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The business of love

Thinking of investing in a business that embraces the gift of love all year round? As Valentine’s Day approaches reveals three enterprises that will keep your heart, as well as your bank account booming...

Thinking of investing in a business that embraces the gift of love all year round? As Valentine’s Day approaches reveals three enterprises that will keep your heart, as well as your bank account booming.

We’re all familiar with the song ‘All you need is love’, but that's no longer the case... All you need is chocolate, flowers and a little bit of love (but that's not as catchy).

As sales boost to beat the post-Christmas blues, it's become much more than just a day of romance for retailers with loved-up Brits spending approximately £1.6 billion on gifts according to the Telegraph.

Chocolate shop

Where better to start than chocolate. There has been a significant increase in the number of artisan chocolate shops emerging on our high streets to indulge our taste buds.

The industry offers a wide range of opportunities for small business owners – and despite the economy and increasingly health conscious population, the public continue to love chocolate, with recent trends driving the growth in the demand.

It seems we’ve entered an entirely new realm of chocolate snobbery as many are no longer satisfied with a slab of dairy milk.

Still considered a ‘little bit of luxury’, the majority of people have decided to cut back on expensive treats, but are unable to give up on chocolate. Recent statistics show that the average Briton eats approximately 11.2 kg of chocolate a year.

Hotel Chocolat, Montezumas and Choccywoccydodah are just three of the major players leading the way in the specialist chocolate sector, banishing boredom from the British chocolate market with their craftily coiffed, professional, Willy Wonka-esque creations.

Choc on Choc, another artisan chocolate shop, turned over £1.1 million in in 2013 ‘making 63,000 chocolates a week and getting through 43 tons’ of the stuff.

Flo Boughton at Choc on Choc says, “Chocolate is an affordable treat and a desirable gift all year round. There’s Valentine’s Day, then Easter and personal occasions. It never stops. Not just here but overseas too.”

She emphasises the versatility of the product, an easy gift for almost any occasion, making it a lucrative, recession proof option. spoke to independent chocolatier, self-taught British chocolatier Russell Pullan, about his business Fifth Dimension chocolates.

His advice to anyone thinking about buying a chocolate business is that ‘people buy with their eyes. If I do something exactly the same as people can buy in the supermarket … then they might go and buy from them’ so try and make yours stand out among the competitors.’

He also told us that ‘you have to think about things months and months in advance’, and he told us that he was thinking about Easter eggs before Christmas had even started and was preparing new products for Christmas in April.

‘There are so many different things to think about. Until you actually do something like this you never realise what’s involved. At one point I just thought making chocolates and selling them seemed like a really nice little idea but there’s a lot more to it than that’.

Top tip for buyers

"Do your research and ignore the naysayers. When we started people said there was nothing new to do with chocolate, but we knew we were on to something"

Helen Pattinson, Montezumas 


The floral industry is blooming - despite the threat from the supermarket giants - the majority consists of small businesses. The British Florist Association states, ‘The £1.5billion market is currently shared between independent florists’.

Like chocolate, flowers are a great gift for an extensive array of occasions: sad or happy flowers seem to be an all-purpose gift.

And bouquets are longer just for special occasions, as the market has seen an surge in people buying them to brighten up their own homes.

Florists can be home based or high street, from small posies to table features at  corporate events and the market is diversifying to cover the ever growing range of floral needs.

In a recent article for Business Matters Heather Gorringe, founder of the home-grown online florist, The Great British Florist talks about the changing face of floristry: ‘We’ve been fascinated by the changes in how people buy flowers … The speed of change is exciting and interesting – it’s now completely normal to buy online. It’s great to be around in such changing times.’

However, some business owners prefer to go back to the more traditional roots of the trade. spoke to Kim Sheppard, owner of the successful florist Crimson Rose in Plumstead.

In an increasingly do-it-yourself society, floristry seemed to her to be a viable option. 

The initial set up costs were more than she originally anticipated (buying a pre-existing florist with signage is generally cheaper than starting from scratch): ‘I had no knowledge of floristry … and no business background. I was led by information fed to me from other sources which did not turn out to be very effective’

Despite this she has proved that hard work and perseverance does pay off, transforming an ‘empty shell’ start-up into a thriving and ‘successful florist’.

In the run up to Valentine’s Day last year, we spoke to Fran Bailey, owner of the fresh flower company in East Dulwich.

The business started 15 years ago after she studied at college for three years, she then became a freelance events florist in London but as the recession hit decided to open her brick and mortar shop 8 years ago.

Her advice to any budding florists is 'it is really important to get experience with other florists first'

'The work is very varied so its worthwhile specialising in one side to begin with, whether it be retail or specialising in flowers for corporate events, wedding work or funeral work - but I think you need to find out first what you want to do'.

Top tip for buyers

"Choose something you are passionate about ... spend the minimum you possibly can to try it out (it’s very unlikely you will get it all right first time…) so put yourself out there to fail…. Then listen, learn and repeat… and enjoy the ride"
Heather Gorringe, The Great British Florist 

Watch our video on how to run a florist here!

Dating business

With Valentine’s Day on its way, a day dedicated to those you love, we also need to think about those unlucky in love.

With the increase in websites such as, Plenty of Fish and with mobile apps like Tinder - there are more people shopping online for love than ever before.

When asked how people met their partner, the answers used to follow a pattern from ‘through a friend’, ‘at a club/bar’ ‘at work’ but recent years have seen an emergence of an entirely new answer… ‘we met online’.

Despite the economic downturn, the industry saw an increase in the number of signups during the recession.

Recent figures show 1 in 5 relationships now start online so investing in a dating business may seem like an appealing option.

Kate Devine, online marketing manager of, believes online dating agencies to be ‘an appealing and more affordable place to meet new people’.

In an interview with, Roland Stringer, owner of RSVP and a business buyer, explains the reasoning behind his investment as the existing ‘track record of decent returns and a regular level of revenue’.

We are, sadly, becoming a nation of singletons, as the number of separations is increasing year on year, and many professionals are finding less time to date, spurring an online dating boom.

Fast becoming an accepted means of meeting people and less stigmatised than ever before, with a market that is set to expand in the coming years – could buying a dating business be for you? 

Top Tip for buyers

 "Probably the most important thing is to bear in mind that it's a negotiation. Go in there with a clear view of what you think the business is worth and why. And do your research really thoroughly. Test any assumptions, ideally by asking your marketplace."
 Roland Stringer, RSVP. 

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