One thing that all of us have in common is a passion for chocolate. It is important to find meaning in work and for some reason I find meaning in chocolate. I love the process of making chocolate confections, especially on a large scale. I have been working hard on my own chocolate business since I started in late 2008. I'm still quite small with big bursts of business at the Holidays and at Valentine's. While I don't believe we should continue to blame everything on the economy, I have noticed quite a few extremely talented chocolatiers going out of business. I would love to hear from others how they make their business work year round? Thanks in advance!
Thanks for asking the question. Reading the various answers has given me a lot to think about. Just last night I was saying to my husband "I just want to make the chocolates! I'm only selling them because I don't want to eat them all and you can't make just one truffle. I don't want to think about the business stuff--I want someone else to think about it for me and if they say I need to make x amount of this and x amount of that, that's fine, I just don't want to think about it!" But really, right now it's all me, so I guess I don't have that luxury.
Thanks to everyone who has responded to this discussion so far! I especially appreciate Brad and Clay's insight into how one can build a successful business. I am still recovering from a busy Valentine's Day. Like many chocolatiers who visit this site, I did a lot of work all by myself. Brad, you are an inspiration. Thank you very much for sharing the importance of "letting go" . I imagine that you are an amazing manager. The confectionery world is traditionally very secretive. I appreciate your philosophy of not holding on to recipes so tightly and being able to delegate tasks so that employees feel empowered.
As for me, I am still figuring a lot of things out. I greatly enjoy my work and would love for my business to grow. I would love to hear from others how they keep their business alive during the summer months. Thanks for a great forum where we can share our dilemmas and successes!
It seems the real question hasn't been answered, how do you survive and thrive in this business. Of course a business is about making money, but how are you doing it? Marketing, PR, strategic relationships, wash rinse repeat.
Marketing--paid for or your time, traditional to social media-- word of mouth is gold but to expand the circle requires marketing.
PR--are you working with your local magazines editorial cycles and pitching ideas, are you talking to local tv stations about coming to the shop for live feeds or going into the stations to cook on tv? Are you at local festivals on the cooking stage with samples?
Strategic relationships--member of your local chamber? Get biz journals and mine their lists? Corporate orders don't grow on trees.
We're not perfect on all of these points but I work hard to get the word out. Do a little bit, baby steps are still steps. It takes time to get to Brad's exodus from the shop. New businesses have a certain inertia that hold you to the mast but you can break free of it with a plan. Build a plan, work the plan, re-evaluate, adjust, and continue.
Brad, how much of Tim Ferris' skin have you donned? Reading you reminds me of reading him. Totally agree on a lot of points. Come skydive with me on the weekends. ;)
I've been invited skydiving before. My propensity for pushing the envelope and trying stupid things while performing any particular sport has me thinking that after a jump or two, what's left of me would need to be shovelled into a bucket after I hit the ground. At least when I crash my dirt bikes (and I DO crash a few times a year), it's some bad bruises and the occasional broken bone. A skydiving crash would have me looking like I've gone through a wood chipper. No thanks! Haha!