Tell us about the journey that led you to launch your brand Sweet Tree by Browns…
The idea came about just over 10 years ago when my daughter Charlee was getting married. In typical bride-to-be fashion she wanted her centrepieces to stand out from anything that had been seen before. And so, it began… hours of doodling ideas, often late into the evening, trying to come up with the perfect table creation. Having been trained as a pastry chef in my father’s kitchens, I used my skills to create ideas using chocolate. Eventually, with no time to spare, I came up with the idea of trees made from our family and friends’ favourite chocolates and sweets. At last, something deliciously different which was a huge success at the wedding!
People enjoyed the Sweet Trees so much I began to think, wouldn’t it be great if we could share them with more people? That’s where the business began. It took years of frustration and occasional tears to finally make them look and taste as yummy as they are today. When we first started, we used polystyrene balls in the centre of the tree. However, we have now moved onto a chocolate crispy core so practically all of the tree (except for the wooden stem and glass vase) is edible!
What’s been the biggest challenge you’ve faced and how did you overcome it?
The biggest challenge that I have faced during the last 10 years is falling ill and being diagnosed with a neurological condition called Myelitis. When I first fell ill, I became partially paralysed and was unable to walk or even talk properly. However, with the support of my family and people close to me, as well as my own strength (and stubbornness!), I persevered to get stronger each day and not let my disabilities hold me back. After years of undergoing different treatments and physio, I am now able to walk (albeit for short distances), talk, and run a team of up to 20 people.
If you were to describe your business mantra in three words, what would they be?
Family (my business started as a family business; my team today are my family).
Perseverance (we have got to where we are today through hard work, determination, and perseverance)
Crazy (You must be a bit nuts to work with my mad lot)
What advice would you offer anyone interested in venturing into the world of artisan chocolate production?
Keep up-to-date with trends but try to keep your ideas original, make sure your products have a point of difference. There are so many beautiful companies and products out there, you need to make sure you stand out to succeed.
Sweet Tree by Browns
Talk us through an average business day in your life…
We are a small business working from my family home. In small businesses you tend to do a bit of everything- even as the boss. My business day starts with me walking down the stairs from my bedroom into the office (the room which was once my living room!) This is where I do all the boring things that I like the least – cash flow, finances etc.
As the business has grown over the years, it has managed to spread across every room in the house (apart from my bedroom). My dining room is now a chocolate room -floor to ceiling with racks of molded chocolate smash cakes, plaques etc. My kitchen is our main production area. Here is where the team work together to get the orders made, packed, and sent out. This is the place I like to be the most. I like being in the thick of it. My job in production is personalising our Sweet Trees and writing chocolate messages on our chocolate gifts.
Every day is different, but no day at Sweet Trees is boring!
Business can be an upward struggle at times, what do you do to stay positive?
The most important thing for me is being able to laugh. My family and my team are what keep my going and keep me laughing!
What is your go-to quote when lacking motivation?
Shit Happens… only joking!
My house is covered in hundreds of quotes I couldn’t pick one.
How much has social media played a role in the success of your brand?
More so now than ever before. We’ve recently jumped on the TikTok hype, we’re amazed at the impact it’s had already. Our Instagram is really coming into its own and growing it’s following every day.
How do you want people to feel when they first try some of your chocolate gifts?
We want them to think: “Mmmmm this is really nice”.
Our readers love to travel, what destination is at the top of your bucket list, and have you ever been anywhere that produces the cocoa bean?
I would love to go San Francisco.
Many years ago, I went to Kenya.
What’s next for you and your brand?
Moving premises. When I say we have outgrown my family home, that is an understatement. We currently have four sheds in our garden which are used for storing packaging and hundreds of kilos of Belgian chocolate.
We want and need to move to a unit so that we can expand our team, take on more retailers, and grow the business. However, finding the right place hasn’t been an easy feat. Hopefully 2022 will be our year!
Where can people find out more about Sweet Tree by Browns?
Website – Sweet Tree by Browns
Instagram – @sweettreebybrowns
Facebook – Sweet Tree by Browns
TikTok – @sweettreebybrowns