WI Talk Leads To New St Mary’s Food Business

scilly maid chocolate fishA talk at a WI meeting has led to a new food venture for one St Mary’s woman.

‘Scilly Maid’ has been launched by Carmen Stevens, who is creating high quality chocolate products.

Carmen said her interest was first piqued after hearing a St Agnes-based chocolate producer describe her business to the WI group. She said she thought it would be a wonderful job making something that you love to eat!

And by chance, a chocolate tempering machine was also being sold on the islands, so Carmen took the plunge and bought it. Tempering is what makes the chocolate glossy and crisp.

Since then, she’s tested a range of flavours on guests at her B&B business, which she says proved to be very popular!

Carmen launched her first products in December, attending the four Christmas markets on St Mary’s and she says she’s been surprised by how popular they’ve been, receiving an order for £100 from one islander.

She’s had financial and technical help from Martin Pearson at the Manufacturing Advisory Service, who she says has been “brilliant.”

From Radio Scilly

Carmen Stevens talks to Radio Scilly about her new chocolate business

That’s enabled her to get a logo and labels created by Jenny Nightingale, a former Scilly resident famous for her distinct illustrations of island scenes and wildlife.

Carmen believes there’s a market for good quality chocolate produced in Scilly, both from islanders and visitors who want to take something that’s made in Scilly back home as gifts.

While she has to import the raw chocolate from the mainland, she’s aiming to do all the processing and packaging here.

She’s also experimenting with more flavours sourced locally, such as St Martin’s sea salt, dried island raspberries and even gorse flowers.

Even the name is related to the islands – Carmen, who was born in Scilly, says she was often referred to as ‘Maid,’ a local term for girls, by older Scillonian men, which made a nice play on words.

She’s been selling to customers directly, as well as through the Dairy in Hugh Town. But she realises that to be successful, she’ll need to sell by mail order too.

Carmen’s set up a Facebook page and is taking an innovative approach to delivery. She’s not selling bulky boxes of chocolates that are expensive to post. Instead she’s designing packaging that can fit through people’s letterboxes.

Carmen admits that her products cost more than the typical bar of chocolate in the Co-op.

But she feels the quality of the raw ingredients, sourced from Belgium, Venezuela and Peru, as well as the time taken to produce the finished article – up to 6 hours a batch – will mean people are willing to pay the extra cost.

She says she can also listen to customers and offer a more personal service, such as adding flavours that they’ve requested.

She’s now taking the opportunity during the quiet winter months to prepare stock, ready for the arrival of visitors in the spring.

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