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 guide to starting your chocolate business. These steps will ensure that your new business is well planned out, registered properly and legally compliant.
Check out our How to Start a Business page.
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 much can you charge customers?
- 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 important and challenging. If you don’t already have a name in mind, visit our How to Name a Business guide or get help brainstorming a name with our Chocolate Business Name Generator
When registering a business name, we recommend researching your business name by checking:
- Your state's business records
- Federal and state trademark records
- Social media platforms
- Web domain availability.
It's very important to secure your domain name before someone else does.
STEP 2: Form a legal entity
Establishing a legal business entity such as an LLC or corporation protects you from being held personally liable if your chocolate business is sued.
Form Your LLC
Read our Guide to Form Your Own LLC
Recommended: You will need to elect a registered agent for your LLC. LLC formation packages usually include a free year of registered agent services. You can choose to hire a registered agent or act as your own.
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?.
Small Business Taxes
Depending on which business structure you choose, you might have different options for how your business will be taxed. For example, some LLCs could benefit from being taxed as an S corporation (S corp).
You can learn more about small business taxes in these guides:
There are specific state taxes that might apply to your business. Learn more about state sales tax and franchise taxes in our state sales tax guides.
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.
Additionally, learning how to build business credit can help you get credit cards and other financing in your business's name (instead of yours), better interest rates, higher lines of credit, and more.
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.
Recommended: Read our Best Banks for Small Business review to find the best national bank, credit union, business-loan friendly banks, one with many brick-and-mortar locations, and more.
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
Just as with licenses and permits, your business needs insurance in order to operate safely and lawfully. Business Insurance protects your company’s financial wellbeing in the event of a covered loss.
There are several types of insurance policies created for different types of businesses with different risks. If you’re unsure of the types of risks that your business may face, begin with General Liability Insurance. This is the most common coverage that small businesses need, so it’s a great place to start for your business.
Learn more about General Liability Insurance.
Another notable insurance policy that many businesses need is Workers’ Compensation Insurance. If your business will have employees, it’s a good chance that your state will require you to carry Workers' Compensation Coverage.
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.
If you aren't feeling confident about designing your small business logo, then check out our Design Guides for Beginners, we'll give you helpful tips and advice for creating the best unique logo for your business.
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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.
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: Create your business website
After defining your brand and creating your logo the next step is to create a website for your business.
While creating a website is an essential step, some may fear that it’s out of their reach because they don’t have any website-building experience. While this may have been a reasonable fear back in 2015, web technology has seen huge advancements in the past few years that makes the lives of small business owners much simpler.
Here are the main reasons why you shouldn’t delay building your website:
- All legitimate businesses have websites - full stop. The size or industry of your business does not matter when it comes to getting your business online.
- Social media accounts like Facebook pages or LinkedIn business profiles are not a replacement for a business website that you own.
- Website builder tools like the GoDaddy Website Builder have made creating a basic website extremely simple. You don’t need to hire a web developer or designer to create a website that you can be proud of.
Using our website building guides, the process will be simple and painless and shouldn’t take you any longer than 2-3 hours to complete.
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.
Want to know if you are cut out to be an entrepreneur?
Take our Entrepreneurship Quiz to find out!
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.
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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.