The Chocolate Life

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Hi Everyone,

Can someone tell me where I can find information on the business of chocolate? 

I'm looking to learn:

1. How to choose a regional market (I want to market chocolate online but also in a city/region 
with enough population to sustain a local artisanal chocolate business).

2. How much chocolate one needs to produce and sell for every 25K net income desired (I'm
sure there are variables such as overhead, etc. - looking for a rough estimate).

I read that someone suggested Ecolechocolat.com for learning about the business of chocolate
and I'm hoping to take one of their classes soon. Just wondering if you guys had ideas you
could share or could direct me to books on the topic.

Thanks so much,
Jeff

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I just finished the Ecole program, excellent course for learning how to make chocolate, history, technique and business. Not a lot on the business side but a little, still worth every penny. Your second question would probably entail writing a business plans as every business and idea of a business is different. You need to research your area and see, you will do that through Ecole. you may get a rough idea and answer to your questions after taking the course.

There are loads of books on the chocolate business, check out Amazon.
Good luck
you may want to join the "startup central group" here on chocolate life Lots of people running chocolate business in the group, you should post your question there.
Thanks Dirke....I appreciate your responses!
Jeff;

Here are some numbers that will help you greatly with your calculations:

1. Estimate that the average North American (assuming you're in North America) eats about 6lbs of chocolate per year. Multiply that by your local population, and you have rough local consumption stats.
2. Average food cost in the food service industry is around 27-30% of Gross Sales. The chocolate industry is usually less - around 20% of gross sales. If you're positioning your business as an elitist in your local market, you can go as low as 15% of gross sales.
3. Average labour cost in the food industry is 35-40% (yup, very high). Make sure to calculate your time into your labor costs. Too many business owners fail to do this, and create skewed financials. Remember: If you weren't going to do the job of running your business, you'd have to pay someone else to do it, so make sure to pay yourself. Also note that labour costs drop drastically with the introduction of automated equipment for certain tasks, but those costs are offset by the investment in the equipment, paired with amortized depreciation costs on that equipment (provided it's new).

These numbers aren't written in stone, but are very good benchmarks to use when putting together your pro-forma financials.

Also don't forget to account for such things as business licenses, business taxes, employee remittances, development permits, food safety training for staff, and utensils that one always seems to acquire over time.

Remember: The Devil's in the details!

Cheers;
Brad Churchill
www.SoChoklat.com

Deleted at member's request. January 20, 2012.

Suzanna,

Thanks for sharing your perspective. It's always good to have different points of view about things like this. I hope you found a course that you like better.

Thanks for writing!

Jeff

Hi, Jeff ~ Brad has given you some very good information to start with. It will at least give you a good idea of numbers.

I have taken the Ecole Chocolat course and am taking the current September Quality Assurance course and I have found their information wonderful to have at your fingertips. I am one of those who believe in the saying "Time is Money" and having an enormous amount of research done for you and supplied to you is incredibly helpful. Could I find that information myself? Of course. Most of us could but, I don't want to spend the time doing it when I could actually be working doing what I love. Ecole is a fantastic place to start. You will be educated as to the basics of the chocolate confectionary business and are supplied with recipes and assignments that all require your participation and research. Never underestimate how great it is to have some of the websites made available to you when you need to do research. It really is a very time intensive course but you can make it work with your schedule.

The articles are not focused on the dates but, rather, on the information provided which has saved me on many an occasion. And yes, like most courses, you will have to purchase a minimum of chocolate gear but they also supply you with discounts from providers.

Suzanne is correct in stating that you can find videos of tempering on YouTube. You can also find many more things about the chocolate world there. But, I now have a clearer idea of what I am looking for and what I want to do. I am more informed and experienced having taken the course at Ecole. In essence, I know what I don't know.

And lastly, the Forum that is comprised of Graduates, working chocolatiers, chocolate makers, large chocolate producers as well as equipment suppliers is a fantastic place to get help from your peers. We all have questions about our craft from time to time or want help "fixing" or "figuring" things. There is a huge range of experience on the Graduate Forum. It is also a wonderful place to check into when you just need a little support or need to share some good news.

I find that this network of support that has been generated by Pam Williams and Ecole Chocolate is something that fits in perfectly for those of us who are looking at career changes and can't travel to go to a brick and mortar school or can't afford it. 

A phone call will get you any help you need while taking the course and thi instructors are well known, working and successful Chocolatiers.

I am so sorry that Suzanne did not like the course but, I can tell you that there are probably more of us out here who did.

Best of luck to you.

Susan 

 

Susan,

Thanks so much for writing. As I said to Suzanna it's great to get different people's perspectives on the courses offered by Ecole Chocolat. Seems to me its a good place to start and then branch out from there. 

Good luck with your business!

Jeff

Thanks, Jeff! Back at ya!

I totally agree with susan. I loved the course myself Jeff.

By the way Pam williams was awarded the FCIA outstanding service to the industry this year

http://www.finechocolateindustry.org/excellence.php

Thanks Omar. Very cool about Pam's award!

jeff,

i agree with brad's points re: labor and ingredient costs. i also agree that purchasing equipment can be a huge labor-saver, though the equipment itself is not cheap. yet when you consider that you don't have to pay payroll taxes, the machine can't call in sick (though it can have mechanical issues...), and you can operate the machine at any hour of the day, time-saving equipment like an enrober can reap you big benefits.

i also agree with the other posters whose ecole chocolat experience was a positive one. i was a mid-life career changer with a 2-yr-old and pregnant w/ my 2nd child at the time of taking the ecole course. there was no way i could have accumulated that kind of information on my own given my life circumstances. the ability to practice/test recipes at whatever hour of the day my life afforded, plus not having to do the research on my own, were real advantages to me. i'd already obtained a pastry certification but wanted to delve further into chocolate. and the graduate forum has been a great source of inspiration and advice, much the way this forum has. the camaraderie and support from that group has been so helpful.

 

one last suggestion is consider reading "the E myth" (the E standing for entrepreneur), as you develop the plan for your business. while its conclusions aren't earth shattering, they do seem to be so often overlooked by entrepreneurs when establishing a business. i have found it to be a good reminder of those things i know i should be doing but haven't yet put into place. 

 

best of luck to you!

casey

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