David Umi

Shortlisted for the PD Ports Northern Powerhouse Export Awards Most Entrepreneurial Exporter of the Year Award, David Greenwood-Haigh, founder of Coeur de Xocolat, tells us about his business and how he feels about being shortlisted.

What does your company do? 

Coeur de Xocolat Limited offers unique chocolate team building events and consultancy in both the UK and internationally. Clients include schools, colleges, corporates, travel and community groups. 

When was your company launched, who by and why? 

The company was founded by myself, David Greenwood-Haigh, in 2012, and has now made an impressive impact both in the UK and internationally.

Having been approached repeatedly by clients independently, whilst working for a major Fair Trade chocolate company, I took the plunge to go it alone.

With an entrepreneurial approach, my general strategy has been based upon looking for opportunities which capitalise on my forty years of experience - my skills as a chef, master chocolatier, food judge, fair trade experience and knowledge of effective team-building/creative consultancy techniques. 

How long has the company been exporting? 

We have been exporting since 2018. 

What do you currently export, and where to? 

Always looking out for original approaches to business and in response to enquiries overseas, we devised our first international team-building event with Danone in France and chocolate consultancy work in Germany. 

Success in France and Germany was then followed by visits to Ghana, Haiti, and three separate visits to Sao Tome & Principe, in 2018/19. This formed the beginnings of an innovative approach to knowledge transfer and ethical co-operative work overseas. In Sao Tome, this included training locals to make bean to bar chocolate on-site, and develop ecotourism.  

As well as the work with developing economies, my ongoing strategy in 2019 involved the Middle East. I delivered a lucrative team-building event to Premier foods Saudi Arabia, immediately prior to attending the Northern Powerhouse (NPH) trade mission to Gulf Food in February.   

Several long-term procurement contacts were established via the trade mission, with exciting discussion ongoing with contacts at the QE2 and The World Trade Centre. I also met with The Emirates Academy of Hospitality Management at Gulf food 2020 and discussions are progressing well. 

What motivated you to start selling overseas, and how long did it take? 

In 2017/18 following many interesting enquiries from overseas, largely through existing contacts, I decided to take the business to the next level - to open another revenue stream to spread the risk and broaden the customer base. My ego said I could do it, I had the necessary skills, knowledge and passion, but it was still a leap of faith! Working with Danone, an existing customer on a project in the South of France encouraged me, intrigued me and made me realise the demand was out there globally. 

What is the easiest part of exporting? 

Working with chocolate is great! It’s interesting and can often be the creative basis on which to get people talking! For me personally, once the contacts have been identified, communicating, building the relationships and trust, using my knowledge and experience to fit in with their requirements, has been one of the easier parts.

What is the export challenge you’re most proud of overcoming? How did you manage this? 

Having found a niche in market need in 2018, it was an honour to be involved in the setting up of a chocolate factory in Haiti. However, my market visits to Sao Tome and Principe, to work with the HBD Group have been my largest export success to date. Although an exciting project with huge potential, it was a real challenge - culturally, linguistically and in terms of managing remote relationships. 

HBD Group and I both have a passionate regard for ethical community work and the importance of the sharing of ideas and skills to allow others to grow. That aside, however, meeting with the Sao Tome team in Europe before the project began, was aenormous help in terms of mutual understanding, planning, booking translators for the event and setting of realistic objectives.

The event was months in the planning, was a great success and long-term relationships have now been formed. A definite breaking of new ground for all parties involved and a good basis for further project work there. 

Did you get any support when you wanted to trade abroad? Who from, and how did it help you? 

I have received a huge amount of support from the Department for International Trade (DIT). Adviser support has helped me to explore my initial export potential, develop a workable strategy and provided me with ongoing opportunities to grow the business. 

NPH trade missions to the Gulf have provided valuable network contacts and introductions, and access to market specialists. Training workshops in exporting and funding towards the internationalising of my website has also increased overseas enquiries significantly. 

What advice would you give to someone just starting to explore overseas markets? 

First and foremosthave confidence in your ability, work hard and be dedicated, but don’t overstretch yourself. Take advice and offers of support from the vast network out there. Plan welllisten to others and learn from your mistakes! Research is paramount - do it thoroughly, understand and talk to your customer. 

Where next? What markets are you looking into and where do you see the company in five years’ time? 

2020/21 and the next five years will see me start another new phase in growing the business overseas. I am co-writing an internationally themed recipe book with Joanne Harris, the celebrated author of the bestselling ‘Chocolat'. There will be further visits to Sao Tome, to progress and expand the project there. 

I plan to work with new contacts in the Middle East, with P&O Ferries and Caledonian Cruises to further develop the chocolate safaris and tasting sessions. I'll develop recent connection with Hotel Chocolat in St LuciaI also hope to continue to be extremely proactive as a Northern Powerhouse Export Champion, going the extra mile in promoting DIT/NPH services, and sharing my export experiences, particularly in emerging markets. 

How do you feel about being shortlisted for the Northern Powerhouse Export  Awards and what does it mean to your business?  

Being shortlisted is a huge honour for myself personally, very motivational and valuable recognition of the hard work I have put in over the last few years.  

Related campaign:

PD Ports Northern Powerhouse Export Awards, in association with HSBC, seeks to recognise the most entrepreneurial exporters from across the Northern Powerhouse.

For more info visit www.northernexportawards.co.uk.

Amanda Armstrong
Article by Amanda Armstrong
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