Blog > Site of the Month: Cocoa & Heart
Posted By Create
Eloquently quoted on their website 'Cocoa & Heart was born out of a real passion for all things handmade and it is the sole work of Magdalena Marsden' (pictured right).
We’ve caught up with Magdalena to talk about all things baking! We also learn about how she put the business together and some of the pleasant surprises she gathered along the way.
How did your business come together and how important were the initial stages?
I set up my business, Cocoa & Heart, in 2011 and from the beginning I knew my business was all about handmade living, being creative and about sharing my skills with others. I was brought up in a slightly bohemian family – we made our own clothes, baked a lot, grew our own vegetables and our unwritten motto was ‘Don’t buy it, if you can make it’!
I decided to focus on offering creative and baking workshops and later I also added chocolate making courses. During the festive season I also make chocolate truffles, bars and other chocolate treats using fresh ingredients from Kent.
I see you were previously a Managing Director of another company. Was setting up Cocoa & Heart a straight switch from your previous profession?
The catalyst for setting up my own business was my redundancy from my previous job as a Managing Director of local social care charity. By setting up Cocoa & Heart I was turning my hobby and passion into a business, but at the time I just thought it would be part-time and I would find another job in my field after couple of months break. Well, before I got the chance to start looking for another management position, my business took off! Instead I decided to go freelance and I still help people to set up their own businesses through my other company (www.magdalenamarsden.co.uk).
You've clearly put a lot of time in to your website. Was having an online presence something you
planned from early on?
I always knew that an online presence was important for my business, but at the beginning I only thought of my website as a ‘shop window’ – I didn’t quite believe that I could compete with established websites for business and that my website would actually become the main source of referrals for my business.
It looks like you give a lot of attention to detail when presenting your food, did you find this gave you a natural motive to do the same with your website?
My website is my business shop window – often people don’t really have the chance to meet me before they enrol on one of my Chocolate Making or Bread Baking Courses. I think it’s important to reassure people and show them what they will be getting. With my Bread Baking Courses I wanted people to feel the atmosphere before they even get to me. That is why I include pictures of my kitchen, where the courses take place and of course a picture of me baking. I wanted people to have a seamless experience from looking at the website and then attending of my course, so I even took the exact hexagon colour numbers of my kitchen tiles and my cooker and used it on my website!
I can see you like to blog a lot. Do you feel this has a large impact on your customer base and business?
Blog is an important part of my Cocoa & Heart website. I love writing and taking photos, so for me blogging feels more like fun then a job. I always try and test all my recipes and usually include step by step instructions with photos. My readers like the fact that they can trust my recipes and it’s lovely to get positive feedback about a cake recipe they tried and that it was a success with their family and friends.
What do you find works best when promoting your business on social media?
What works best on social media? Seriously? When you blend in! There is absolutely no point just shouting about your business and your offers all the time, people will just ignore you and switch off. Each social media has a very different customer base, which have different demographics, taste and react differently to what you say. So the best strategy that you can follow (and which worked for me) is to be yourself, join in with the conversation, be helpful and don’t over do self promotion (the 80/20 rule is definitely the key).
How have you found using Create? Are there any particular features that you feel help your business stand out from your competitors?
I started with absolute zero knowledge of building websites, but I like a bit of a challenge! Create can be a very flexible platform and you really can have a website with all the bells & whistles. I like the fact that it's UK based and the customer service is always very helpful. As a customer I also like that Create doesn’t stay still – I’m always looking forward to any new website features.
What are the future plans for Cocoa & Heart?
I’m really excited about a few larger projects coming up this year. I’m continuing to add new courses to my Chocolate Making and Bread Baking Courses offerings, but I’m also working on my first book which is about perfecting bread baking techniques. I’m also preparing a script for my on-line Bread Baking Masterclass, which we will be filming this autumn. After more than 3 years of running my bread baking courses, I have realised, that the thing people find the hardest to master is bread baking techniques and that’s why I decided to make this the focus of my book and on-line course.
If you've won or been nominated for an award, we'd love to hear from you! Send your awards stories to firstname.lastname@example.org.