Delysia Chocolatier – Austin, Texas

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Nicole Patel is the proprietor of Austin-based artisan chocolate makers Delysia Chocolatier. In 2006 while pregnant with her first son, Nicole made a batch of homemade chocolate truffles as last-minute holiday gifts. Nicole modified the recipe, which she saw on a popular cooking show. Her peanut butter and mint truffle creation delighted everyone who tasted it.  Inspired by the reaction of friends and family, Nicole and her husband launched Delysia (pronounced ‘delisia’) Chocolatier.

At the the International Chocolate Salon Awards in October, 2014, Delysia Chocolatier was one of only 10 chocolatiers in the US to win a coveted six-stars. Given the fact that Nicole launched her venture with a single day-time TV recipe and no formal culinary training, her success has been remarkable.

Some excerpts from today’s podcast:

So, what inspired you to begin with truffles?

Nicole: I was eight months pregnant with my oldest, who is now 7 and I needed something for my husband to take in to the office for his employees to enjoy for the holidays. Being pregnant and not having the energy to go shopping, I was watching a lot of cooking shows on TV and they were making truffles on TV and I was like: “this seems easy enough”.

Three or four days before he was born, I made my first batches of truffles. I tried to duplicate the recipe that I saw on TV but it didn’t work. I ended up modifying it so I added hazelnut and peanut butter and mint. Everybody loved them. And so, from there, over the next 12-18 months, being a new Mom, I would get invited to parties and people would come over to play with the baby and I always had chocolates around. And after almost a year and a half of doing that, my husband was like: “you seem to ne on to something” and so we decided to launch the business. At the time the only thing I know how to make were truffles and that’s why we launched with truffles.

What is your background? Are you a professionally trained chocolatier?

Nicole: I am self-taught. Besides watching one cooking show and then making chocolates, I have read a ton of books, done a bunch of research and just a lot of experimentation. I actually have a degree, a Masters of Industrial Engineering with a background in quality and customer-satisfaction reporting and process-efficiency-improvement, so nothing from a culinary background at all.

So, I have this business but I also continue to work full-time. I am a Consultant Engineer and I am funnelling all of that salary into growing my business. We have just bought a warehouse and built our own headquarters and production facility here in Austin. I wouldn’t have been able to do any of that without having that income stream from my job. It is definitely better to get your business up off the ground if you have another income-stream.

You are channelling money from the day job into you business. Is that a risk?

Nicole: My husband and I have talked a lot about this. I am the primary owner but, being married, I talk to my husband about this a lot and ‘bounce’ ideas off him. When the business started to grow was when the economy had just tanked. In 2009 and 2010, banks weren’t giving out loans. We went to numerous big banks and they basically told me not to grow the business. They didn’t want to take on the risk.

There were a bunch of other people here in the restaurant industry in Austin and they told us to just go and find some private investor and spend their money because there is no risk with that. The more and more we thought about it, we were like: why don’t we just invest in ourselves? We know or we feel that we are going to be successful because we are in control of what’s going on so why give away part of your business and lose some of that control. You can decide how much money you want to put into your business based on how much work and effort you want to put into your business. So, I really don’t see it as a risk. I see it as building a future and a foundation where we don’t have to rely on other companies to have an income.

 Now listen to the rest of this episode, where you will learn:

  • What reasons some well-known banks gave for not backing the business in the early days
  • What role Nicole’s husband plays in the business
  • What parts of the journey so far has been stressful
  • What kind of events and festivals Nicole attends in order build customer awareness
  • What particular kind of product-pairing works brilliantly for selling chocolate
  • How Nicole has approached marketing to ensure that customers return
  • Why a great background story is key to selling artisan products
  • Which social media platforms work for Delysia and why they are an ‘absolute necessity’
  • Which tasks Nicole does herself and which tasks she outsources
  • Why Nicole keeps a pen and pad of paper beside her bed
  • Which advice Nicole wants to give you as you plan to emulate her success

Useful Links and Resources:

  • Delysia Chocolatier (Artisan Chocolate maker, Austin – Texas)
  • Facebook (Delysia’s page on Facebook)
  • SELMI (Manufacturer of specialist chocolate equipment – Belgium)
  • BPlans (Business Plan Software for startups)*
  • Ecole Chocolat (Professional School for chocolate-makers, San Francsico)
  • Shopify (Platform for building online shops)*
  • 99 Designs (Logo Design company)*
  • Austin Phoenix (Article announcing Delysia’s new culinary center)

* denotes an affiliate link where we make a commission (at no cost to you) if you decide to make a purchase

Thanks to our guest… and thanks to you!

A very special thanks to today’s guest, Nicole Patel of Tache Chocolatier for sharing her tips and advice from her journey so far. Thanks especially to you for listening to today’s podcast here on makemoneywithfood.com, home of the food entrepreneur!

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About Author

Mark Hayes - Editor

Graduating after 4 years at Shannon College of Hotel Management in Ireland, Mark worked in hospitality and restaurant management roles for ClubMed, Disney (in both Florida and Paris, France), Sheraton Hotels (Frankfurt, Germany) as well as management positions in restaurant chains in the UK. Mark completed an MBA in 2010 with a master's thesis focused on food franchise operations. Through interviewing food business owners, franchise-holders and food-vendors, Mark found that he really enjoyed finding out exactly what compels people to start food businesses and what it is they do to make them profitable and rewarding. In recent years, Mark has also run a successful farmer's market business with his parents, both of whom are passionate 'foodies'. From sourcing ingredients to making food by hand, packaging it, pricing it and selling it in a competitive marketplace, Mark wants to help you to make your food startup a success.