Starting a Craft Chocolate Business: Top Tips | #PodSaveChocolate

Starting a Craft Chocolate Business: Top Tips | #PodSaveChocolate

Episode 31 of #PodSaveChocolate was inspired by a post in the r/chocolate subreddit. You never know where inspiration will strike!

When and Where to Watch

This episode airs live from 10:00 PDT/MST (11:00 MDT, 12:00 CDT, 13:00 EDT) on Friday, March 29th, 2024.
Starting a Craft Chocolate Business: Top Tips | PodSaveChocolate
Episode 31 OverviewHere’s the question over in the r/chocolate subreddit that inspired this episode:People that have had success starting a bean to bar compa…

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Episode 31 Overview

Here’s the question over in the r/chocolate subreddit that inspired this episode:

People that have had success starting a bean to bar company ... I recently started making small batch (>10lbs) chocolate from bean ... what tips would you offer up to someone just starting?

This episode of PodSaveChocolate is dedicated to answering the OP’s question: What tips would I offer to someone just starting?

Just to be VERY VERY VERY clear, the text in the photo, “Let Your Intuition Guide You ... You Are What You’ve Been Looking For ” is meant to be sarcastic. It is, in fact, HORRIBLE advice for a startup chocolate business.

In some particular order:

Define Success

What kind of business do you want to grow to be? Purpose? Goals? Exit strategy(ies)?

Think Local #1 – Distance

Don’t try to actively market outside a one-hour drive of your workshop until after you’ve built up a local base of support. That does not mean you can’t ship online orders, but DO NOT attempt wholesale customers through a distributor until you have a really really really good handle on your costs and your ability to scale up. Really good. This includes Faire, BTW. A large customer too early can kill an otherwise good business.

Think Local #2 – Inspiration

Use interesting local ingredients that enable you to market collaboratively, If you want to do something with coffee, use a local roaster and make a product the roaster can sell. What is the state fruit? Dessert? Look to those as inspiration for flavors. The last thing the world needs is another two-ingredient, 70%, made in a melanger from Bejofo Estate beans. Unless there is something very different you bring to the table that no one else has.

Taste your competition

People in the coffee, beer, wine, and spirits worlds all spend a lot of time tasting what others are doing. And not just the same style of work – but across the board. When you’re thinking of a new recipe, go out and buy ten other bars that are sorta kinda like what you’re thinking of and then ask yourself, “What can I do that is different? Better?”

Your highest business costs are labor-related

While there is an ethos in craft chocolate that “more labor == higher quality” THAT IS A MYTH. The only reliable correlation is “more labor = higher costs.” To be profitable you need to reduce your labor costs through investment in equipment.


If you can’t afford the equipment you NEED, don’t settle for the equipment you can afford. Wait until you can buy what you need or find a way to finance it. Buying something smaller because you don’t have the money to pay for the capacity or features you need is a sure recipe for disaster.

Advice and counsel #1

Seek outside guidance on packaging and the chocolate you make. You don’t need to enter expensive awards programs that charge extra for feedback, consider alternatives like the Craft Chocolat Challenge. Remember, while it’s important you make chocolate you like, what’s far more important is that you make chocolate that lots of other people want to buy a lot of regularly. Those revenues will fund the passion products, not vice versa.

Advice and counsel #2

Free advice is worth what you don’t pay for it. You can only go so far (usually not very far at all) relying on Facebook and Reddit as your sources of advice. There is a lot of good advice to be had, for sure, but there is also a lot of bad advice. As a startup, it’s hard for you to know which is which. You may waste more time and money chasing down bad advice than if you paid someone to help you. There are very good websites – but keep in mind the blinder/box effect.

Choose your market position carefully

Be clear, consistent, and unambiguous.

#startup #businessadvice
#cocoa #cacao #cacau
#chocolate #chocolat #craftchocolate
#PodSaveChocolate #PodSaveChoc
#LaVidaCocoa #TheChocolateLife

Next Episodes

The topic and guest for the Tuesday, April 2nd episode of PodSaveChocolate were still TBD when this post was published.

There will be no episode of PodSaveChocolate on Friday, April 5th because I will be on the road – heading to Albuquerque for the Southwest Chocolate & Coffee Fest.

Southwest Chocolate and Coffee Fest – The largest chocolate and coffee festival in the nation.

The Tuesday, April 9th episode of PodSaveChocolate will feature the Awards announcement for the 2024 Craft Chocolat Challenge!

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