How to become a fudge shop franchisee

How two co-founders of a thriving PR firm harnessed a “mid-life crisis” to switch careers to their enduring satisfaction

Entrepreneurs who succeed in one sector can readily succeed in a very different one – especially with the help of a franchisor, as this story shows.

Video case study: How to be a fudge maker

Who are the entrepreneurs and what’s the business?

Sarah Orton runs a franchise, Roly’s Fudge Pantry in Salisbury, with business partner Steven Jones.

It wasn’t their first taste of business ownership, having previously built a successful PR and marketing business together.

Bored of office life and feeling the years were passing them by, they ignored the bemused response of friends – who initially regarded their business idea as evidence of a mid-life crisis – to branch out into a very different field.

Sarah was influenced by meetings with several celebrity chefs – they were clients of her PR firm – as well as by the food writing she did in her spare time.

The pair now say they couldn’t be happier with their new lives.

A day in the life of a fudge shop franchisee

In the early stages, the duo spent much of their days making and preparing fudge for sale, and plenty of time on the phone to their franchisor for reassurance and advice. But as they became more accomplished, they had more time to spend on marketing and customer service.

The essence of fudge is milk, sugar and butter. But the key is understanding how to bring the ingredients together – although Roly’s fudge includes a special secret ingredient!

They boil the fudge to a very high temperature, which varies according to the type of fudge you’re making. Sea salt fudge, for example, needs a higher temperature than vanilla.

The fudge is then left to settle in the pan for about half an hour, and thereafter poured onto marble, which must be warm – somewhat counter-intuitively – if the fudge is to set properly.

Advice for aspiring fudge shop franchisees

If you’re tempted to emulate Sarah and Steven and buy a confectionary retailer, you’d be well advised to consider their advice:

  • Location is important. Sarah and Steven were aware that Stonehenge was close to their prospective premises, guaranteeing a steady stream of tourists from around the world, throughout the year. January is the only quiet month.
  • Invest in a franchise if new to the sector. Every aspect of the Roly’s business model is proven to work – hence the business has thrived for 20 years and spawned 32 franchised outlets around the country.
  • Making fudge isn’t easy – so take the time to learn. And the process (outlined in the section above) varies depending on the flavour, so there’s much knowledge to acquire.
  • Pay attention to detail – and therefore quality. Sarah didn’t like fudge until she tasted the fudge in Roly’s Pantry’s Brighton branch. She was amazed at the difference in quality – fudge should be crumbly, melt-in-the-mouth and deliciously creamy.
  • Be friendly and approachable to customers. It makes a difference.
  • Don’t be afraid to ask your franchisor for help. Sarah and Steven are more confident now, but in the early days they regularly phoned their franchisor for help and advice.
  • Finally, believe in yourself. You’ll face enormous challenges in the early days, but if you’re prepared to take a leap of faith into the unknown, there’s a good chance you’ll find the experience as rewarding as Sarah and Steven.

Sarah and Steven aren’t the only Roly’s Fudge Pantry franchisees we’ve spoken to: Matt and Shelley are the proprietors of outlets in Salcombe, Polperro, Plymouth and Dartmouth.

Ben Lobel

Ben Lobel

Ben Lobel was the editor of from 2010 to 2018. He specialises in writing for start-up and scale-up companies in the areas of finance, marketing and HR.

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