The Chocolate Life

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Hello. How does someone get started in this buisiness? I mean, how do you begin a small chocolate buisiness? Ideally I would like to have a small shop and maybe even make my own someday. Can you start in your kitchen? You know, buying it in bulk from a wholesaler and molding it and decorating it? What are the very first steps to take?

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Joshua,

Have you taken any classes? If not, you can start by checking the ICE website here in Manhattan (you mentioned you are in New York, right?). Their site is www.iceculinary.com and you should click on the "Recreational" banner.
They have some really nice courses.
Then, I would take the Ecole Chocolat online training (www.ecolechocolat.com). Their online training will give you a bunch of very useful resources you will probably use for the rest of your chocolate career (ok! maybe this is an over statement, but that's quite useful).

One you've gone through these initial stages, you will be better tooled to identify your own needs.

Good luck.

Andre Costa
DaCosta Chocolates
Thanks alot Andre. I really appreciate the "much needed advice". I hope that things are well with you, and that you are attaining your goals! Talk to you soon.
If you're interested in making your own product (as opposed to retailing others'), start by practicing. If you're going to take classes, I think you'll get more out of them when you already have a lot of experience making mistakes at home. Peter Greweling's book "Chocolate & Confections" is a great resource, but with its price tag you might hold off. When I first started out I found Recchiuti's "Chocolate Obsession" bridged the gap between home cook and professional nicely. Once you have something to reference for ingredients and process, play around and develop some recipes.

I also highly recommend reading up on basic accounting, and start writing a business plan as soon as you're able. The latter will force you to research parts of the business you're not yet familiar with, and will get you thinking about cash flow and financial planning. Less fun than making chocolate, but crucial.
Hey thank you very much Brendan. I appreciate the advice. Actually my partner and I are in the process of doing the financial planning part of it right now. Considering the fact that by trade I am a union mason, this is all very new to me. And to be honest, a bit frightening. I wonder where one could find info on the success rates of small chocolate shops? And like something that pinpoints where and how shops fail, and where the trouble spots are. Anyway Brendan thanks alot, hope to hear from you soon.
I think my post must have come across as snotty, so I deleted it. Sorry if it was misunderstood.

Andrea
Not at all. But thanks for the consideration Andre.
Have just joined this site as I am trying to help my wife get started in this line of business, it's all still new and we're still at the home experiment stage (her making fudge and myself making toffee) much to the delight of our five children...
Hey Robert good to have you aboard. I don't have much for advice, I am a beginner myself. But I wish you luck! Take care. Ciao
We live in a small town and there is a chocolate shop that makes their own confections - he and his family bought this a year ago with no experience - however, in the last year managed to gross $155,000 (then you need to subtract expenses). I personally work private shows (I run more like a private winery) and for the first time started a simple line for online sales this year - drinking chocolates and sauces.

Bulk/wholesale purchasing can range in minimum orders. For example Guittard has a 500 pound min and Barry Callebaut is 1500 pounds. your price per pound depends on the chocolates you buy.

People are just opening their eyes to the world of cocoa. There is opportunity but it takes work, education, and a true love for chocolate!! There is a niche out there for you, you just have to find it and that takes a little time and experimentation.

Here's to your Good Luck!!
Hey Maren thanks for the much needed "lift"! I can see the opportunity in a chocolate business. I have a few very good ideas for our buisiness. It's just a matter of getting the location I want, and of course learning the ins and outs of chocolate. Maren if you dont mind, how is the online thing going for you? Its also a consideration for us, but my big question is is it worth it? Anyway Maren thanks so much, and good luck to you as well. Stay well. Oh one other thing. Do you know of any wholesalers with good chocolate with, say 100 or 50lbs. minimums : )
Joshua,

I will look into the lower order amounts for you. There are several tricks to the online store. If you could give me some "hints" on what you'd like to do I could get you started in the right direction.

The first thing you need to do is know your budget (know how much cash you have on hand today), you will need to get pricing for everything from the chocolate to the molds to the packaging. You need a health permit.

With the holiday season approaching, it is a great time to get started testing out your product, and then you can work on perfecting what you offer.

Take care.
I found a handful of specialty food distributors in my area who supply restaurants and retailers. I ended up getting the best price from a place that sold mainly cheeses. Their minimums were very low and they already had a weekly delivery schedule in place. A little detective work in local food service could turn up a good supplier.

I strongly recommend an online store. Some of your customers are really going to like the convenience; others will hear about your product and want to try it, but be unable to come by in person. Even if the volume you see there is minimal, the exposure is worth it.

Online stores come pre-packaged, and unless you're a web developer you'll want to work with one to installand customize the store. After that initial (moderate) investment, it's a question of management and coordination: making sure inventory is up to date online, making sure orders are filled promptly, and having a shipping process in place. To keep it simple at first you can offer a limited range of product online.

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