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tammylc

Adventures in Starting a Chocolate Business

260 posts in this topic

I didnt know you were open for business yet, Congratulations!

Has been a difficult process ?Any suggestion for someone that is trying to start now?Kitchen is an issue here and I cant afford my own lab at least I dont think so :-P


Vanessa

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Hi! Well it has been fun but difficult. I was desperate to leave my teaching job of 21 years for most of those years! Eventually I took a leave of absence this year and just"jumped" into the sea. I have had many sleepless nights- is it the right move? WIll it work? WIll it affect the family's general standard of living? Etc. But I felt I would regret it at a later age - that is if I chickened out and didn't give it a try. The "lab" is in our basement/bomb shelter of about 20sq meters which is small. But it is enough. I did not want to take the leap of renting a real place yet. I had 4 stainless steel tables made- which was not very expensive. So now we have to be patient and slowly hope the business will build itself. I don't want it to be big, just nice and small and bring in a salary to replace my measly teacher's one-which here is extremely low. That would make me satisfied. If you want to you should try it too!! We only have one short chance at this life!!

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Hi! Well it has been fun but difficult. I was desperate to leave my teaching job of 21 years for most of those years! Eventually I took a leave of absence this year and just"jumped" into the sea.  I have had many sleepless nights- is it the right move? WIll it work? WIll it affect the family's general standard of living? Etc. But I felt I would regret it at a later age - that is if I chickened out and didn't give it a try. The "lab" is in our basement/bomb shelter of about 20sq meters which is small. But it is enough. I did not want to take the leap of renting a real place yet.  I had 4 stainless steel tables made- which was not very expensive. So now we have to be patient and slowly hope the business will build itself. I don't want it to be big, just nice and small and bring in a salary to replace my measly teacher's one-which here is extremely low. That would make me satisfied. If you want to you should try it too!! We only have one short chance at this life!!

What sort of health department rules regulate your business. ie are you legal in your basement/bomb shelter?

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Well that is a problem as the regulations are crazy. I need 150sq meters, 7 sinks, fire regulations, a storage room a room for the staff to eat (!) etc. So as this is not feasible right now. I guess I am illegal!! Most of the chocolatiers here are in the same situation and the health dept just ignores it as they don't even have enough budget or manpower to do what they should in bigger operations. There is no legal option for a really small producer as the laws are old, from pre 1948! I am conscientous of what I can be-health wise and all. What do you all do? DOes everyone have health licenses? Some chocolatiers here have but very few.

And thanks for the pig mold search!!!!!! :biggrin:

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I guess here in the USA it isnt as complicated .I come form Italy and there is a little bit challenging ( I dont think I would get my hand in it there anymore ).Here I feel its doable and with a really few investments expecially at the beginning , if you rent a commercial kitchen , this is what I am planning to do and I know many other chocolatier here do the same, its a good start and it spares you the intial expenses of a lab .


Vanessa

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yes, that would be ideal. I thought to establish a bit of a clientele, see if it works and then look for renting a professional place. Everything here is complicated! Probably like in Italy! In the states everytihng is so well greased and no place for nonsense.

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Well , tomorrow I have another meeting with a guy that owns a business and actually rent his commercial kitchen.Hopefully I am lucky this time :blink: .

I have aquestion for all the business owner out there , that feels like answer anyway :-P,when you sell to other stores as consigment ( not sure its spelled right )in practical is when you put your products out for sell in someone else store and they collect the sale taxes and give you a % of the profit.I have only asked one business so far and she get the 45% of your gross sale and pays on a monthly bases,she collects the sale taxes and you are responsible to keep your space stock etc.

Do you have similar experience ?

thank you


Vanessa

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Here in Canada our labeling rules are all changing. I am just looking into all of the regulations but so far I have discovered if you want to wholesale your chocolates to anyone then you have to provide nutritional information on the products.

The catch is the product has to be submitted to independent labs for testing. I have been told this can mean a cost of $500 + per product. If you are looking to place your chocolates in other stores do you have similar rules?

I am ok just selling in my little store for now but who knows what will change next!

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The problem is that I dont have a store so for now will be online and wholesale.

The rule here I believe is that if you dont produce more than 10,000 units per year u dont need nutritional info on the label,only ingredients.All the small local products I have seen here dont have the nutrional facts on the label.

The testing its expensive here as well,its one of those things you probably can go around somehow.


Edited by Desiderio (log)

Vanessa

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Well , tomorrow I have another meeting with a guy that owns a business and actually rent his commercial kitchen.Hopefully I am lucky this time :blink: .

I have aquestion for all the business owner out there , that feels like answer anyway :-P,when you sell to other stores as consigment ( not sure its spelled right )in practical is when you put your products out for sell in someone else store and they collect the sale taxes and give you a % of the profit.I have only asked one business so far and she get the 45% of your gross sale and pays on a monthly bases,she collects the sale taxes and you are responsible to keep your space stock etc.

