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Mill Waters Café

Ashfield Accelerator is a brand-new business support project designed to help established businesses based in the District of Ashfield find practical solutions to improve commercial operations leading to sustainable growth. This is being funded by Ashfield District Council’s UK Shared Prosperity Fund (UKSPF) and delivered by East Midlands Chamber.

About Mill Water Cafe

Located in the heart of nature within the Mill Waters Park surrounding the reservoir, the award-winning Mill Waters Café has built a strong reputation for its homemade food and welcoming atmosphere. Patricia Ironside and her team have built the business up over the last 17 years, including increasing turnover each year for the previous three years by over 20%. The team includes 5 trainees with Special Educational Needs, an important part of the business philosophy.


Patricia has always looked for ways to improve what the café provides and offer something different and new. Although the café benefits from many returning customers, with competition growing constantly, it was essential to her that the business remained competitive and kept innovating. There was a need to build on previous trials with manufacturing jam and ice cream on-site, which had proved popular and profitable, increasing overall spend per visit.


Patricia focused on chocolate as the next extension to the offer at the café, particularly as no other businesses in the local Ashfield area offered handmade chocolates and bars.

The Food and Drink Forum, an Accelerator project partner, has helped Patricia with marketing support. They also helped her apply for a Growth Voucher, which enabled her to take advantage of training from Ellie Wharrad of Studio Chocolate in Nottingham.

Over 2 days Ellie went through every aspect of handmade chocolate production, from roasting beans to creating fillings, moulding, decorating and painting, and forming bars that had stand-out appeal. Ellie also created “Tricia’s Chocolate Bible” with everything Patricia would need (which was over and above the deliverables of the training).


Patricia completed the training in February 2024, with sampling starting at the café in March. She said that 80% of people who tried them placed an order, particularly for the hand-painted filled chocolates. The bars make a good impulse purchase and are particularly popular with younger visitors.

Patricia plans to train one member of staff to support production, increasing that as sales increase. She will also offer classes and workshops for hen parties or corporate teambuilding days. By manufacturing products in-house that are aligned with the business ethos of “homemade” while offering something not available locally, the support has given the business an additional competitive advantage.

A word from the business

I’m already seeing additional business as a direct result of the training this grant allowed me to invest in. I would encourage any local business to make time to go through the grant process.”

Patricia Ironside, Owner