Decisions: Sophi Tranchell - Divine, MD of the farmer-owned fair-trade chocolate company

MY BEST...

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Last Updated: 31 Aug 2010

I used to work in the film industry as managing director of an arthouse film distribution company that distributed foreign movies - and one of my best decisions was responding eight years ago to the tiny newspaper advertisement recruiting a team to sell Divine chocolate.

I said I was happy to do any job, so they asked me if I would like to be MD. I was interested in doing something I believed in more, and because I was running a film company, I couldn't really see where I could go that didn't involve just joining a big company - and that didn't do it for me.

I'd already tasted Divine chocolate before I went to the interview and I loved it, and I liked the idea that consumers could make a difference every day with the products that they purchased.

The decision to say 'yes' was a fantastic one, because I had the chance to put the team together and make the vision a reality. Divine wasn't my idea but I turned that fantastic idea into a great reality, and that has been a magnificent opportunity.

MY WORST...

We do own-brand chocolate bars for the Co-op and for Starbucks, and both have been very special relationships. It works well because the companies forecast well and are committed to the success of the product - there isn't any other choice in the shops, so they have a really good turnover.

But if you're trying to build a brand, doing own-brand products for others is a very delicate balance. You don't earn the same margin on it as your own brand, and from a consumer perspective, it damages your brand because customers go for the own-brand chocolate rather than yours. It can also damage you as an organisation if you have very limited resources, as it is easy to get waylaid and distracted servicing someone's own-brand arrangements, and you can start neglecting your own.

You have to be very careful, too, because you can end up with a pile of own-brand stock that you can only sell to those people. You need to be able to trust their forecasting and commitment, because there is nothing you can do with that stock.

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Leadership

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