Madame Chocolat’s Blog:
My Beloved Chocophiles,
Mmmmm… I never realized opening a real-life brick and mortar chocolate shop had so little to do with chocolate…
My webmasters, Dave and Matt @ Green Chair Marketing Group (yes! A shameless plug for them, I must admit), have encouraged me to share with you some of my experiences of what it has taken to open this business in downtown Boulder, Colorado. They want me to show you graphic pictures of demolition, construction and the like. I will, but first…
It has taken so very much more to get to this point. I must take a moment to savor that, and express a little gratitude.
Long before the sledgehammers began swinging, there was work to be done. In order for this chocolate part of the business to succeed, the business itself must succeed first. I needed to channel my passion on the business development and sustainability first, foremost and always – the chocolate part is the fruit of the labor – the “gravy”. I will touch a little on that, because in my opinion, you cannot fully appreciate my pile of rubble until you’ve peeked at the inertia that created it – my pile of rubble is a result of years of hard work.
If you are expecting decadent tales of chocolate in this category, you may be sorely disappointed – mea culpa, my friends – go to one of my other blog categories!
Having decided to open this business in an official capacity, I wanted a physical location; a commercial kitchen with a retail shop. All my other entrepreneurial adventures, Sarah Parker Designs…(did I mention that I was a graphic designer I my former life?), The Imagination Station Graphic and Sign Design, I DO… Love Chocolate Cake Company, well, I just printed up business cards and went to work, self-employed, lickety split, in my home office, my garage and my kitchen. Sometimes, I was fortunate enough to have kind employers that allowed me to use their facilities for a time. All of these were, indeed, fun endeavors in-between all of my gainful employment that actually paid my bills.
However, I knew that in order to make this endeavor successful, it would take a whole lot of research, leg work, money, sacrifice, persistence and patience. “Work smarter, not harder”, as Chef Genny always quotes. It took a very long time, indeed, and I definitely have worked harder than smarter some of that time. But, I have learned oh-so-much!
First off, (and do forgive me if this morphs into an Oscar-like gratitude speech) let me start with my local Denver chapter of SCORE (affiliated with the SBA) and the value of a good business plan. SCORE stands for the Service Core of Retired Executives. These people are AMAZING! They are all unpaid volunteers (except for beautiful Jenny at the front desk and surely they cannot pay her enough!) that really wanted to help me. I could not imagine having started this business without them! I enrolled in almost every workshop they offered and they helped me to create “Bodacious Bertha” my business bible, aka my business plan.
My SCORE advisers were so eager to share with me their years and years of cumulative business experience; this is the kind of stuff you just can’t put a price on. I got comfortable, really quickly, with the fact that I do not know it all and I will continue to make mistakes along my journey. These beautiful people of SCORE were willing to share with me the mistakes that they have made – I listened, I learned, I laughed, I cried. Let me tell you though, not everything they have to say is positive – they didn’t candy-coat anything!
All my cherished advisers were and continue to be supportive, honest, caring and blunt. Enrique, food service specialist – emotionally prepared me and continues to support me (big hugs!). He came up to Boulder a few days ago to visit my new shop and sat with me amongst my rubble on a gnarly old hunk of concrete. We discussed where I could get the best deals on used kitchen equipment. Tom, accountant extraordinaire – taught me how to create and understand financials, no small task let me assure you (he has the patience of saint). Larry, banking specialist – scared the bejeebers out of me – yikes! But, scared is a good thing when your talkin’ the kind of funds it takes to create this kind of a business. (Luv ya, Larry! ). I couldn’t possibly thank-you gentlemen enough!
Add to that all the business network connections that I have made through SCORE – Dixie Malone(business research librarian DPL), Terzah Becker (reference specialist BPL), Leann Canty (accountant), Dennis Howell (business insurance), Dave Carlson (webmaster and SEO genius – notice how slick the website is) and so many, many more!
SCORE helped me to create a working business plan that really works. “Make a plan. Work a plan.” – my granddaddy used to say. I cannot imagine I would have made it this far without them and I will continue to use their services. What a fantastic business resource! No doubt, they are surely improving our local economy by helping one entrepreneur to succeed at a time! You are all my heroes!!!!
SCORE has chapters throughout the United States and they work with both new and existing businesses. For more information go to:
I am also looking forward to my relationship with my local Boulder SBDC – Small Business Development Center.
Thank-you for letting me share, my friends!