Life is sweet for Highland firm with £64,000 expansion plans

© Tim Winterburn /HIEFinlay MacDonald, Chocolates of Glenshiel
Finlay MacDonald, Chocolates of Glenshiel

A young Highland entrepreneur is embarking on a £64,000 expansion of his business, creating three new jobs in a Wester Ross hamlet.

Finlay Macdonald, who at the age of 18 set up Chocolates of Glenshiel in Ratagan last year, said the growth plans, which will more than double his workforce, were an “exciting turning point” for the company.

Mr Macdonald has secured £32,000 backing from development agency Highlands and Islands Enterprise (HIE) towards the project, which will include an upgrade of the firm’s premises and the installation of larger scale equipment.

The young entrepreneur, whose operation based in a double-width static caravan on the picturesque shores of Loch Duich has become a popular tourist attraction, is aiming to increase his activity in the wholesale market.

He said: “Following our expansion and the launch of our range of chocolate bars, we are looking to discover a range of delis, gift shops and farm shops where we can showcase and sell our products with.

“This is a really exciting turning point in our business. With our increased capacity, growing team of chocolatiers and gorgeous new look to our products we are ready to reach out to Scotland and beyond with our delicious chocolate.”

Mr Macdonald, who traces his passion for food back helping his grandmother make scones from the age of 18 months, was 12 when he launched his first enterprise, a bread subscription service in his school.

Having learned to make chocolates during work experience in a pastry kitchen, he went on to become one of Scotland’s youngest chocolatiers. With money saved from his earlier bread selling venture he bought the basic equipment he needed to make his own products.

A successful crowdfunding campaign allowed the north-west Highland company to invest in new packaging, branding, chocolate ranges and free online delivery ahead of a relaunch last year.

The 2018 expansion enabled the firm to step up production to more than 2,400 boxes of chocolate per month. The company uses local, Highland and Scottish ingredients, including whiskies, gin and Skye salt, in all its products.

HIE development manager, Caroline Forsyth, said: “We have been very impressed with the ambition of Chocolates of Glenshiel, which is providing valuable employment in a very rural location.

“This young company sits within the growing food and drink sector, but is also closely aligned with tourism, another growth industry.

“It is in an excellent position to take the next step in its growth journey, and we are delighted to be able to support this investment.”

The firm has recently added a viewing cabin to its premises allowing visitors to watch the chocolatiers at work.

It was described as a “gem of a small company,” by Skye-based Scottish food expert and Press and Journal columnist Lady Claire Macdonald last year.