How I started my business: Sebastian Kobelt

How I started my business: Sebastian Kobelt

Pâtissier and Chocolatier Sebastian Kobelt’s career includes a spell at RBS, alongside impressive restaurant and hotel roles. When he fell in love with Scotland, he decided to go it alone. This is his story.

What did you do before you started this business?

I travelled for about six years before coming to Scotland and felt it was time to slow down a little. I didn't fancy going back to Germany as I was always interested in travelling and learning new languages. I love Scotland so much that I decided to make it my permanent home.

I was headhunted to work at RBS Gogarburn as Head Pastry Chef for the Executives. Just before the banking crisis hit, I took up an offer to work as Head Pastry Chef at Tom Kitchin's eponymous restaurant in Leith and stayed on to open sister restaurant, Castle Terrace in 2010.

What inspired you to start up?

My family comes from the outskirts of Berlin and my grandfather used to run a very busy bakery in the city's Eastern part. It was like magic to me - the noise, the smells. This was my inspiration and motivated me to follow in my grandfather’s footsteps.

I became self-employed in 2011 worked as a consultant for over a year. During this time, I worked with the likes of Cameron House Hotel, Prestonfield House and The Balmoral Hotel.

In 2012, I set up production and started supplying most of the clients that I had formed relationships with through consultancy work. This entails mostly providing chocolates on a wholesale basis to accompany their Afternoon Tea offering or as an offering within the rooms.

In 2014, the retail outlet followed on Linlithgow's High Street.

Tell us about your business in 100 words

I proudly produce handmade Artisan chocolates and Continental-style Pâtisserie.

I sell my products through my shop, as well as supplying hotels and restaurants in the central belt. With yearlong experience in 5* hotels and Michelin star restaurants, I set up a production kitchen in Linlithgow in 2012 then my first high street shop followed in 2014 where I sell my products with an emphasis on:

  • seasonality
  • sourcing locally
  • uniqueness
  • seasonal specialities

How would you describe your business to your grandma?

I was inspired to become a Pastry Chef by my grandparents, so they already know my business inside out. Apart from that, I'd bring a box of my chocolates. What I do is better to be sampled than described!

Where do you get advice, support or help?

In the early stages 'Business Gateway' was very helpful to get things off the ground. Now, I rely more on my network of fellow business owners who will always be able to give advice as they more often than not have dealt with similar problems before.

Finance is one of the most common barriers to starting up. How did you access the finance you needed?

I spend a lot of time number crunching. I always made sure I took manageable steps which has proved to work. I started with consultancy work where there was no funding required. Then as I had saved up just enough money, I set up production in a small industrial unit and started supplying the trade. Again, two years later with the help of a small business loan I opened my shop on Linlithgow's High Street. The advantage of this approach is that it leaves me pretty much debt free.

What has been your biggest achievement so far?

In personal terms, competing and winning German Chocolate Masters and becoming a finalist at the World Chocolate Masters. This has set the tone and has given me a good reputation within the industry. In business terms, it’s been such an achievement to open my shop and believing that I can do it.

How do you differentiate your business from others?

I’ve gained so much invaluable experience through travelling. My drive for quality and consistency is very important and feel as though this is my unique selling point.

What’s it like to be your own boss?

It’s the best feeling in the world when everything is going well!

Where do you see your business in 5 years’ time?

I have rather ambitious plans for the future starting with opening a cafe/dessert bar in Edinburgh where I would serve my restaurant-style dessert tasting menu. That is my ultimate goal.

What advice would you give to aspiring entrepreneurs?

If you really want it, don't shy away from going for it. Starting up can be quite overwhelming but if you take it one step at a time and set achievable goals, you’ll make it work.