A Shetland chocolatier is set to double production and create jobs with the opening of his first store on Orkney.
Dave Williams of Mirrie Dancers, who is working with Business Gateway Shetland to drive his business forward, welcomed chocolate loving customers to his Kirkwall store on Albert Street on Saturday, September 2nd.
One full-time employee plus up to four part-time staff will work in the shop, with Dave predicting further positions will be created as demand grows, particularly during high season.
The move will see the former Army chef, who has cooked for members of the Royal family including the late Queen Mother, double production to almost 20k hand-made chocolates per month.
The expansion comes just 14 months after he opened his fledgling store in Commercial Street, Lerwick which currently employs four staff.
Dave said: “Earlier this year I visited Orkney because I wanted to see how retailers marketed themselves to tourists, as the islands are a huge draw particularly for cruise ships. By chance I spotted a store that was for let in the perfect location and decided to lease it there and then. I’ve already identified someone in Orkney and will train her to decorate the chocolates to my high standards, although for the foreseeable future the highly decorated chocolates will still be made here in Shetland. My ultimate aim however is to make all the chocolates sold in Orkney made in Orkney but that will entail taking on further space potentially later next year.”
He added: “The success of Mirrie Dancers since opening in Lerwick last July has been phenomenal. I’ve been so busy that finding time to step away from the coal face has been hard, but Business Gateway has made me take my head out of the sand and plan where I want the business to be in three years’ time. That has helped me think about how best to manage my growth and given me a document that will be essential when seeking potential funding or investment in the future.”
Jeff Gaskell, Adviser, Business Gateway Shetland, said: “Mirrie Dancers continued success has allowed Dave to expand quickly. Often it’s hard for business owners to take a step back when orders need to be fulfilled, however, it is essential to plan for growth. With our support Dave has taken the time needed to put in place a business plan that will guide him over the coming years and in turn help him manage the business’ future success.”
Having spent 26 years in the Army as a chef, working his way up to Warrant Officer Second Class, Dave has cooked across the globe for up to 5k solider per day at the same time as creating and cooking menus for dignitaries.
On leaving the Army he continued to work in the food industry, eventually working in Canada before moving to Shetland. It was then, during The Shetland Food Fair two years ago, that the idea for Mirrie Dancers was born after his seaweed chocolate’s received rave reviews.
With the help of Shetland Facilities Management, Dave invested in his first shop in Lerwick, giving him the space he needed to fulfil North Link Ferries’ contract that sees him make 3k chocolates per month for its business and executive cabins alone.
With the launch of www.mirriedancers.co.uk his chocolates are now regularly shipped throughout the UK and to North America, and he supplies nine retailers directly with his handmade chocolates
including Hardy’s Chocolates in Aberdeen who began stocking his products in June this year.
Dave said: “The business has grown a lot quicker than I first imagined which has been fantastic. Moving into Orkney and securing a stockist in Aberdeen is just the beginning of my expansion plans. My next target is to secure stockists in Scotland’s major cities as well as create more flavours using local ingredients such as beer chocolate using local hops. It goes without saying that none of this would have been possible without the support of my staff and local businesses alike, a huge thanks must go out to them all.”