Mentoring is a sweet boost for family firm

Geoff and Carol Earl
Geoff and Carol Earl

A toffee-making firm is thinking outside the box after advice from an expert mentor.

Sweet Niblets Confectionery, run by husband and wife team Carole and Geoffrey Earl, was one of three winners of the Hartlepool Mail-backed Local Business Accelerators competition.

The firm is now looking at ways to improve the product after speaking to the LBA mentors.

Sweet Niblets won the town LBA heat along with Clarity Wellbeing – a health and social services firm based in the Victoria Road Health Centre in Hartlepool – and Mary Rowntree’s tea room and restaurant on the Headland.

In June, one of the three will be announced as the town winner to go forward to the regional finals, and potentially the national stage.

Each receives free advertising in the Hartlepool Mail as well as mentoring from Alby Pattison, managing director of town company Hart Biologicals, Pam Hargreaves, a director of town company XIVII, and John Megson, Hartlepool Business Forum co-ordinator.

Carole said: “I have spoken to Pam and it has been really productive. It made me sit down and revise a few things.”

Sweet Niblets is now looking at ways of extending the life of their product.

“We have looked at whether we can extend the shelf life,” said Carole. “We have spoken to people in product development who will look at our recipes, and we have spoken to a nutritionist.

“We have approached a fairly comprehensive analysis to move things a little bit forward.”

The firm is also expanding its product range and starting to make fudge, as well as its established makes.

Carole Earl, 51, and her husband Geoffrey, 38, produce a toffee range which includes strawberries and cream, treacle, liquorice, mint and banana as well as an Autumn and winter range with Bourbon, Irish Liqueur and Whisky Toffee.

Carole opted for her own business after taking redundancy as a business advisor with Business Link in January 2011.

At first, she set up a jewellery business before deciding upon toffee-making was the way forward.

Geoffrey makes the product while Carole handles all other aspects of the business.

They won the Best Product award at last year’s Inspire Network Award, held at Bede’s World in Jarrow.