Mmmmm… I never realized opening a real-life brick and mortar chocolate shop (Piece, Love and Chocolate, in downtown Boulder, CO) had so little to do with chocolate…
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.
I knew that in order to make this endeavor successful, it would take a whole lot of research, legwork, 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. These people are AMAZING! 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 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 a saint). Larry, banking specialist – scared the bejeebers out of me – yikes! But, scared is a good thing when you’re 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!
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!!!!
After 27 sessions of “non-candy coated” SCORE advice (and a few tears) Piece, Love and Chocolate was born. Opening in February 2011 on a “Wing, Prayer, Business Plan and SCORE”, this chocolate lover’s dream has continued to grow. Piece, Love &Chocolate has grown from 4 employees to 14, increased revenues 45% in 2012 and is on track to increase another 26% in 2013. Most importantly, I love my job!