The Chocolate Life

Discover Chocolate and Live La Vida Cocoa!


Startup Central

Are you looking to start a chocolate business? Want to talk to others who've been there or done that - or have you been there and done it and want to share with others? This is the place to discuss it.

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Members: 671
Latest Activity: on Tuesday

Startup Central

Do you make great chocolates? Know everything there is to know about tempering chocolate and cooking the perfect caramel? Able to turn out thousands of finished chocolates without blinking any eye?

Does the thought of using Quickbooks or writing a business plan sends you screaming into the walk-in begging for mercy?

This group is for you. When you join, please introduce yourself to the group in a comment on this page. Yes, I know you have a profile page, but it would be great to have you add a few words about you and your business in the context of this group. If you have a website, feel free to post a link to it. Please don't post a link to your profile page, people can just click on your profile photo to visit that.

PS. Below is the full picture I used for the Group photo. It's a chocolate store/cafe in Mexico. Those are stone mills (the kind Taza uses) to the right of the guy with his back to you in the blue shirt and notice that they are selling beans. The stone mills suggest that this store is located in Oaxaca.

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Comment by Jennifer Thamer on February 10, 2010 at 3:30am
Hello everyone! I've spent every evening this week reading past posts on the Chocolate Life -- what a wealth of information. I am planning on starting a small scale chocolate business within the coming year. At first I know I'll have lots of questions, but I promise to share insight as I delve deeper into professional chocolate creating.
Comment by Wendy Talaro on January 29, 2010 at 6:10am
Per Clay's recommendation to a friend, I joined The Chocolate Life very recently. I'm at the bootstrap stage of startup for a green business venture featuring organic fair trade and vegan chocolate truffles. I would love to work with a mentor or a few mentors. If you've got some time and willingness to share some solid advice that will net results when I follow it, I'll buy the coffee and provide the truffles. I'm looking forward to exchanging ideas on this forum.
Comment by Jessica Curzon on January 24, 2010 at 5:48pm
I'm a very new member with lots to learn! I'm looking at starting a little specialty gourmet truffle company. I'm sooo glad there's a forum like this to get support and a sense of community!
Comment by Shelley Fields on January 19, 2010 at 6:03pm
Hello, I'm Shelley and I am immersed in the planning of my chocolate shop here on the Northern Coast of California.

I am looking forward to contributing what I learn along the way and of course to enjoying the knowledge base that has collected here. Thank you all in advance for your help and insight!

Comment by xinhong liu on January 6, 2010 at 8:39am
In UK, in my case I have got my home kitchen registered for chocolate making within 2 hours. One Monday morning the local health inspector came to my house and talked to me, asking some questions and after 2 hours he said to me 'you can start selling your homemade chocolates today and here is a temp food registration number'. It was just this simple and straight. However, one of my classmates from Ecole Chocolat her application for homemaking chocolates was rejected because she lives in a flat and there is only one kitchen and the officer told her she has to have the second kitchen in her flat just for chocolate making. Oh I forgot to mention this my classmate live in Hungary, not UK.

I feel like I'm learning a lots today by knowing such different regulations in different countries. Thanks for sharing.

Comment by Kathleen Vreeken on January 6, 2010 at 7:12am

I made my chocolates out of my own kitchen for a very long time. At first I made candy just for my family, then it grew to friends and over time, friends of friends. Slowly over many years I developed a sort of "cult" following that began to keep me busy during all of my free time.

When I began to think about becoming a "real" business I did the research. I live in CT (which does not allow home kitchens). So I started out by taking my State's food safety course and getting a personal license. Then I took the Federal exam (for a federal license), followed by the Quality Assurance course with Ecole Chocolat. After that I visited the Health Dept in my town to get a copy of the local regulations. The Health Dept was willing to give me a list of licensed and approved kitchens in town. From there I started going through the list until I found a someone who was willing to allow me to use their kitchen whenever it wasn't being used. We worked out an arrangement where I make chocolates in exchange for the kitchen use. Its not a perfect arrangement as the kitchen usually doesn't become free until 4:30 or 5:00 PM. Since I'm a morning person and would prefer to do my work earlier in the day, working at night has been a little inconvenient for me. The positive side to the arrangement though has been that I've met a lot of people that I wouldn't normally have come into contact particular, the town's food photographer. I've also "tested" my actual resolve to make this business work. My usual schedule now is that I'm up early (5 AM) and I do my research (finding suppliers, packaging, equipment, markets etc) and R&D in my own kitchen. I do all my sample work and testing of recipes at home too. Later in the day I make business calls and pack up and get ready to go to the operational kitchen. I then make and wrap my creations in the licensed kitchen. I'm home again around 9 or 10 PM. Its a long day; but so far its working out.

