Start a chocolate business by following these 9 steps:
You have found the perfect business idea, and now you are ready to take the next step. There is more to starting a business than just registering it with the state. We have put together this simple step guide to starting your chocolate business. These steps will ensure that your new business is well planned out, registered properly and legally compliant.
STEP 1: Plan your Business
A clear plan is essential for success as an entrepreneur. It will help you map out the specifics of your business and discover some unknowns. A few important topics to consider are:
- What are the startup and ongoing costs?
- Who is your target market?
- How long it will take you to break even?
- What will you name your business?
Luckily we have done a lot of this research for you.
What are the costs involved in opening a chocolate business?
Should you want to start your chocolate making business from the comfort of your home, you can do it for about $5,000-$10,000. You'll need to invest in quality thermometers, a cold table, additional refrigerators and freezers for your business materials. You cannot store product for public consumption with your family's groceries. Should you be going full-scale, a small professional stand alone candy kitchen can be built for around $50,000 with room for packaging and an office area. Should you wish to add a storefront, start-up costs can skyrocket up to $200,000 depending on location and targeted clientele.
What are the ongoing expenses for a chocolate business?
Marketing will always be part of your costs. Paying for supplies of ingredients and maintaining your kitchen will be your other major cost, followed by payroll.
Who is the target market?
If you operate a small kitchen, your perfect customer will value fine chocolates personally crafted for their enjoyment and be willing to pay a premium for your treats. For a bigger candy kitchen, target gift shops, grocery stores, and other local retailers who would be willing to sell your product on their shelves. Gift services such as flower shops and fine food baskets may hire you to provide chocolates for their larger designs.
How does a chocolate business make money?
For the finest chocolates, it takes time to create perfection. You will charge your customers for the highest quality ingredients and the hours spent crafting your product. However, lower quality chocolate generates the most money through volume, selling lots of small bags of sweets to hungry customers. Carefully target your audience before settling on recipes and pricing structure.
How much can you charge customers?
A one pound box of fine chocolates can run as high as $30. For more ordinary chocolate, expect to charge around $7 to $10 per pound. If you add special occasion packaging, tack on an additional 10% to the price.
How much profit can a chocolate business make?
The large volume companies have a lower profit margin of around 8 to 10%, while boutique chocolatiers can enjoy margins between 55 to 75%. Your total profit for a year will depend entirely on the volume and type of product you produce and sell. The home-based candy kitchen can earn enough for a nice vacation, or a well-positioned boutique can bring in $1,000,000 in annual sales.
How can you make your business more profitable?
Through constant business model review, cull any recipes that do not sell from your selection. Increase profits by supplying demand for your most popular items, answering your customers' desire for all things deliciously chocolate.
What will you name your business?
Choosing the right name is very important. We recommend checking if the business name you choose is available as a web domain and securing it early so no one else can take it.
After registering a domain name, consider setting up a professional email account (@yourcompany.com). Google's G Suite offers a business email service that comes with other useful tools, including word processing, spreadsheets, and more. Try it for free
STEP 2: Form a legal entity
Establishing a legal business entity such as an LLC prevents you from being personally liable if your chocolate business is sued. There are many business structures to choose from including: Corporations, LLC's, and DBA's.
You should also consider using a registered agent service to help protect your privacy and stay compliant.
For most small businesses forming an LLC is a great option, but if you still want to weigh all your options check our our article, What Structure Should I Choose for My Business?
STEP 3: Register for taxes
You will need to register for a variety of state and federal taxes before you can open for business.
In order to register for taxes you will need to apply for an EIN. It's really easy and free!
You can acquire your EIN for free through the IRS website, via fax, or by mail. If you would like to learn more about EINs and how they can benefit your LLC, read our article, What is an EIN?.
STEP 4: Open a business bank account & credit card
Using dedicated business banking and credit accounts is essential for personal asset protection.
When your personal and business accounts are mixed, your personal assets (your home, car, and other valuables) are at risk in the event your business is sued. In business law, this is referred to as piercing your corporate veil.
Open a business bank account
- This separates your personal assets from your company's assets, which is necessary for personal asset protection.
- It also makes accounting and tax filing easier.
Get a business credit card
- This helps you separate personal and business expenses by putting your business' expenses all in one place.
- It also builds your company's credit history, which can be useful to raise money and investment later on.
STEP 5: Set up business accounting
Recording your various expenses and sources of income is critical to understanding the financial performance of your business. Keeping accurate and detailed accounts also greatly simplifies your annual tax filing.
STEP 6: Obtain necessary permits and licenses
Failure to acquire necessary permits and licenses can result in hefty fines, or even cause your business to be shut down.
State & Local Business Licensing Requirements
Certain state permits and licenses may be needed to operate a chocolate business. Learn more about licensing requirements in your state by visiting SBA’s reference to state licenses and permits.
Food establishments are randomly inspected by the local health department on a regular basis. These inspections will check for compliance with local health laws, typically related to prevention of food contamination. Tips for faring well on a health inspection can be found here.
Most businesses are required to collect sales tax on the goods or services they provide. To learn more about how sales tax will affect your business, read our article, Sales Tax for Small Businesses.
