Today is the first day of our blog series, Pro Spotlight! These blogs are designed to tell the stories of successful businesswomen and pass valuable information on to our members! For our first entry, we reached out to Delysia Chocolatier. They hosted a happy hour for us earlier this month, and it was amazing to see the process and listen to owner, Nicole Patel, tell her story. Visit her website to see some of her amazing accomplishments!
Did you go to culinary school?
I am proud to say that I do not have a culinary background and did not attend culinary school. I am completely self-taught; I learned to make chocolates through research and experimentation. I actually have a Masters of Engineering and Bachelor of Science degree in Industrial Engineering from Texas A&M University.
How did you get interested in making chocolate?
When I was 8 months pregnant with our first child, my husband needed holiday gifts for his employees. I didn't have the energy to go shopping, so I decided to make hand-rolled chocolate truffles, using a recipe I had seen on TV. The recipe didn't work, but through experimentation I was able to correct it. I sent him to the office with little boxes of peanut butter, mint, and hazelnut truffles. (Four days later, our son was born.)
What has been the biggest struggle in owning your own business?
Finding reliable and trustworthy employees that understand the struggles of a small business owner, the importance of responsibility, and the value of superb quality and customer service. These things come so naturally to me and are so important to me; I feel that these are necessary and non-negotiable traits that all employees must possess.
What is the most rewarding thing about owning your business?
I love watching people enjoy my chocolates, whether it is their first time or hundredth. All the awards and recognition in the world couldn't give me the same satisfaction as seeing the pure delight my creations bring to others.
What kind of support systems or resources do you rely on to be successful?
Family and friends. I couldn't do this without the support of my husband, children, parents, and close friends. It's funny - the 'volunteers' are more dedicated and devoted to seeing Delysia Chocolatier be successful than anyone I pay!
What advice can you recommend to women who are new in their careers?
Don't be afraid to take risks. Don't worry about what you don't know. But with that said, have a plan, a strategy. Always believe in yourself and know your worth. Don't be afraid to say 'No'. And always 'listen' to your gut.
Did you have a mentor, or did you make your own way?
When I started I did everything on my own, using my husband as a sounding board to get advice and ideas. But as the business grew and risks (in some cases) became bigger, I knew I needed some outside guidance. So in the past few years, I have implored the advice of mentors across different areas to fill in the 'gaps' of where I might not be as strong.
What’s one fun fact about chocolate?
It's amazing all the things you don't know about chocolate until you get into industry! Chocolate, though it seems like it had always been there, engrained in our culture, is actual a very new indulgence (in the form we know it today). It wasn't until 1847 that the first chocolate bar was introduced to the market. For one of the original fermented foods, so important to the cultures of the ancient Mayan and Aztec civilizations, that's a long time to wait for a bar of chocolate to be created!
What was the biggest surprise for you when you got into your business?
All the things I didn't know! There were way more things I needed to learn than what I already knew. And I'm not talking about the chocolate making process. I talking about all the behind the scenes stuff you don't think about, the non-glamorous pieces of owning a business - financial statements, website development, legal issues, marketing, etc. But if you knew everything going in, I guess it wouldn't be quite so exciting!