Profile: Tilly's Treats, Reading
PUBLISHED: 12:32 07 February 2020 | UPDATED: 12:32 07 February 2020
Sam Slater lives in Bradfield Southend with her husband, Myles, and children, Tilly and Seb.
"Berkshire is such a fabulous county - there are so many beautiful places to visit, but my favourite has to be a local walk through the fields as I find such peace in the countryside," says Sam. "The kids love Shaw House… Tilly is very into Tudor times, so school holiday visits there are a must. And Seb's favourite place is the Nature Discovery Centre in Thatcham."
Sam initially worked in HR, starting at a small software house, where she met Myles, and moved on to work for Halfords, Marconi and finally Ericsson. "Like any career, it had its ups and downs, but overall I enjoyed what I did and had fantastic colleagues, but in 2011 I had a significant life change," says Sam. "Not only did I become a mum, but a few weeks before, I lost my aunt, Tilly, to cancer. She was an incredible influence on me and was more like a big sister than an aunt. She was my best friend.
"We always knew our time with her was limited, as she had lived in the shadow of cancer for more than 20 years, but that didn't make it any easier to lose her. She was an incredible lady, who made sure she lived the time she had to the full and I realised that I wasn't doing that. So, in May 2013, I left Ericsson to work on Tilly's Treats. You may have guessed that the name Tilly is important to me, as I named both my daughter and my business after my wonderful aunt!"
Sam says she has always loved being creative in the kitchen, catering for her mum's dinner parties from the age of nine. "When Mum bought me some chocolate moulds whilst I was on maternity leave, I had to try them out," says Sam. "She was, of course, the first official taster of my chocolates. Then a friend told my local shop about me making chocolates and they were keen to sell them."
After an assessment by Environmental Health and having been awarded a five-star rating, Bradfield Stores began to stock Tilly's Treats.
"It has been a bumpy road, but one I would not change. I have learned so much over the years and it has meant that I have been able to work around my family life. I also had my son in the meantime, so the family has grown as well as the business!" says Sam.
Initially, Tilly's Treats was all about beautiful boxes of filled chocolates, but Sam also loves experimenting. "We now produce bars of chocolate, lollipops, chocolate mice, seasonal items such as Easter eggs and Christmas chocolates. However, I do have one rule: I only make and sell chocolate that I enjoy eating myself, so no marzipan!"
Overall, the box of 12 Sweet & Sea Salt Caramel Collection is her most popular - and will no doubt do very well this Valentine's Day. "My salted caramel chocolate bar is also popular, although the dark salted pistachio bar is close behind and my personal favourite," she says. "At Easter, I make salted caramel Easter eggs and salted caramel hot chocolate for the winter months."
Two years ago, Sam set up a Mastermind, getting together a few ladies who also owned their own businesses. "We meet monthly to celebrate our successes and talk through our challenges, helping each other along the way," she says. "Following on from that, last year I started coaching on a one-to-one basis. Using my HR background, along with my business experience, I have loved helping business owners to gain confidence in what they are doing and to help them build and expand on what they enjoy."
Sam has also been working with another lady who is setting up an 'indulgent' subscription service, where you get a book and chocolate to enjoy as 'me time'. "Of course, the chocolate will be Tilly's Treats," Sam says. "I also do a lot of demonstrations to groups, such as the WI or Brownies, so if anyone is interested then please get in touch to book.
"My aunt has taught me to live a full life, provide a fantastic life for my family and be happy along the way... And who wouldn't be happy making chocolate?"