The other thing I did was to make an appointment with the Small Business Association. They have a division called SCORE. Through SCORE retired businesmen volunteer their time to act as mentors for people trying to start their own businesses. As it turned out, I was assigned to a man whose family ran a candy and novelty business for 35 years! SCORE has been invaluable in helping me to avoid some basic problems. At present, they are helping me with all of the paperwork for particular, the Homeland Security requirements. Before the month is out, we should have everything completed.

This holiday season is the first one that I've been actively "working" the business. I had business cards made, got a dedicated phone number (Actually a cell number), opened an email address for the business, created flyers and purchased liability insurance. I've joined a business group that meets once a month and have been introducing myself to the various businesses in the area. My latest move has been to hire an independent employee to do marketing and sales. I've already learned that I just cannot do everything!!!! The new hiree is working on a commission basis only and will receive salary as business is realized.

I'm sure you know that there's a tremendous amount of work and details in an operation of this sort. Its not like other businesses. All of the extra requirements necessary to create and market food products is daunting. There is a lot of competition. And you can never rest on your laurels. You are only as good as the last product sold to your customers. One bad chocolate and they will immediately forget about all of the wonderful ones before it.

In wrapping this long message up, I've done two things that I feel will be invaluable over time. One is that I have documented (with photos) everything that I've made. The other is that I'm keeping a journal of what I'm doing every day, documenting my activities. One immedite benefit to this is that I can already see an improvement in my flyers. The Halloween flyer looks absolutely amateurish when I compared to the Christmas one. - Every day now, starts out with a "list" that I know is impossible to complete that day. So I remind myself to be thankful that I am busy and I add to my prayers the wish that joy can remain in my heart (despite the exhaustion) in everything I do each day. Remember that true enjoyment lies not in just reaching the destination, but rather in making the journey.

I wish you days filled with purpose and laughter, strength to accomplish what you need to do, friends to help you along the way and much success and joy in your endeavors.

Good luck. Please keep me up to date on your progress.

Comment by Dirke Botsford on January 5, 2010 at 10:58pm
So here's the thing. I've been researching starting to make chocolates and confections as a business from home. There are loads of restrictions and permits and legal things to review. My question is..." Is there anyone out there that started from the home kitchen? What kind of things ie problems or words of caution can you offer. Or is it possible? I want to be legit but also not have a ton of over head. Any advice would be great? look forward to hearing from anyone...
Comment by xinhong liu on January 5, 2010 at 10:55am
Hi Guys,

Can you actually taste the difference between the cold-processed and widely used industry processed cacao beans?


Comment by xinhong liu on January 5, 2010 at 10:13am

Thanks for your suggestions and your nice comments! It's very valueble to me!

In the new year I want to do few things including joining the event' London Fine Food Show'. Also I'm thinking to turn up in Shanghai food show in Nov time. There are lots to be do to prepare for events. I think I might have been too ambitious but I'd like to try. The thing is I have a full time and intensive job- software developer occupying my mind and time for the most of day and I'm hoping I can get out of it sooner. It's difficult to balance between work and my passion. I need this relative well paid job to pay for my 'hobby' but hopefully one day my hobby will turn up something that could support my living. It can not be a overnight magic as I understand but how long it's going to be? I give 3 years time. It could be longer than that what do you think?
Comment by Kathleen Vreeken on January 5, 2010 at 9:58am
Xinhong, The chocolates in your photo look very beautiful. The very first thing I've done to get started has been to find a commercial kitchen to work out of. I then started to find ways to "show" my creations, like shows, fundraisers, tastings etc. Next, I started "knocking on doors" to offer to create specialized candy for events. - I wish you much luck on your ventures.

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