My Semi-Sweet Life as an Amateur Chocolatier
What Advice I Would Give Myself Now
"Own a chocolate confection business, and they will come." I thought everyone would be knocking down my door to get my delicious, creamy chocolate truffles, turtles, cake pops, and fudge. Boy, was I wrong.
Growing up on a farm meant I learned to bake and cook for an army...literally. Every summer, we would have 15-20 people at our house baling hay, feeding cattle, tending fields, etc. This was daily. Holy cow.
My mom and grandma made sure I learned how to make meals very quickly and make sure there was a lot of it. Baking was my favorite thing to do, so I volunteered for the job. I had never made so many cookies and pies in my life...or so I thought.
Speed up to five years ago, and I got the bright idea of opening a chocolate/confection shop, out of our old milkhouse on the farm. I didn't have to pay rent, I could make everything out of the old kitchen, and people would come for miles to get my chocolates and candy. Ya, right.
I had remodeled the old building and dubbed it "Milkhouse Chocolates". I had my recipes and specialized in truffles and turtles. Opening day came and went...with no one showing up. Really?! I Facebooked, Instagrammed, and social media-ed my fanny off, and no one came. I even put a story in the local paper, so what the hell?For three years, I kept advertising, making my chocolates, and hoping people would come. I would try to cross promote with other businesses, but it just never took off the way I envisioned it. So, what did I do wrong? Why did no one come beat on my door for chocolate?
Down on the Farm
From a business standpoint, I see things I did wrong, and things I did right. I wish I could have told myself what the future held, but alas, failure was the end game. However, this is what I would have told myself given the chance.
1. Location, Location, Location
This is the most important piece of advice I would give myself. Opening up the shop on the farm was great for no overhead costs, but no one wanted to drive four miles out of town to get chocolates. Oh well. Check your traffic flow and demographics. Paying rent may actually pay off in the long run.
2. Don't oversample your products.
I gave a lot of samples to people, thinking they would have just a taste and want more. Again, didn't happen. People will get anything for free, no matter what. Limit sizes and the number of times someone can get a sample. Life isn't free.
3. Keep it simple stupid.
The KISS method is one of the best pieces of advice I could give anyone. I did follow this rule, and it kept my costs down. I started out with a simple ten product menu, and people were amazed at what was offered. I did end up working with a couple of businesses, but still only kept these ten products. This helped give a quality product also.
I really miss working with my hands, playing in chocolate and candies. Now, my daughter has been bitten by the cupcake fairy and wants to open a roadside stand...here we go again.