Do you have similar experience ?

thank you

You have to work the best deal you can get. The stocking & payment time schedule is reasonable. Selling on consignment, you are taking all the risky. If it doesn't sell in the lifespan of the chocolates, you are shouldering all financial responsibility. For me, 45% seems a bit steep since she is actually only renting you shelf space. Also, she is probably making more profit on the chocolates than you are. That's why I rarely do this anymore, at anymore than ~33%. The other consideration; if you are an unknown chocolatier, is not making much profit worth the exposure you get.

Another avenue to get your name out is looking into a BNI group in your area. It is a significant outlay upfront but you have sort of extended salesforce. I have done this & I can sell enough to BNI members & referrals to cover the yearly cost.

Also look into talking to some of the groups in your area such as the Red Hat ladies, or American Business Women. They are usually want people to come speak at their meeting. I have done this several and it is an enjoyable experince. I have talked about the history of chocolate, discussed how I got into the business or how I develop flavors. You will should give out samples (everyone loves chocolate & it will help with sales). I always state upfront that one of the conditions is that I am allowed to bring chocolates to sell. It is not a big money maker (you will make at least enough to cover the cost of samples) but a fun time. The women who I have talked to have had a goodtime & so have I. You usually will be offered to eat with them. I was called to see if I would talk to ones of these groups again this year. They were excited that I would come again. Also when you go these types of groups be aware of their economics (?). A good part of these women live on a limited income so bring the smaller lower priced boxes. I have sold a significant amount at these meeting at barely over cost.


Mark

www.roseconfections.com

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The catch is the product has to be submitted to independent labs for testing.  I have been told this can mean a cost of $500 + per product.  If you are looking to place your chocolates in other stores do you have similar rules?

I don't know where you live, but search for a government product development program. I was researching this last summer and don't have the information handy, but I know there is funding available for small business -- and I believe I was quoted around $100 per product for testing.

eta: my post about some of my findings re: recipe testing/labelling

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I just thought that I'd add my voice to this thread because I started a small chocolate business in LA about a month ago. It's called <a target="_blank" href="http://www.bonbonbar.com/">BonBonBar</a>, and I specialize in candy bars and marshmallows that are handmade with organic and local ingredients whenever possible. I'm working out of a rented commercial kitchen, and doing mail order and wholesale. I'd love to have my own store one day, with lots of varieties of candy bars! :)

If anyone has any advice about PR -- especially about getting the word out in the local area -- I'd love to hear it. I want to build a local customer base, especially for gift baskets and party favors. I've been giving out samples whenever I can (usually of extra products) -- to publications that I email first, and to friends and their companies. And I've been getting a nice amount of sales directed from my food blog that I've written for a couple years. I also just started Google Adwords, but I'm getting clicks without purchases.

Also any wholesale tips would be great. I've encountered stores that double the wholesale price ... and those who do 30% markup (which is what I based my wholesale price on)... I decided not to sell to the double wholesale price stores because double my wholesale price would have resulted in too high of a price for customers... and I didn't want to lower my price.

I'm also wondering about out of town wholesale -- I would pay for shipping, right (ie it's included in my wholesale price)? If so, it seems like it would cost me more to be carried in a store in a diff't city than in my own city (where I can deliver it myself for not as much in gas costs)?

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I'm also wondering about out of town wholesale -- I would pay for shipping, right (ie it's included in my wholesale price)?  If so, it seems like it would cost me more to be carried in a store in a diff't city than in my own city (where I can deliver it myself for not as much in gas costs)?

I don't think you have to pay for shipping. I supposed it depends where you are shipping to and from, but I have a food store and I have to pay for shipping on everything I bring in -- and I bring in about 99% of what I sell.

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in germany its the same thing (regulationwise) everything is standardized down to the floor tiles (they have to have a certain amount of water displacement)

but

on top of that you cant "simply" open your own shop and produce chocolates. you HAVE to be a "konditormeister" which is roughly the same degree as a cordon bleu "grand diplome". if you open anyway in the end they will close down your shop by the police :-( thats germany...

cheers

t.


Edited by schneich (log)

toertchen toertchen

patissier chocolatier cafe

cologne, germany

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Printing Chocolate Transfer Sheets

in the last few weeks iam fooling around with the decoration of my chocolates. i still have to learn a lot to get things out as nicely as christopher elbow or chris norman for example. at the moment we order our transfer sheets from pcb, but i really have to say that the number of "cool" designs is very limited. most of the designs look very old fashioned or too whimsical to me. designwise i want to go more in the direction of the next generation of spanish pastry chefs like morato, torreblanca et cetera. i did some designs with the airbrush (or fingers, or brush) on blank chocolate transfer film . but i really find it very time consuming, and iam not satisfied with the results. i would for example like to use a flame tribal for a chili, or a skull for a pate reglisse chocolate. i looked around for quite some time now and finally i found a manufacturer in belgium that prints sheets in 60 x 40 cm. the onla thing is that if you order minimum possible (140 sheets) its still too expensive. once you order like 1000 or more things start to get really cheap. so if more people would agree on a number of designs we could make a centralised order which would still be pretty profitable even if we would add the shipment costs (5 kg ---) USA 32 euros)

for now its just an idea...

