Stars of our TV ad: Caroline, Founder of Lili’s Chocolates
Caroline Delarue is an artisan chocolate maker, Founder and CEO of Lili’s Chocolates.
👋🏼 Bonjour, Caroline!
Tell us about Lili’s Chocolates.
We make premium quality chocolates.
We’re different because we use a ‘bean-to-bar’ process. By this I mean that we make the chocolates from scratch, from the raw ingredients – we work with a foundation in Ecuador to grow our own beans and we source all our ingredients with great care.
When did you start the company? What motivated you?
I moved to London in 2013 and was working as a camera assistant in the film industry. I was working long days, often a gap between jobs. I wanted a more stable job.
When I was thinking about what I wanted to do, I remembered that I was always interested in chocolate-making. It’s part of our family life – it reminds me of my childhood in Northern France, where making truffles before Christmas is a typical activity at home.
I started out by doing a chocolate-making course in Belgium, specialising in truffles. Then my partner Mauro and I got to work creating recipes with artisan chocolatiers. It’s been a long process of experimentation but we now have 25 recipes and some special seasonal treats. For example in summer, we use fruits like strawberries and mango.
You’ve been using Tide since you started the business. Why did you choose us?
We liked Tide because we can to do it all online. From the start, it was a great option. I didn’t have to go to a branch to open an account, it was so easy to apply. I can set up a payment in seconds – I just login with my fingerprint. It’s so secure and quick.
Where do you sell your creations?
We have a shop in Camden Market – we opened there in October 2018. It’s a great location with lots of independent traders.
Then during lockdown, we started selling online too. We had to close the stall in March 2020 and we already had lots of stock we needed to sell. Creating the e-shop took a long time – it needed a lot of work. Finally, we opened the online shop in April.
You closed the shop in March but opened the web store in April? That doesn’t sounds like a long time. Well done! Why is your business called Lili’s?
Ah, there are two reasons. Firstly, it’s a little like my name, Caroline. Caro-li-ne… Lili.
OK, that makes sense. What’s the other reason?
For that, you need to come to our shop. We have an image on our wall, designed for us by a friend who’s a tattoo artist: @carloxid You have to see the image, then it makes sense!
I’ll take a look next time I’m in Camden! What are your top sellers at Lili’s?
Our truffles – dark chocolate, sea salt, hazlenut praline and more – often sell out. And for Christmas, we have our spiced biscuit chocolate truffles and white chocolate bark with cranberry and pistachio – these are ideal as gifts!
In the world of chocolate-making, whose work do you most admire?
I have to say, my grandmother. She makes waffles, a speciality in Northern France. I remember her and her mother – my great-grandmother! – making chocolates and waffles in the kitchen before Christmas.
It’s much more common to find artisan chocolates at markets in France than in England. It’s those chocolate-makers I admire. To make sure Lili’s Chocolates are as good as the best in Northern France, we’re rigorous about where all our ingredients come from. It’s a long process to source the best ingredients – but it’s very important to us.
What’s your favourite aspect of your work?
I’m lucky to work in something I’m passionate about – you have to truly love it because it takes a long time to source the ingredients, refine recipes and develop the final product.
And of course, I love to try the chocolates and then see how much customers enjoy them too!
What’s one thing you wish customers knew about making chocolate?
I wish people knew more about cocoa and the cocoa industry. About how cocoa grows, organic farming, roasting the beans and more.
People don’t often realise how much work goes into making chocolate. There’s such a fascinating story behind chocolate-making. I hope that when people leave our stall, they know a bit more about growing cocoa and how we make sure ours is sustainable and fair trade.
How has your business been affected by coronavirus?
It affected us because we had to close the shop at the market for a few months. We adapted to the new situation by selling online – but creating the e-shop was like launching a new business. The crisis has changed how people do business and if you don’t have an e-shop it’s difficult to survive.
The situation is totally new for everyone and people are shopping online more. With our e-shop, we have a bigger reach because we can send nationwide. Now, it’s not only people who can get to Camden Market, we can sell to the whole country! We love getting feedback via social media from customers around the UK. The furthest place we delivered to was an island in Scotland.
Our shop in Camden is still closed at the moment but we’ll reopen in early November. Because a Christmas without chocolate or truffles is no Christmas at all!
Indeed! Chocolate – along with luxuries like lipstick – is famed for being recession-proof, isn’t it?
Yes – I’m hoping people will buy as gifts… and maybe as a little treat for themselves!
Although it’s a difficult time to open a shop right now, do you have a tip for people like you thinking about starting their own business?
It’s much easier to keep trying when you care deeply about what you’re doing. If you’re not driven by a dream then it won’t happen.
Don’t get disheartened if your first efforts don’t succeed. Keep trying – and stay confident in what you can do.
Oh, and I’d say be careful to find a good balance. Working together with your partner can be a challenge!
How are you feeling about the coming year?
I try not to worry too much about what’s happening and instead I focus on one day at a time. I aim to do the best I can every day. 2021 can’t be worse than this year, can it? I’m optimistic – we hope things will go back to normal.
Thanks for talking to us, Caroline! Lots of luck for 2021 – we look forward to following your progress. 💙
Connect with Lili’s Chocolates
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Photos by Rupert Mason, Sidekick Studios London