The Chocolate Life

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Hello again everyone.  I've been gone for a while as the real world took over and I've had to travel a lot for my day job.  Now the problem exists that my side job is starting to expand as well.  Mostly we make things for family, friends and coworkers at the moment, but those orders have been on the rise. 


I'd love to have the opportunity to stay small for a while until I can put together the capital to actually put up a shop. (between a wedding, honeymoon, and hopefully buying a house this year, the money for a shop just isn't there) 


My question here is this.  Is it possible to remain small and chocolate focused anymore?  In Salem, where I hope to build the business, there is a Sees candies and a Rocky Mountain chocolate factory.  I realize that is a lot of competition to overcome, but with the grass roots movements here in the NorthWest, I think there is room for a hand crafting guy to come in and snag some of that market.  But is it really possible to just make good, hand crafted chocolates, candies, etc, or do you find that you have to branch out or move to bean-to-bar?


As always thanks for any insight that you can provide.

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Replies to This Discussion

I run a printing business - labels, checks, envelopes (actually franchise of Deluxe Checks) full time.  Started a chocolate business 1.5 yrs ago and it is growing like wildfire!   I put a chocolate cabinet into an art gallery - I paid for the cabinet, and they earn 30% of sales.   Working out great. Looking for my next location now.



Stay small, grow big, franchise -- you can most certainly do whatever you like. You just need to set a goal, and then make a plan to get there.


So you have "a lot of competition to overcome," but you're not trying to drive them out of business or anything, right? Figure out what you're going to do different - and better -- and focus on that. They're going to do well whether you're there carving out your niche or not, and you can still be successful (whatever your definition) even if they are, too.


There's definitely room for hand-crafted guy in any market. I started just like you, and a couple years later opened up my second Kakao Chocolate store here in St. Louis, in the midst of several other chocolate stores, two of which are aiming to be national wholesalers. We're focusing on hand-dipped confections, interesting flavor combinations, and old-fashioned confections that no one seems to make anymore. And we've developed a loyal following that appreciates the fact that we don't have any "Lucille Ball" machines in the shop, and that we're focused on high quality chocolate.


Don't let anyone tell you it can't be done. Just do it.



Anything is possible, of course.  Will it succeed?  Well, you need to define what success means to you and make sure your focus is directed to achieve your goals. 


Yours in Spirit,

Julie Bolejack

Hi Brad,

I live in Peoria, IL and trust me when I say this: even with the chain stores you're products will be well accepted.  I work out of a little tiny coffee house just north of Peoria, IL and I can't believe how busy I am.  I am also a full time student and mother with a husband about to deploy to Iraq for over a year.  I have been asking myself what do I do?  I haven't fully decided but I think I am going to go into a hiatus for awhile because It's just too much for me.  Family and school are priorities right now.  But to answer your question, you can do what ever it is that you want to do.  If you have to say no to customers then do it, but make sure they understand your intentions.  You have major life changes right now and people should and hopefully respect that.  If you have a great product, they will come back when you are ready to come back at it. 

Good luck,

Lizzy Steffen

Just an echo of others, make a plan then work the plan, make adjustments and grow at a pace you are comfortable with. It's all about your goals though.  Those who don't have them teeter into burnout, otherwise you just take the stride sizes you like and you'll go anywhere.  We worked for 3 years small and now are about to open our shop. Many others have similar stories.  Just remember to work it like a real business; think about permits, business credit, correct accounting, etc.  Not just for good business sake but if you ever want to capitalize on the time you grew you have to or it doesn't exist in financial peoples eyes.
Jackie here again.  I am still working out of my home, however, this year - my 2nd - that will have to change. Chocolate is overtaking the house, and I need more room.  Our first thoughts are to add a structure out in our backyard - we live in a very rural area.   I rented a van and delivered a $5000 order last week.  Today, I am delivering baskets to a corporate office of a bank  -  30 miles away.  Will be interesting to see what this brings down the road.   I think the large chains are not competition.  Be an artisan - and they will come!   
Hi Brad, as all who have discussed here, I suggest you dedicate yourself to making a good chocolate artisan, experimenting with different recipes, the consumer always prefers the traditional to industrial product, that's your advantage, what matters is how prepare and present the product. Keep in mind that the chocolate manufacturers, generally used mixtures of low-quality cocoa of good quality cocoa. If you use high quality cocoa, fine aroma and taste will be your advantage over the consumer's palate.
Ecuadorian cocoa is fine aroma and I can help providing you cocoa liquor to produce chocolates or couverture, send me your requirements and I will be happy to serve you.
Good Luck,
Iván Andrade


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