i add some pictures of some things i like...

chocolate bar nyc

gallery_11197_5621_14344.jpg

gallery_11197_5621_230775.jpg

gallery_11197_5621_59821.jpg

gallery_11197_5621_9643.jpg

the thing i wonder about most is that nobody does a selection of simple flat colors, they could be used for so many things, also simple gold and silver would be nice. i tried to do it with brush and airbrush, but it needs too much luster dust to get a really nice cover..

i think it would make sense to split every 60 x 40 cm transfer into

4 (30 x 20 cm) or even

6 (20 x 20 cm) slots.

1 to 4 colors is possible so we would have to agree on up to 4 colors that everyone likes...

cheers

torsten s.


Edited by schneich (log)

toertchen toertchen

patissier chocolatier cafe

cologne, germany

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no, sorry these are not my chocolates, i only took the photos ;-)

cheers

t.


toertchen toertchen

patissier chocolatier cafe

cologne, germany

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no, sorry these are not my chocolates, i only took the photos ;-)

cheers

t.

What are the cost of the sheets? Can the sheets yoy buy be cut to other dimensions? $35 added to the cost could get the overall cost a bit pricey.


Mark

www.roseconfections.com

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i will get the exact figures on monday, the whole thing only works out if it would be possible to order a larger amount...

right now i am just curious if there is a sufficient number of people who are interested...


toertchen toertchen

patissier chocolatier cafe

cologne, germany

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I am going thru the tedious part of the business at this moment, and I am kinda overwelmed!!

I have couple of question for who feels like to answer.

First ,I will partecipating at an event here in Denver this year ( thats why I am strting the real process and get serious or almost :-P )and I was wondering if any of you , when you do out of store events like farmers markets and festival ,how do you deal with the payments?I was looking into wireless credit cards reader , but I think that those added charges into my very small budget and business would be kinda out of place now.Do you just deal with cash , have a little money bank with change etc?And do you just use a calculator that emits recipts?

Another thing that is more techinical and no matter how much I read on my books I cant seems to visualize till I am there for real,how do you add sale taxes to your products?Do you calculate all the taxes for the county city etc etc and then add it to a single product for sale ( like here I think sale taxes are 7.85 ,maybe 8 right now,so you just add that to you price per product)?

Haha sorry I know it sounds silly and embarassing for me , but I really feel I am overthinking too much and I am stressing about all the tax parts expecially.

Thank you


Vanessa

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I am going thru the tedious part of the business at this moment, and I am kinda overwelmed!!

I have couple of question for who feels like  to answer.

First ,I will partecipating at an event here in Denver this year ( thats why I am strting the real process and get serious or almost :-P )and I was wondering if any of you , when you do out of store events like farmers markets and festival ,how do you deal with the payments?I was looking into wireless credit cards reader , but I think that those added charges into my very small budget and business would be kinda out of place now.Do you just deal with cash , have a little money bank with change etc?And do you just use a calculator that emits recipts?

Another thing that is more techinical and no matter how much I read on my books I cant seems to visualize till I am there for real,how do you add sale taxes to your products?Do you calculate all the taxes for the county city etc etc and then add it to a single product for sale ( like here I think sale taxes are 7.85 ,maybe 8 right now,so you just add that to you price per product)?

Haha sorry I know it sounds silly and embarassing for me , but I really feel I am overthinking too much and I am stressing about all the tax parts expecially.

Thank you

Vanessa, don't stress! :biggrin:

First of all, we don't have sales tax here and I can say "what a relief that is to NOT have to worry about it."

Second, I didn't want to have the monthly expense of credit card merchant account so I only accept credit cards via PayPal on my web site.

For Farmers' Markets, and the like, I just take cash (~$80 in a mix of bills) and local checks though some recommend against that. I've yet to have any bounced checks, "knock on wood."


John DePaula
formerly of DePaula Confections
Hand-crafted artisanal chocolates & gourmet confections - …Because Pleasure Matters…
--------------------
When asked “What are the secrets of good cooking? Escoffier replied, “There are three: butter, butter and butter.”

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I know our farmers market has a centralized credit card processor that all vendors can send customers to the main booth for payment. You can also just set up for the paper process - you lose more cut, but its about convenience. Or, if you know some other vendors that are complementary and not competitive share costs and space.

As a consumer, I often times will only have credit. And at events like that, often times people expect to pay cash, but if they can use credit, they might do a bit more. Are you going to have Valentine's Day goodies? Can you upscale them by adding flowers, more packaging, putting your products on sticks and making them into bouquets...all of which allow you to charge more, which will justify the extra credit card expenses?

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