In under a decade Leanne and Ian Neeland turned 40 acres of barren land into the region’s most popular tourist attraction – Yarra Valley Chocolaterie & Ice Creamery. They outline the hard work behind their success, the challenges that come with expansion and how new experiences keep up visitor numbers all year round.
Eight years ago, Leanne and Ian Neeland noticed that regionally-based chocolate businesses in their home state of Western Australia were proving popular with tourists. As seasoned business owners – and passionate foodies – they believed they could take sweet treats to another level.
They were right. In its first four years of operation, the business they opened in Victoria attracted more than 3 million visitors.
Today, the Yarra Valley Chocolaterie & Ice Creamery has been dubbed the most visited attraction in the region, which makes it one of the top destinations in regional Victoria. It comprises an extensive showroom, chocolate production area and all-day cafe. In 2016, the Neelands opened a second outlet on the Great Ocean Road and they’re currently testing a smaller, boutique-style business model on the Mornington Peninsula. But, as Leanne points out, their journey hasn’t always been smooth sailing.
“If we hadn’t been so determined, resilient and prepared to keep on working hard, we’d have given up before Yarra Valley got off the ground,” she says.