Success is sweet for quirky family chocolate venture

At Easter time our thoughts turn to chocolate and a thriving family venture in Southport offers chocolate gifts, workshops and a cafe… as well as dinosaur-sized Easter eggs custom-made for Southport BID. Tony McDonough reports

Chocolate Whirled
Laura and Simon Stevens outside Chocolate Whirled in Southport


When they and their two sons were forced to eat dinner wearing coats in the garden one December, Laura and Simon Stevens realised their fledgling business had outgrown their home.

In 2013 Laura had launched Laura’s Party Pops from the back kitchen of their house in Southport. She made and sold a variety of lollipops and cake pops via Facebook and, as time went on, the number of orders really started to grow.

Laura, an experienced primary school teacher and youth worker, was spending more and more time on the chocolate venture. Simon, also a primary school teacher, went part-time to help out. But it was the alfresco dining experience that proved to be a wake-up call.

“When we were operating from home people were asking for more and more things made out of chocolate and it was taking up ever more room in the house,” Laura told LBN.

“It got to a point where around about December time there was nowhere in the house for the family to sit down for a meal. We found ourselves sitting outside in the garden eating dinner with our coats on. That’s when we realised we needed to get some premises.”

A decade on and the couple now run one of the quirkiest small businesses in Southport. Now called Chocolate Whirled, the firm still does its bespoke orders and now has a cafe, a shop and runs regular chocolate-making workshops.

In the last few weeks Laura and Simon have taken on one of their biggest challenges yet, an order from Southport BID to make some mega-sized Easter eggs.

As part of the BID’s DinoTown Southport, it is hiding gigantic dinosaur-themed chocolate eggs at locations all over the town. So big are the eggs that Chocolate Whirled has had to buy in a special mould from Belgium to make the 3ft tall sweet monsters.

According to Simon, the business was never meant to be a full-time venture. But in the early days he needed painful back surgery which made his work in the primary school more of a struggle. So the couple took the plunge and went all in.

In 2015 they took on the Manchester Road premises. Preparations took months but the couple proudly opened the doors for the first time at Easter 2016.

“Laura was the chocolate expert so I had to go on a course and learn to do it properly,” said Simon. “That was a big learning curve for me. One of the main things we wanted to do when we opened the shop was utilise our skills and experience in teaching.

“So we started running workshops on working with chocolate for both kids and adults and that also expanded into parties and school groups.

“We opened the cafe at the same time as the shop. We wanted to do the teaching stuff but Laura also thought we might as well have a shop and if people were coming in they would probably want a drink of something, so we opened the cafe. It all kind of fell into place.”


Chocolate Whirled
Chocolate Whirled owners Laura and Simon Stevens with one of the dinosaur eggs


In the next few years the business really started to thrive as word spread across the town. It got to the point where they needed to expand the premises so they built an extension on the back. That was all ready to go… and then the world turned upside down.

Simon added: “Just when the extension was ready COVID lockdown hit. We were just ready to push on but that just shut everything down. There was nothing we were allowed to do. It was pretty traumatic. We felt absolutely sick.

“We got to a point where we started to look to see how we could adapt the business to start operating again while staying within the rules. Just to try to get a bit of income coming in. It was such a tough time.”

Chocolate Whirled started taking online orders that people could come and collect. It helped lift the spirit of Simon and Laura, as well as their two sons Josh and Sam. But it was when they were able to open for takeaways that things really started to look up.

Laura said: “I remember the first time we opened as a takeaway was amazing. We opened the doors and there was a queue that went around 100 metres down the road. That was incredible.

“We hadn’t known what to expect and they were happy to wait. I guess people hadn’t been able to get out for so long and were just happy to be able to do something.”

When the pandemic finally subsided and life got back to normal, business really started to take off for Chocolate Whirled… and that created another big challenge.

Simon explained: “For the first time, we went flying over the VAT threshold. Costs went up as well. Our turnover went right up but because what we buy in is zero rated there was no offset.

“So everything we sold we were having to pay 20%. Even though our turnover was higher our profit was right down. So we had to downsize the business.

“Sadly we had to lose a couple of members of staff and we had to cut our own hours right down and cut the cafe opening hours to two days a week. But the activity side is still just as busy.

“And it isn’t just people from Southport coming through the door. Because of the workshops we are seeing people coming from across the North West and beyond. People do the workshops and then they come back again.

“Easter and Christmas are definitely our busiest times, as you would expect. But Christmas is more prolonged so that is a better period in terms of turnover.


Easter eggs
Southport BID has strategically placed the dinosaur eggs all over the town
easter egg
Southport BID claims this will be one of the world biggest Easter egg hunts
Southport BID
A Velociraptor made out of 68,370 toy bricks will be seen in Southport. Picture by Solent News


When Rachel Fitzgerald, chief executive of Southport BID got in touch about the chocolate eggs, they weren’t initially fazed. But when it became clear how big the eggs needed to be, the couple took a deep breath.

“When she described what she wanted we realised it was a different level,” said Simon. “Initially we tried to persuade her to have smaller eggs, but she was clear about what she wanted.

“These are the biggest eggs we have ever made. We got the mould from Belgium and it is the biggest mould you can get for a chocolate egg. It is huge and it has been a real challenge and they have involved a lot of work but it has also been really exciting.”

Rachel Fitzgerald added: “I knew I was giving Simon and Laura a big job but I was already aware of what a fantastic reputation they had and I was convinced they were up to the challenge. And they were.

“We are trying to create a real buzz in Southport and do things differently. Dino Town Southport is an incredible initiative. There will be huge brick-built dinosaurs around the town from Friday, March 29, to Sunday, April 14.

“So getting dinosaur-sized eggs made for a really special Easter egg hunt seemed too good an opportunity to miss. Chocolate Whirled has really delivered on this and it shows how fantastic, diverse and creative our local business community is.”

While Laura and Simon are happy to produce monster-sized eggs their ambitions for the business are more focused on quality than size.

READ MORE: ‘Why I have invested £10m into Southport’

“We just want to keep on going and carry on doing things that are different and quirky,” said Laura. “Most of what we do is unique. You can’t get it anywhere else. This is a real family business with Josh and Sam also helping out here at weekends.

“We don’t want to be massive but we want to be a really successful family business and what we really pride ourselves on is knowing our customers. It is a real old fashioned welcome and we are always front of house. If you go too big you can lose a bit of that.”

For more information on DinoTown Southport click on or follow @DinoTownSouthport on Facebook

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