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Trials of Making a Chocolate Business Plan

By May 4, 2010Chocolate Business

The Secret Chocolatier Business Plan CoverAnyone who has ever developed and made a business succeed knows the difficulty involved.  Entrepreneurship is both awesome and terrible at each and every stage along the way.  For those who don’t really know us we’ve been in business to this point for three years in June.  From a single market testing our truffles to now.. 4 markets, 5 retail accounts, a number of commercial clients, and our happy chocolate for weddings.

Where does that leave us?

Growing Pains, Kitchen Strains

During the Christmas holiday rush this past year we found where our maximum was.  We literally had nights we were in the kitchen till 2 or 3am and someone would start giggling and then we’d all capitulate into laughter.  It was sheer madness and we enjoyed every silly minute.

The reality of our situation was a bit less gleeful as our maximum output is a lot less than I had originally thought we’d be able to accomplish.  That began the acceleration of our business plan and financials.

Chocolate Planning

What goes into a chocolate business plan, or “How hard can that really be?”  The plan quite honestly hasn’t been the crux.  Having written plans before it requires a good idea of who you are, where you are going (vision), competition,  demographics, etc.   Out of all of those items the toughest bit for us to really answer was where we are going.

Customer Defined, Market Tested

We were defined by you (and of course I mean the plural you.)  Bill Dietz is the expert, Robin, Karen and I his minons.  Bill can craft all sorts of Wonka-like delights but if you don’t want any of them; how is that helpful?  With each offering we asked, we listen, we refine, we move forward.  In a business plan this type of mentality isn’t well accepted as it isn’t concrete (funny to even use the word concrete in something so generally unproven.)  They really want you to know, to dream, to see the future.

How do you define a future when you are creating it bit by bit, proving each chocolate bit as you develop it?

Dream a little Chocolate Dream

Consensus from many told me you still have to define it. Dratz.

During one of our recent meetings we took a chunk of time to each ideate what we thought the future held, how long it would take us to mature, and then what thoughts we have beyond that.  While there were some great thoughts that tied into how as a family we wanted to grow and mature together.  As a business we desire to develop our niche; a hybrid chocolate bakery/confections shop, establishing ourselves strongly with our first store.  Beyond that we can take many directions of secondary locations/distributions, etc.  Blue sky thoughts are great but too far out and I start fearing what befell Icarus.

The Secret Chocolatier Startup Capital Chart

Financials & Pro Formas — Oh My!

What really took time was building our financials.  With the help of friend and business associate Tamela Rich I was well mentored in the facets (the many…many…many facets) of financial planning.  What started with one small sheet has bloomed into 16 pages that are all tied together into something very Rube Goldberg oriented.  All of it based on what we have done for the past few years.

We actually have our finances rooted in reality. What a concept. Most financials are built off assumptions that start with demographic percentages and traffic counts.  Having multiple markets and commercial sales gave us some initial leverage.  The tough part is how does all of that translate into a brick and mortar store with a family working full-time (as opposed to 3 years of overtime)?

Live, Learn, Input Formulas

I had to build a different level of assumptions based off of what qualified a market and how many days a month could we really expect to sell those quantities.  Our multiplier was built off this concept and I reduced it even farther just to stay conservative.

I’m a life long learner and every time I think I have my mind wrapped around a topic matter someone with more knowledge comes along and shows me just how little I do know.  I appreciate such moments as they give me more and more scope of how things work.

Where’s the Chocolate Shop?

To finish this burgeoning post of early business growth we are just about done with a peer review.  I’ve met with SCORE and now I need to start meeting with those able to lend our capital requirements.  We’re also working with Josh Beaver from the Nichols Company to locate a space and he’s been so patient with us as we go through this process.

It is my dear hope to say that we will be opening a shop sometime in the Fall or sooner.  We have something special and look forward to sharing it not only at the markets or online, but at our own store where you can see Chef do his magic.

We always appreciate your kind support!


Andy is a jack-of-all trades. Technologist, designer, super palate enabled crazy individual. He is like a madman helping The Secret Chocolatier reach new heights and when he's not doing that, or entertaining his new son, he might be falling out of nearly perfect airplanes.