North Chocolates was set up in 2013 by Bev Stephenson making small batch, handmade gourmet chocolate bars.
Bev contacted RTC North for support after attending one of our seminars on helping local businesses to develop and grow.
Bev said: “For the new range I wanted to use North East illustrators and so both Terry & Polly from RTC’s network Design Network North suggested some to get in touch with. I contacted Suzanne Homer, and she did all five illustrations for me.
“I also wanted a new design to accommodate them without losing my brand. So Andy Brown from RTC came out to see me and get an overview of the business and understand the project. He immediately became aware of the time issues for me (things had to be in place for the Great Exhibition of the North launch) and both he and Suzanne Tibbo from RTC were hugely helpful with advice.
“The initial phase of the project - the Great Exhibition Icon & Innovation range - was launched at the end of June and has been hugely successful. Not only has Newcastle Gateshead Initiative (NGI) ordered the range for media and corporate gifts but sales of the bars have increased over 500% in June and July.
“The brand refresh is ongoing and will be completed by the autumn and I think this cements North Chocolates as a quality, innovative brand with consumers. I’ve taken on another part-time member of staff in September and Christmas orders already in and including the Icon Range have increased significantly.
“I would have struggled to be able to do all of this without RTC's support; it helped to focus on what I needed in both the short and long term going forward with the brand. I'm an artisan chocolate maker - I understand many businesses want to scale up and work, for example, with supermarkets but this isn't why I set my business up or how I want to grow my business. I want it to remain small, flexible and 'special' to the North East (and I think the new design and products reflect this even more than it did before) and RTC understood this from the off. It's been a real pleasure to work with RTC and its support has proved invaluable.”
The bars have gone on to win many awards and I was named 'Artisan Producer of the Year' in 2015's Newcastle Business Awards. North now supplies many retail partners including Fenwick, the National Trust, independent delis & farm shops in the North East area from Berwick to Richmond as well as retailing at many of the larger food festivals.