Dip in for a bit of sparkle . . .What it's like to surprise someone with a box of chocolates and hidden jewellery
It’s the most romantic time of the year and for many saying ‘I love you’ with a box of indulgent chocolates or a piece of sparkly jewellery is a Valentine’s Day staple.
And two Staffordshire entrepreneurs have found a unique way to combine these two much-loved gifts and also incorporate an added element of surprise.
Dan Ball and his partner Summer Hevican run Chocolate Treasures selling boxes of luxury Belgian chocolates,which contain a hidden piece of jewellery worth up to £250.
“The idea is that it’s a gift within a gift. It’s like a Kinder Surprise for adults,” explains 32-year-old Dan.
People can choose if they want a necklace, earrings,a ring or a mystery box and each jewel is cleverly placed in a small pot, wrapped in foil and disguised as one of the chocolates.
“The jewel is valued at between £10 and £250 and it’s a bit of a lottery because it’s a random selection by us so customers don’t know what they’re going to get when they order.
“They can choose a necklace, earrings or ring or they can choose a mystery box and let us surprise them.
“Customers can say if they want a particular style or colour, for example they might want a blue stone, and we will do our best to make it happen.
“It’s a unique concept, nobody else is putting jewellery and chocolates in the same box,” explains Dan.
The pair enjoy seeing photographs of the jewellery customers have discovered. “The feedback has been really good, people love the chocolates and they love the jewellery,” says Dan.
Their business won praise from the Prince of Wales after it was launched with the help of a grant from the Prince’s Trust, which he founded in 1976.
Dan took part in the charity’s enterprise programme which supports young people wanting to set up their own business.
He received training to help him to develop the skills he needed to get ahead and the chance to pitch the couple’s idea to experts.
“They gave me a grant of £3,000 which was enough to kick-start the business. The Prince’s Trust loved the idea and thought it was brilliant.
“We started selling purely online in 2016 and we did quite well. People really liked the idea,” explains Dan, who lives with Summer, 25, and their six-week-old daughter Daisy in Heath Hayes.
In November 2017, he was invited to meet The Prince of Wales when the royal paid a visit to the charity’s Stoke-on-Trent centre.
“I was one of four businesses in Staffordshire there. It was such an honour to meet Prince Charles. He was really interested in hearing about the business and I offered him a chocolate but he said ‘oh no, I shouldn’t,” says Dan.
The couple have now opened a shop on the Chasewood Business Park to give people the chance to browse and view – and even sample –their different chocolate selections in person.
Dan takes care of the website, marketing and photography while Summer is in charge of selecting the jewellery and making up the orders.
He says running their own business has been a learning curve but they are enjoying every minute.
“It’s the joy of being self-employment and self-sufficient. It’s harder than I thought it would be. You have to do absolutely everything from accounts to product development and be every job title rolled into one. It’s fantastic though, I love it,” explains Dan.
As well as selections containing jewellery they also have ones that are purely chocolate and also gifts for children. They are even promoting alcohol truffles as a Valentine’s gift option for men.
“We’ve put a lot of thought into the choice of chocolates,” says Dan.
He adds that he hopes they will appeal to people looking for a more unusual Valentine’s Day gift for their loved one.
“I would like to see more men buying for women. Unless a woman points at something and says ‘I want that’, men won’t use their initiative.
“We get a lot of women buying for women for Mother’s Day, Easter and birthdays but not a lot of men,” he tells Weekend.
At the moment Dan and Summer order in the chocolates from a supplier and they are repackaged in their own specifically-designed boxes before the hidden jewel is added.
But Dan is looking to build on their success so far and has plans of becoming a chocolatier so that they can make their own tasty treats in the future to expand their business.
The couple are also hoping to find local gift shops to stock their products as well as sales representatives.
“We taste test every single chocolate – it’s a hard job but somebody has got to do it – to make sure they are the highest quality.
“The first thing we are asked is ‘do we make our own’ and it would be great to be able to say ‘yes’. Our plan is to make our own chocolates and essentially become chocolatiers.
“It would be good to create our own flavours and products. We’re just a tiny business at the moment but we will definitely grow,” he explains.
Among the chocolates in the couple’s Original box, which has a sliding drawer, are creme brûlée, chocolate brownie, sticky toffee pudding, cookie dough and honey and crunch.
“My favourite is the Black Orange – it tastes like a Jaffa Cake. Customers really like the boxes and some use them for storing jewellery in afterwards,” says Dan.