For more information about local licenses and permits:
- Check with your town, city or county clerk’s office
- Get assistance from one of the local associations listed in US Small Business Associations directory of local business resources
Certificate of Occupancy
A chocolate making business is generally run out of a storefront. Businesses operating out of a physical location typically require a Certificate of Occupancy (CO). A CO confirms that all building codes, zoning laws and government regulations have been met.
- If you plan to lease a location:
- It is generally the landlord’s responsibility to obtain a CO.
- Before leasing, confirm that your landlord has or can obtain a valid CO that is applicable to a chocolate making business.
- After a major renovation, a new CO often needs to be issued. If your place of business will be renovated before opening, it is recommended to include language in your lease agreement stating that lease payments will not commence until a valid CO is issued.
- If you plan to purchase or build a location:
- You will be responsible for obtaining a valid CO from a local government authority.
- Review all building codes and zoning requirements for your business’ location to ensure your chocolate making business will be in compliance and able to obtain a CO.
STEP 7: Get Business Insurance
Insurance is highly recommended for all business owners. If you hire employees, workers compensation insurance may be a legal requirement in your state.
STEP 8: Define your brand
Your brand is what your company stands for, as well as how your business is perceived by the public. A strong brand will help your business stand out from competitors.
How to promote & market a chocolate business
Taste is everything in the chocolate world. When introducing your business to potential clients, whether a distributor or individual, they will need a sample of the product they are purchasing. Consider a direct-mail sampling campaign to kick-off your success. If you are opening a single shop, make sure to hold a grand opening with lots of freebies for your guests. Target a busy holiday like Christmas, Valentine's Day or Easter for your opening, as more people will be looking to add chocolate to their shopping list.
Recommended: Get started with local advertising for your business with a $300 credit from Yelp.
How to keep customers coming back
During your initial year, consider holding a several sampling campaigns at malls, grocery stores or farmers markets. Create a direct mail campaign with attractive photos depicting your sweets and their gift-worthy packaging. An attractive box with festive ribbon helps to draw the eye and encourage customers to pay an additional premium. Customers will keep coming back when they eat your delicious chocolate.
STEP 9: Establish your Web Presence
A business website allows customers to learn more about your company and the products or services you offer. You can also use social media to attract new clients or customers.
Start A Chocolate Business In Your State
Select your state below for an in-depth guide on completing each of these steps in your home state.
Is this Business Right For You?
If you love creating new and original chocolate treats, and enjoy spending hours every day crafting fine candies, opening your own chocolate making business might be right for you. The successful candidate will also enjoy teaching others to duplicate their recipes, manage portion control, market their products, and balance the books.
What happens during a typical day at a chocolate business?
When you own a chocolate making business, you can expect to complete these tasks on any given day:
- Craft fine chocolates with a keen attention to detail and consistency
- Adhere to sanitary food preparation guidelines according to your Board of Health
- Clean the kitchen
- Order supplies
- Conduct quality control tests
- Train chocolatiers in new recipes and products
- Pack candies for shipment or delivery with attention to maintaining product quality
- Market your product and business to potential customers nearby and online
- Pay invoices and collect payments
- Complete payroll for your staff
- Operate your store, if included with your business model
- Inform consumers of ingredients with complete list of potential allergens
What are some skills and experiences that will help you build a successful chocolate business?
- Good palate and appreciation of what fine chocolate tastes and looks like
- Extensive knowledge of the art of chocolate making
- Basic accounting and personnel knowledge
- Safe food handling practices that include obtaining proper certifications
- Good marketing background
- Understanding of packaging/display and how that affects your customer's perception of your product
- Knowledge of product distribution networks/shipping options
What is the growth potential for a chocolate business?
Should you create a new chocolate treat that takes your neighborhood by storm, expansion into larger candy stores, distribution to more outlets and increasing internet sales provide endless opportunities for expansion. However, success begins with the best chocolates.
TRUiC's YouTube Channel
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Take the Next Step
Find a business mentor
One of the greatest resources an entrepreneur can have is quality mentorship. As you start planning your business, connect with a free business resource near you to get the help you need.
Having a support network in place to turn to during tough times is a major factor of success for new business owners.
Resources to Help Women in Business
There are many resources out there specifically for women entrepreneurs. We’ve gathered necessary and useful information to help you succeed both professionally and personally:
If you’re a woman looking for some guidance in entrepreneurship, check out this great new series Women in Business created by the women of our partner Startup Savant.
What are some insider tips for jump starting a chocolate business?
Find your superstar sweet that will become your specialty. It must stand out from the generic checkout candy and easily compete with big brand name treats found in popular mall stores. Sampling your creation helps to get consumers excited about your product who will then spread the word for you. Think about conducting sales at high-traffic events such as fairs, pop-up mall locations, and cooking trade shows.
How and when to build a team
If you are opening a large kitchen from the beginning, you will need to hire chocolatiers during your research and testing period in order to perfect your product before you sell the first unit. For the home baker, you may wish to hire a business partner when distribution starts to outpace your capacity.