Celebrating Five Years of Spreading Chocolate Happiness…Despite the Odds

Based on statistics from the Small Business Administration, The Happy Chocolatier is in the 50 percent of businesses that make it this far. Yes, half of all small start-up businesses don’t make it to year five. We are proud that our simple idea has matured into an established business in our community. It hasn’t been easy. There have been many challenges – some we should have anticipated and some we couldn’t have

Nagog Park Location

imagined. We’ve reached the five year milestone thanks to the hard work and commitment of our team, continued support from family and friends, learning from all of our challenges and successes, and persistence.

It seems like we were just writing a business plan, thinking through the chocolate line and deciding on packaging. It all started with a conversation about making a cubed truffle and sharing some “chocolate happiness.”

Acton Woods Plaza Location

Launching and managing a small
business has been the toughest professional challenge we’ve experienced. No longer were we focused on performance reviews and promotions to measure success. Now, continuing to pay our bills and the mortgage, while investing in a new business defined success.

We are very pleased with what our dedicated team has accomplished in five years:

  • Created a new brand and built solid consumer awareness in our market area
  • Opened and then moved a local retail store, and developed a local following
  • Expanded our corporate gift business by providing “chocolate solutions” for business needs
  • Increased the number of gift, specialty food and fine wine shops that sell our signature truffle Cubze
  • Broadened our product line (and had fun doing it)
  • Employed members of our area communities including over a dozen high school and college students
  • Hosted fun, educational chocolate making events for moms’ nights, scouts, school groups, clubs and birthday parties
  • Supported our local community through donations to: Household Goods Recycling, The Miracle League of MA, Acton Food Pantry, Beacon Santa, United Way, Girls Inc., area elementary, junior high and high schools, local houses of worship, The Discovery Museum and too many more to name.
  • Created a fun video with our truffle Cubze dancing to Pharrell Williams – take a look, it’s fun!

Our competition is fierce. People can purchase chocolates at the grocery store, drug store, specialty food shop and the mall. People can also choose to buy mass produced chocolates simply because the products cost less. Yet, we are still pushing ahead. We remain focused on our mission: “To offer consumers an indulgent and affordable chocolate experience that makes them happy and enables them to pass the happiness along by sharing.”

We deeply appreciate all of our customers. We thank you for shopping locally, because it enables us to continue supporting the local community and economy. And, that makes us happy.

Corporate Gift Choices: Unique is better than Ubiquitous

Many times a well-known brand signifies quality. However, a nationally branded product is ubiquitous – available at all types of outlets from department stores to warehouse clubs. These products by virtue of their wide-spread availability aren’t particularly special. If you want a truly memorable gift that demonstrates how much you care about your relationship, then searching out a unique gift is something to think about.

There are many choices for local, hand-crafted or artisanal gifts. Food is a particularly fun way to present a unique gift that isn’t readily available on the mass market. Whether it is hand-crafted chocolates, or locally made wines or cheese, you can choose a special gift that will demonstrate the extra care you put into the selection and complement your message of “thanks.”

Going the extra step in choosing your corporate gift will remind your customers, clients and employees how important their relationship is to you. Instead of going online to the “gift basket” Web site or dropping by the local warehouse club, contact a local business.

Many small businesses, like The Happy Chocolatier, offer a complete corporate gift service creating a customized gift collection and shipping the gifts.

Corporate Holiday Gift Planning: 4 Simple Steps

It doesn’t have to be a stressful experience

Giving gifts is a perfect way to show appreciation to customers, clients, referral sources and employees. A quality business gift provides a memorable means of making contact or staying in touch. This is the time of year when many businesses start the “fire drill” of figuring out what the company’s corporate gift program will entail for year end. It can be a very simple process. Here are four steps to get you started:

  1. Determine the budget and gift recipient list
    Start with the budget. When determining a budget, evaluate the size of your list of recipients and plan for quality. Sending a cheap gift tells the recipients you don’t really appreciate them. A budget will also help focus the types of gifts you consider. No sense looking at a particular item if it is beyond your budget. Some smaller companies will work with you to develop a spending plan and possibly segment the recipient list by size of client/customer and provide you a customized spending proposal.
  2. Research: look online AND poll your network
    The Internet is helpful and a great start. However, word of mouth is even better. Poll your network (business associates and family) and find out what company others may have used. Ask about their service experience. Ask about the feedback from recipients. Better yet, look around town and find a local supplier that isn’t just some anonymous online Web site. Like anything else, word of mouth is the most meaningful recommendation. If the gift you choose is a food product like chocolate or cheese, be sure to check out customer comments about the quality of the company’s offerings.

  3. Choose a partner that provides value-added services
    Make your life easy by choosing a corporate gift partner that not only provides quality gifts, but also provides additional time-saving services for you:
    – Utilizing your recipient list in the way you wish to provide it (e.g. print or spreadsheet) vs. how it fits into their online system
    – Developing custom gift selections to meet varying budgets linked to different segments of your gift list
    – Personalizing your gifts through inclusion of your greeting card, business card or marketing materials
  4. Ask who will work on your order
    You want to be confident that your order will be handled professionally and with attention to detail. If you can’t get the name of a key contact (i.e. not customer service), then move on. If the contact name you are given is the business owner, then you should feel confident placing the order. It is critical to have a contact person who will be responsible for ensuring that your order is completed on time and that each gift is packaged with care.

Follow these four simple steps and you will choose a partner that will make you and your corporate gift program a success. In the holiday season, you want to hear kudos from your customers or clients, not complaints about the quality of the gifts.

Why Think About Corporate Gifts Now? Avoid Pain Later!

