A Sutherland based luxury chocolate manufacturer which started in a small kitchen has expanded into new international markets.
Cocoa Mountain is based in Durness, the most north westerly village on mainland Britain where they produce a range of handmade, preservative-free chocolate products which are dispatched same-day direct to customers.
Highlands and Islands Enterprise (HIE) has worked closely to support the business on the re-development of their premises in the Balnakeil Craft Village, the former military property on the outskirts of Durness. In addition to web development, marketing and production support, funding from HIE has also helped the business develop its export potential.
In keeping with their international credentials, they have just recruited a new chocolatier from France and a deputy manager from Canada. Also, Lithuanian Lina Pikciunaite has been taken on for a 12 month business placement through TalentScotland Graduate Placement Programme which is managed by HIE in the Highlands and Islands.
A regular summer visitor to Balnakeil, owner Paul Maden completed a professional chocolatier course in Vancouver, before setting up Cocoa Mountain in 2006 with partner James Findlay.
Laura Gunn, development manager for HIE said: "We have been working with Cocoa Mountain since day one and it is really exciting to see them now breaking into international markets. The business proves that with today's modern communications, living and working in one of the most beautiful parts of the world is no barrier to running a small business. To be able to sell their products around the world from one of our most remote areas is just fantastic."
Cocoa Mountain began by selling mainly to visitors to Balnakeil and to their café and retail outlet which remains an important part of the business. Last year Cocoa Mountain took another step forward by opening a second outlet in Auchterarder.
Paul said: "Visitors love our products. When they go home, they want more, so we quickly established a mail order service. Having learned how to manage that side of the business, the next step was to sell over the internet, and we now have a steady stream of orders from customers all over Europe and as far away as Canada, Australia and New Zealand.
"The support we have had from HIE has been excellent. We would not be where we are today as a business without their help. We are now looking at increasing our customer base in Saudi Arabia and Singapore, and HIE has been very supportive of our plans. We are all very excited about the possibilities for the future of Cocoa Mountain."