Wow! Yesterday, November 8th, Saratoga Chocolate Company turned one year old. And what a year it has been! I don’t know quite how to explain the experience of starting your own business, it’s equal parts exhilaration and anxiety, satisfaction and frustration, and 100% exhausting, hard work. One year later, here are a couple of reflections…
Observation number one: business planning is super fun; business execution is a whole other experience. Before we launched SCCo Hank and I had already put a lot of effort into developing the dream – we built the framework for a business, did the necessary research to understand the chocolate market, we ate A LOT of chocolate, considered how to source product responsibly, worked on product design and branding, and we did lots of fun experiments with recipes and molds and techniques. It was ALL fun. There was no pressure, no risk, and nothing much to “mess up.” When we finally launched we figured that we would start small, and keep the product offering narrow so that we could perfect our processes and grow at a manageable pace. Ha! Little did we know that this crazy ride was about to shoot us off like a rocket ship hurtling towards outer space and the great unknown! Six weeks after launch we were working 14-16 hour days and doing all that we could to fill orders and add new products! It was nuts. We just sat back and laughed and took it all in – we were totally humbled by the response.
And what a response it was. We survived the holiday season, but 6 months later we were still working 14-16 hour days, doing “business triage” as I like to call it, and starting to get pretty tired. We were still blown away and totally humbled by the market response, and we started to realize our small business was not on course to grow at a slow and steady pace, it was taking off, and fast. Almost immediately, our official growth rate became “all hands on-deck”.
Which brings me to observation number two: No one can do this alone. They say it takes a village to raise a child, and I agree. If it takes a village to raise a child, it takes a tribe to raise a business. Our tribe was made up of incredibly supportive family, experienced business owners, dedicated groupies, and all around amazing friends without whom, we would be nowhere. They’ve provided guidance, suggestions, sage business advice, an ear to listen when we needed to work through challenges, last-minute babysitting help, middle of the night packaging assistance in the week before Christmas, love and support, community connections, wine, wine and more wine, and most importantly they had faith in us that we would make it. Our tribe has sustained us, and continues to do so. Despite all of this, the year has been a bit hard on our friendships. We don’t find a lot of time for getting together apart from business. We’ve miss our monthly potlucks, and fun chocolate tasting parties, and just hanging out with our friends *apart* from them swooping in to save our butts in the latest chocolate related emergency. So to those friends, you know who you are, we love you, we miss you, and I promise we will see you more in the coming year!!
Observation number 3: This bullet train isn’t stopping anytime soon, and it’s not slowing down. It has become a somewhat laughable ritual that every night before bed Hank and I look at each other and say “this is GOOD!” before collapsing for the night. But no human can sustain this forever, and every week we realize we need something new. But we are small team, so time is limited. As a result, we’re learning to delegate tasks, and hire our weaknesses, and sometimes even say no, because we can’t do it all – even with a tribe. This has led to some important lessons in strategizing and prioritizing that we’ve had to learn fast.
One hope that I had when we launched was to post daily or weekly blogs to track all of the stages of this fun adventure, talk about industry trends, write about all things chocolate, and even throw in the occasional fun recipe or pairing tips for the die-hard party hostesses like me. And I still do have that hope. But I’ve also come to terms with the fact that I can’t do this alone. So, I came up with a fun idea about how to further engage the Saratoga community, bring our fellow chocoholics interesting content on all things chocolate, and invite you to join us on this little adventure we call the Saratoga Chocolate Company. So! With without further ado, I’m pleased to introduce you to our very first guest blog writer: Monique Dudar!
Monique is a sophomore at Skidmore College, located in the heart of Saratoga Springs, NY. She is a double major in Health & Exercise Science, and Psychology with an interest in food writing. In addition to being a fellow chocoholic, Monique is an athlete, and member of the varsity swimming and diving team at Skidmore. She’s also a member of the on-campus Skidmore College Emergency Services team, and an RA. When she’s not busy with school, sipping hot cocoa on a crisp fall day (autumn is her favorite season), or managing all her extracurriculars, Monique loves baking, adventuring outdoors, and exploring her favorite nook of Saratoga: Saratoga Spa State Park.
We are so thrilled to have Monique join our team and try out her hand at some food writing!! So, with that introduction, we look forward to bringing you more regular, interesting blog content in year 2 – and hope that you enjoy it as much as we do!!
Love and Chocolate, Alli