Top This Chocolate News
The holidays are my Go Time in the chocolate Biz! November 25, 2016 11:47
Another holiday season is upon us and I am very excited about the new toppings I have selected! I think the Christmas variety pack is going to be big for hosts/hostesses, corporate gift giving and parties. I'm also happy to be offering chocolate covered Oreos which are so good that I can't stop eating my inventory. Developing new products has been a lot of fun as has been gearing up the chocolate factory for December but it's frustrating still not having retail store yet. I'm still looking. Location is extremely important as are other things that have become problematic such as city regulations, parking and the terms of the lease. I'm optimistic that something will work out soon though because I've learned a lot about the locations where all these issues resolve the best. In the meantime I've been practicing law again by the hour which I must admit has been bittersweet (like the dark chocolate). Sweet because I'm lucky to be able to fall back on it while still pursuing this dream and bitter because I thought I left this part of my life behind. Nevertheless, the people I work for are some of the nicest attorneys I've ever met in my life. They actually told me not to hesitate to tell them that I'm too busy with chocolate to do their work. This is unlike any employment situation that I have ever encountered in my life. The bosses actually said that I should concern myself with my own problems before theirs. I'm unbelievable lucky. Bring it December!
A Quiet Easter April 02, 2016 00:00
I only had a trickle of chocolate orders for Easter. I think many of those who ordered bought squares to bring to the office. Maybe I should've offered Easter baskets ready to give to kids. It'll be easier once I have a retail store with more space to develop and package new products. I know many kids receive cheaper chocolate for Easter but I still believe a lot of people would rather give premium all natural chocolate to their kids.
Happy St. Patrick's Day March 19, 2016 00:00
St. Patrick's Day was busy around here with a large custom order for a private party. We created hundreds of chocolate squares with green toppings. It was a fun spending a whole morning just separating out all the green Froot Loops. gummy bears, marshmallows and jelly beans from the bunch. We love custom orders. Please consider us your personal chocolatier for all your themed chocolate needs. We print logos in chocolate as well.
Valentine's Day Wrap Up February 20, 2016 11:50
It made me so happy to see my new Christmas customers return for their Valentine's Day chocolate needs. We stocked up on gummy hearts just for you. We love reading the gift messages on the orders as we hand prepare each chocolate creation. Love is alive and well this Valentine's Day. Some of my favorites were "I can't wait to start this new adventure with you" and "sorry this gift isn't a hot dude but chocolate is just as good right?" Right indeed. It warms my heart that Top This Chocolate could be a part of the Valentine's Day celebrations of so many loved people.
No Sleep 'Til Christmas January 26, 2016 13:16
After almost of year of trying to figure out how to get customers to my website (beyond just friends and family), I finally moved the needle. I had tried Google Ads, Facebook Ads and Instagram but was struggling to find the magic bullet. When I spoke to other small business owners, they were having the similar problems. Then came the press. I couldn't afford a publicist so I did it myself. It worked! Through a connection, I got mentioned in Redbook Magazine's holiday gift guide. That guide ended up on MSN.com. It was a slide show of 100 gifts and I was slide number 71. I couldn't believe the flood of orders from that one mention. Even my own retired parents barely had the patience to make it to slide 71. My chocolate bars with names in chocolate letters were featured and that is what almost everyone was ordering. I did it! I created a product that people wanted! All I had needed was for them to know about it.
Then began the craziness. I had to hire and train more help fast. I quickly found people who were excited to work in a chocolate factory and grateful for the opportunity to earn extra money for the holidays. I'd never run such a high volume operation and we all had to figure out the best processes together while under intense pressure to get the orders out the door. There were problems. I struggled to keep the chocolate, packaging and certain toppings in stock. My suppliers were running low because of the holiday season and my mornings would be spent making calls and driving all around town. We would begin crafting and shipping the chocolate orders in the afternoon and run until very late at night. A few of my ladies (who had day jobs as well) were willing to stay past midnight. I rarely got to bed before 3 am myself. We were running on adrenaline, sugar and the desire to delight our newfound customers with exquisite custom chocolate bars. I'd never been so exhilarated and exhausted at the same time.
The real joy came is seeing how much the ladies loved crafting the bars. I think they took more joy in decorating them than the recipient would get in receiving the bar with their name on it. I'd overhear them say things like "I hope Carter really loves this bar, isn't it cute" and "look at how I arranged the marshmallows on Anna". As they trained, they asked me questions like, "do you think Bethany is going to notice this upside down gummy bear on her bar?" and sometime the bars needed to be remade. I would constantly run around tell the decorators to add more toppings. "We don't skimp on toppings around here" was my mantra. A few times the decorators would criticize the customer choices. "This bar was beautiful until they added the rainbow sprinkles and destroyed the blue color scheme; can I put a note letting them know how I feel?" Absolutely not. We all wished we knew more about who the people were that wanted this or that on their bar and what their reaction was to the final product.
Mistakes were sometimes made. Some were just part of the steep learning curve, some happened by accident and others made me very angry. When I care so much about the quality of what goes out the door, it's difficult to watch another person cut corners on the needed intricacy and assume that the customer won't notice or care. I worked too hard to get this all up and running to have it be destroyed by shoddy workmanship. Unfortunately, not everyone will be invited back for the Valentine's Day rush. It's not always easy to find people who care about how well they do a job or even care about how well they do anything they undertake in life.
My customers were the best though. So understanding! To the extent that anything went wrong, we did the best we could to fix it quickly and they were greatful. If we weren't going to be able to get an order out in a reasonable time frame, we'd let them know. At first I was afraid of the customers but I quickly found that if you are honest with them, let them know what the options are and generally do right by them, they are very nice. I hear from them that they don't often get such good communication and customer service. That's our specialty.
So much was learned during this process. I learned about how best to run the chocolate operation, how best to package and ship, how to manage people, which suppliers I can rely on and that I was undercharging for the name bars. Making the letters and positioning them on the bars would end up being such a time consuming and intricate process that I wasn't charging enough to cover the expense. I can only hope that the thrill of having a personalized chocolate bar is worth it. At the end of the day, I proved I my business was viable and that I could run it well that was all I wanted for Christmas. That and after the last order went out, an epic nap.
Welcome to My Blog November 17, 2014 21:07
Hi, I'm Shana Elson, the entrepreneur behind Top This Chocolate. I hope you love this concept as much as I do. I gave up a lucrative but unfulfilling career to start this business and follow my bliss. It's been difficult every step of the way. I knew it would be difficult but I have to admit that it's been harder than I ever imagined. But I've been more passionate and devoted to something I believe in than I ever could have imagined as well. I plan to use this blog to keep you updated about the process of growing the business and discuss chocolate news items as they arise. I hope you will join me on this journey and leave comments along the way.
I can't make this business great without you. I need to hear what you think. Please don't hesitate to click the Contact Us button and share your opinions, suggestions and feedback. I read every email myself. Thank you. Best Wishes, Shana.