate our personal lives from the business. We have learned over the years to take nothing personally and our working relationship has become as strong as our personal one. We had to adapt the way we work recently upon the arrival of our first child. Now emails could get sent at 3am while trying to walk the baby to sleep. It can be hard but there is nothing else we would rather be doing. We are really proud of what we have created together.