A BUSINESS which has strived to establish York’s reputation as a chocolate city has won help to grow from The Press’s Local Business Accelerators competition.

York Cocoa House, owned by Sophie Jewett, has won the main prize in the local competition for free advertising in The Press and free mentoring advice, after wowing judges in a pitching competition.

Two other local winners, Chokdee Academy and Now & Then Events, will also win advertising and mentoring support.

Sophie, who set up York Cocoa House in Blake Street, York last year, explained how the business had rocketed in its first year and was already delivering against its second year targets.

She employs 27 staff, has held chocolate-making workshops for more than 20,000 people, and has a full diary into 2014.

The café holds a chocolate dining club, with its chefs working chocolate into all its dishes, and the shop stocks chocolate gifts from only local artisan producers.

Sophie also collaborates with other businesses, consulting on the use of chocolate for companies such as Rudgate Brewery to create their York Chocolate Stout.

She uses the story of chocolate, from its Quaker roots through industrialisation to today’s return to artisan producers, to sell the story of York’s chocolate heritage to corporate events and schools, as well as customers. York Cocoa House is one of few artisan producers to make chocolate from, scratch from cocoa beans, enabling Sophie to develop true York Chocolate.

The Press will now put her forward to take part in the national competition to win a year’s mentoring from Deborah Meaden, of Dragon’s Den, and other prizes including a cash prize of £10,000 from The Business Growth Fund, a local advertising campaign devised by a top London creative ad agency, free membership of the CBI (Confederation of British Industry) for a year, free business advice from the ICAEW (Institute of Chartered Accountants in England & Wales), a year’s free access to Freeagent accountancy software, an iPad and free business broadband and wi-fi access for a year from BT, including wireless router and free installation, and the design and management of a website, with ecommerce if required.

Former Thai boxing champion Rich Cadden provides mind coaching to sports people, as well as physical training at the Chokdee Academy Thai boxing gym in York. His wife, Jo, also runs Yumi Mummy fitness sessions for new mothers, and the couple hope to expand the business, further integrating the mindcoaching side into the academy and offering more classes for children. The mentoring will help them focus their energies on the best opportunities, Rich said, and market the business through new channels.

Now & Then Events, which holds shopping events all over the north of England, is expanding as it secures more events in new locations and with different themes. Alexandra Claydon and Samantha De La Tour, who run the business, will use the mentoring support to help them establish a solid base for growth and the advertising to market their events more widely.

The judges said Sophie’s passion, combined with astute business ability, won her the top place.

Dr Paul Gibson said: “I love her passion about chocolate and she has renewed my interest in it.

“She’s got the potential to push her business forward and realise her growth ambitions and that tenacious character to do it.”

Katie Stewart, head of economic development at City of York Council, added: “She was the clearest in her vision for where she was taking the business, demonstrated a huge capacity not just for turning chocolate into an innovative business, but an experience. She has a clear business mind and knows where she wants to be. Very rarely do you see that passion and business ability.”