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Chocolate Shop Dreams, Reality

By January 14, 2011January 31st, 2011Chocolate Business

Where-The-Wild-Chocolate-Truffles-Are2010 was a long year for us.  We set out with a goal–more specifically I told Bill and Karen Dietz that I would have us a chocolate shop or Plan B within 6 months of 2010.  For the many who know us, that didn’t quite happen did it?

I missed 2010, but things are different now.

Good Things Come to Those Who Work Hard

I realized through 2010 that if you can’t afford it outright you’re going to work your collective butts off (and then some) to get where you want to go.

No exceptions, no short-cuts, no magical formula.  Work hard and capitalize on every inch you gain.

With hard work, a lot of writing, talking, negotiating, arguing, late night debates–I am very very happy and humble to announce that The Secret Chocolatier is going to have a home of it’s own in Charlotte.  We have officially signed a lease with Providence Plaza and will be open sometime in February March!  Talk about exciting!

A Chocolate Business Education

I set out on a long quest to understand our business, the market, and what financial options existed for us. If it weren’t for some great peers to review, quiz, challenge, and of course support our ideas we would not have gotten very far at all.  This doesn’t do justice to their expertise they imparted to me but I have to thank Steve Case (finances), Thom Duncan (production management), Rich Deming (contractor), & Tamela Rich (MBA). These wonderful people helped shape my early steps and were there to corral my sometimes loose thoughts into better order.  We looked at the past, watched the present and developed a strategy for the future.  I was also referred all over the place (from personal recommendations to SCORE & SBA institutions) to get additional ideas for the road ahead.  I really could not have done it without their help.

Lessons along the road that I am happy to bequeath to any other rising star. No one likes risk and you are full of it!

Banks Don’t Like Risk

  • Get through two pilot years first.  Two years seems to be a magic number for filings.
  • Open a bank account with your business as soon as you are able.  It establishes you.
  • Get a credit card for your business and hide it.  Again another hallmark of doing business is developing business credit.
  • Acquire all necessary business permits within your region. In Charlotte you need a ‘Privilege License’.

Even with all of this you will still look bad to most banks.  We went through at least 3 banks before we found the right fit and required SBA help.  An article for another day but to say we are thankful for having some good people and institutions to see us rise up is an understatement.

Property Managers Don’t Like Risk

Property managers fall in line with banks to a degree.  To allow you to operate in their facilities will require a lot of work on their behalf from getting the space ready, the contracts involved, and the ever present fear of what happens when a business fails.  It’s in their deep interest to make sure you pass a number of litmus tests and even then they might just pass.

We were very lucky to have Josh Beaver of The Nichols Company represent us on matters of commercial properties and utilized John Maheras of Horack Talley to keep our best interests legally in the game.  These two gentlemen worked very hard for us and I appreciate all the time and advices they gave along the way.

Chocolate Shop Next Steps

We’re now under pressure to get the shop built and opened in a timely manner.  Like everything if it was done yesterday I’d be happy.  Unfortunately it will take us a bit of time to finish getting our permits, contractors, and equipment in a nice row but we’ve got a good start on it.

It cannot be underscored how excited we are!  We’ll keep everyone informed as to our timeline & buildout.  It is our hope you can visit us for our grand opening in the very near future.


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.