In New England, the leaves are just starting to fall. But if you are giving corporate business gifts this holiday season to clients, customers or employees, now is the time to start planning. Beginning the process early results in less pain and stress when December rolls around.

Now is the time to develop a budget, compile lists and research a proven partner to handle the development and delivery of gifts comes December (or even late November for some). Gaining internal consensus on a budget takes time. Compiling lists of customers, clients or employees takes time. Segmenting the list of customers by gift size takes time (and quite possibly consensus). Most importantly, researching a partner takes time (especially if you use your personal or business network to get first-hand recommendations).

By finalizing a program and choosing a corporate gift partner in October, you can avoid all the last minute rushing and related confusion. You will have plenty of time to work with your partner to develop a something customized to your needs. Also, you can reserve the time that you want your gifts should be sent, instead of waiting until the last minute when you are at the mercy of a hectic business gift delivery season.

(Graphic courtesy of classroomclipart.com)

The Best Hot Chocolate Ever….Comes From Cubze!


Cubze cut and ready for hot chocolate

Ever had that tasteless watery brown stuff some folks pass off as hot chocolate. Technically speaking it is “hot” and does contain “some chocolate.” But, it certainly isn’t rich, creamy and really chocolatey. So, when customers at our store in Acton asked us for a hot chocolate, I began thinking through formulations.

First, I decided on what I didn’t want: anything that one could just mix into water or some dry cocoa sugar mix in a bag or over-priced tin.

Second, I determined what qualities I did want for our product. I was somewhat inspired by the ancient Aztek Indians drinking their chocolate. I wanted a product that would deliver rich and creamy hot chocolate in an easy-to-do fashion.  And, I wanted to evoke our cube theme.

Stir Cubze until melted into the hot milk

As I contemplated various formulations, it was clear that to deliver a rich and creamy experience cocoa butter and rich dark chocolate were to be the two key ingredients. Then it struck me…our signature Cubze would work great. After some experimentation, we determined that one of our Cubze in eight ounces of hot milk will deliver an incredibly rich and decadent hot chocolate.

It is quite simple: cut your favorite Cubze into four equal size pieces and stir it into eight ounces of hot milk. Add a marshmallow and enjoy. Our Cubze will enable you to make traditional chocolate, raspberry, mint and cappuccino versions of hot chocolate. For the more adventurous, you can try peanut butter or cookies and cream Cubze.

Cubze hot chocolate is good to the last drop!

Try it and let us know what your favorite flavor is!

Our First Holiday Season

We are in the thick of our first holiday season at The Happy Chocolatier. On a good day, this is a crazy time for anyone in the chocolate retail business. Chocolates to box, mail orders to ship, corporate gifts to pack, baskets to make and much more. Several months ago, The Happy Chocolatier and Fudge Cubze were only ideas. We’ve created a business and a product in a very short period of time.

“The first time” is both a frightening and exciting time. For me, it is more exciting than not. I am very lucky to have built a great team at The Happy Chocolatier. Less than two months ago, most of us didn’t know each other. Most didn’t know much about chocolate or retailing. Yet, a very positive “can-do” attitude and commitment has enabled us to move through this season successfully. Oh, there have been challenges and we’ve made our “first-time” mistakes, but customers have told us we’ve created a memorable and delicious experience for them. And, that has made us quite happy.

Great Ideas from Customers

In the short time that we have been open for business, we’ve had some really creative ideas from our customers. Several times now we’ve had customers ask us to bundle certain items (e.g. a hand-pulled candy cane bowed onto a gift box or a chocolate foiled Nutcracker bowed to a tower of gift boxes) and the results were some really attractive gifts.

One customer had a particularly interesting idea. The customer was responsible for Human Resources and purchased a number of our two-piece boxes. She told us that the combination of the chocolate treat and the statements about happiness in each one were “a really fun – yet inexpensive way” to bring some happiness into the workplace where things had been difficult in recent months. Every employee was to find one on their desk one morning this month! I hope we hear back about the results.

And, from the little ones, we’ve had a few who put Fudge Cubze on their list for Santa!

Keep the great ideas coming!

It’s Not Just About the Gifts

Thanksgiving weekend, I think our newspaper weighed in at 10 pounds. It was chuck full of circulars and ads featuring gifts for the holidays. Now, I am in the business of gift giving as The Happy Chocolatier. However, I remind myself that this season is about much more than buying and giving gifts. It is about “why” we give gifts and “who” we give them to. The season is about family and friends, and recognizing many of the special relationships we have. It is about recognizing how full our lives are thanks to family and friends. In this season with so much to do, stepping back to think about the “why” and “who” part of the gift giving can be a wonderful and special experience.

The Christmas Season Brings Happiness in Many Forms

I love the Christmas season. There are many things about the season that make me happy. The music. The smell of Christmas trees. The festive decorations around town. The aroma of fresh baked cookies and treats. Good times with family and friends. And, of course, chocolate treats.

But, what I enjoy most of all is that despite all the hustle and bustle of the season and the economic challenges for many, this is a time when the innate goodness in all of us comes to the fore. Time and food are donated to those in need. Change is put in the Salvation Army Red Kettles with the ringing bells reminding us to be generous. Giving trees pop up in houses of worship, schools and corporations. Toys are donated to various organizations for those little ones who might have none.  In fact, we at the Nagog Mall are hosting a visit from Santa Claus this coming weekend, December 10th and 11th from 12-3pm, to benefit the Acton Food Pantry.  The Acton Food Pantry is a great local organization that helps the many in need in our surrounding towns.

These actions indeed bring much happiness to those in need. And, they bring happiness to those who have given.