The Chocolate Life

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Brownie Shotz, adventures in starting a chocolate business, con't.

Terrific! Someone out there has encouraged me to continue my story (thanks Carol) so that’s enough for me.

Well, after the first blush of starting a new business wore off a bit, it came time to figure out how to really make Brownie Shotz a going concern. For the first few months, I kept baking brownies in my kitchen, refining my product as I went along. I made a few sales but it was very evident from the start I’d need help, especially in the enrobing process. Hand dipping brownies was tedious and very time consuming. I figured there were two options for full scale production, either set up a bakery myself or find a co-packer. I preferred finding a co-packer like my Beer Chip friend had done but I couldn’t find anyone that had both baking and enrobing capabilities under one roof.

In May, a friend of mine I knew from Fizzy Fruit had also become a consultant for the SBDC and told me one of his clients had found a commercial kitchen for lease. Maybe it would be possible for us to share a space, he suggested. In my Gung Ho frame of mind, I was all for getting the space. But as we started looking into it, we found there were too many problems with the space itself and much of the equipment was too old to operate properly. So after a couple of months of back and forth, it was decided that it was not a viable option after all. Fortunately for me, I didn’t have the necessary funds to get the place on my own or I probably would have and been strapped with a huge overhead lease payment every month. It was then I decided that not having a lot of money to begin with was not necessarily such a bad thing. I’d just have to be more creative.

Another friend suggested that instead of looking to find one company that could do all the production, I divide it up and find one company to bake and one to enrobe. Duh! Why didn’t I think of that! Sometimes you just have to find someone to listen to you so you can get your problems out of your head and look at them more objectively.

And sometimes fate takes a hand. Just about that time, the ladies I was going to rent the kitchen with called and said they had met a commercial baker who had two huge ovens and he baked products for Sysco. He was looking for other companies who needed baking facilities on a per project basis and he had bakers that needed to keep busy. That was perfect.

Then my friend at the Food Innovation Center called me and said she had arranged a tour of a local candy maker. I asked if I could go with her and we toured this amazing place that had a huge enrobing line and they also did private label products. So there it was. I had my production facilities set up. By this time, it was November. (Time certainly flies when your trying to start a business!)

As anyone knows who has ever tried to organize even 2 people, much less 2 independent companies, it can be very time consuming. Scheduling conflicts, mistakes in production (totally my fault, by the way) and other unforeseen time eaters cropped up so it wasn’t until the end of February that I finally had all the kinks worked out of my system and I could see how my production line would work. After one more mishap (again totally my fault) the first 36 cases of Brownie Shotz rolled off the line. I was able to pick them up from the enrober the Thursday before we were supposed to leave for the Oregon Chocolate Festival on Friday. Pretty intense. That was two weeks ago and the beginning of the sales and marketing of Brownie Shotz in earnest. I was afraid to make too many sales before I got production set up but now I can produce as much as I need so I can fill orders of any size.

Now that Brownie Shotz has been “born” into the world, I have to nurture it and make it grow. My resources are few right now but my expectations are high. I’ll continue with what I’ve learned so far in my next blog.

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Comment by Diane Galligan on December 11, 2008 at 8:01am
I just started my own business out of my home, bought the lgal rights to name Totally Organic Brownies and have been selling at local Whole food stores...taste great. Your story was inspirational!
Comment by Chocoflyer on March 26, 2008 at 6:15pm
Great to hear your inspiring story- I tried your brownies at the festival- Fabulous, truly. Even better was your classy cool tux w/ tails and gloves- loved it! Please ck out my review of the fest in Travel Forums, and see my photos (under my member page- couldnt get them to attach to the review) I know Ill be back next year- hope to see you there again Best of luck w/ the biz - Oregon chocolate rules!
Comment by Carol on March 25, 2008 at 10:11pm
Thank you for continuing the story. How was your experience at the Oregon Chocolate Festival?
I took a peek at your website. It looks very classy.
I am in the process of renting a commercial kitchen and launching my chocolate business and your story is an inspiration to keep plugging away to achieve my goal.

Carol
Forest Hills, NY

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