Kaitlyn Fitzpatrick, founder 31 Degrees Chocolates, makes handmade chocolates and sells them direct to consumer via her retail store. I spoke to Kaitlyn about what the turning point was for her growth and just what the steps were she took so that now she is able to spend time away from the business to be 100% focused on her 18 month old baby girl when she does, grow the business she’s always dreamt of and create more handmade chocolates without creating more costs. What she told me will surprise some but for me I was pleased because it just further proves what I teach about systems really is a game-changer for small business.

Read how Kaitlyn used systems to expand into wholesale, increase her production by 50%, reduce her labour costs by 50% and increase the average transaction value by $2. Systemising everything in her business has meant Kaitlyn can let go of the control a bit (who can’t relate to that!?), enjoy life a whole lot more with her family and reinvest in her handmade chocolates business for next level growth.

How would you describe the business you are in?

Chocolate retail! We dabble a bit in corporate and wholesale, but direct to consumer tends to be where I have my focus.

What do you love about your work?

The creativity and the technicality – there is a delicate balance between the two. Seeing people enjoy my work, and them having a deeper appreciation of the artistry and hard work (from the farmers to the chocolate makers and everyone else along the way) that goes into making handmade chocolates.

What part of your job would you gladly give away?

My business is four years old and I’d gladly give away the admin- any time I spend away from making chocolate is too much!

If you were starting out in business again today, what piece of advice would you give your younger you?

Have clarity on short term and long term goals, and implement systems to streamline from the beginning!

Women start businesses 41% of the time to solve a problem. Sometimes this means we have a great vision but don’t have enough resources to sustain our business for the long term. Tell us what resources you started your business with eg. money saved, business premises, business partner, and how long before you started paying yourself?

Very little! The small amount of savings I had were spent on purchasing equipment, with reinvestment with every sale. My now husband was a huge support (and still is!) from the beginning.

From the beginning of the business, it took 6 years to begin paying myself! (Ouch!)

As you know we are passionate about women #backingthemselves. So tell us about a time in the last twelve months that you’re really proud of.

Keeping things going while literally holding a baby! It was a massive shift in mindset as to why I was in business, transforming it as something I was doing for me, that I enjoy, and into a focused job that can support my family.

I still get the same enjoyment – more even- out of it than I did before, but work has taken on a new meaning.

As we are always growing and learning, what is the one thing you would like to take time to learn more about?

Systems!! Since so much time is spent in production and customer service, anything that streamlines other aspects is a massive help. Systemising everything means that less time is spent faffing, more time doing.

Everything in business is interconnected so sometimes making decisions are difficult. I wanted to improve my packaging, it wasn’t broken but it wasn’t where I wanted it to be but despite that the tasks kept getting pushed to the bottom of my ‘to-do’ list. Females in Food® helped me understand the concept of micro-commitments and Chelsea held me to account (in a good way) and within 2 months I’d done all that I wanted to do. Each week just ticking off one new small task until all was completed to my liking. 

My packaging is now more cohesive, convenient and customisable. I am better prepared for wholesale which has really spurred me on.

Since I systemised my production and packing the results have been extraordinary:

  1. Production time has reduced by 50%;
  2. Labour costs have reduced by 50%;
  3. Wholesale has become a lot easier and I’m supplying more local businesses than ever before;
  4. My average transaction value has increased by $2 a transaction;
  5. I’ve reassigned staff to new duties thereby getting more done;
  6. Shelf life has doubled because I have been able to improve my packaging and produce bigger batches (still small batch, but bigger small batches);
  7. Food waste has decreased by 15%; and
  8. There are 10 less steps per product for the packaging.

Systemising my business has been incredibly rewarding.

And becoming more decisive and setting limits with this is also hugely helpful.

The world is changing so fast and technology enables us to do so much more. We’re interested in which app you could not live without and why?

Xero – working on the fly, or while holding a baby, and Instagram, because that’s where foodies are connected! I’ve also started using Actions more, and it’s great for all my micro commitments!

Why did you decide to become a member of the Foodpreneurs Formula®

The community and the resources, that are aimed at women just like me. So many other places are aimed at such a huge range of business types, that the tight focus on food is a massive help.

The units are robust, but easy to digest, and the information that I get out of them is super valuable.

We love to celebrate successes. Can you give us an example of how joining the Foodpreneurs Formula® has positively impacted your business? 

Making a start on getting out of overwhelm! Making and fulfilling micro-commitments has moved things along slowly but surely. Having the clarity to see not everything has to be done at once, but just a little step towards the goal makes everything feel so much more attainable. I’ve marked more off my to do list in the last 6 months than in the last 4 years.

Thank you Kaitlyn.

Want to read more about another successful member? Check out our ‘What’s Cooking’ interview with Natalie Harris, c0-founder Danny Balboa’s Sauce Co.