Starting A Chocolate Business: One Entrepreneur's Journey
By John Lin, BizWorld Advisory Board Member
For all you chocolate lovers out there, young and old, here’s a sweet story about pursuing your dreams. Since BizWorld helps kids discover and nurture their entrepreneurial spirit I thought I’d share a story about my friend Todd, a chocolate entrepreneur who got the entrepreneurial bug when he was a young boy. He and his business partners own a chocolate factory now, have been selling chocolate since 2010, and are about to expand. I asked Todd a few questions about his chocolate journey.
So when you look back at your childhood what do you think influenced you and made you think you might have an interest in starting something?
My parents were high school teachers but I think my father had always wanted to get into business, so our family always kind of thought in that mindset. I remember my brother was always starting businesses when we were young. We would collect stuff like golf balls that were lost on the course and then sell them to people, so definitely much of it came from my brother.
Since you didn’t have a background in chocolate what gave you the confidence to go into the chocolate business?
I’d say I had a background in chocolate eating! In fact, I was very good at that... but I didn’t have any formal training [in chocolate making]. We hadn’t intended to start a chocolate company. We were just making it in a garage for fun to see if we could do it and before we knew it, friends and family said they really liked our chocolate and then we started winning awards! Next thing you knew, people started trying to place wholesale orders while we were still in the garage. So at that time we realized there was quite a demand for what seemed like a new type of chocolate.
Modern chocolate had become so divorced from the original agricultural ingredients that in some ways it benefited [us] to not have a formal education in chocolate so we could start from first principles like, “How did people used to make chocolate?” I would say our lack of expertise actually ended up being an advantage.
What do you think is cool about BizWorld?
I think it's beneficial for kids to have actual business projects they can work on. They can practice working in teams, practice building stuff, practice actually getting stuff out to customers. All of these are really good experiences for eventually learning how to build and run a successful company.
What would you tell your younger self?
I think it comes down to if you are excited about something there will always be reasons why it may not work, but that shouldn’t stop you from going for it. I think you have to take problems one by one. So, if you’re passionate about something you should just go for it. Deal with what is in front of you and take it one day at a time. Put one foot in front of the other eventually you end up somewhere!
Todd Masonis is co-founder of San Francisco's popular Dandelion Chocolate, a bean to bar chocolate factory in the SF’s Mission District. Todd and his partners plan to open up additional locations and are launching their first book "Making Chocolate" this month.