All aboard the Chocolate Trolley!
As she approaches the two year anniversary of her business this July, we thought it was the perfect time to profile this creative Ecole Chocolat graduate. She is a wonderful example of both someone who had the courage to follow her passions, and the diversity that exists within the chocolate industry – you don’t have to open a brick and mortar location to be successful.
Life before chocolate: Mary Collazo from San Antonio, Texas had been working for 13 years in the insurance industry. She had worked hard and learned a lot of great skills. She’d climbed her way up the proverbial ladder, and was doing quite well for herself thank you very much. But she knew something was missing, “My job wasn’t creative enough for me, and I didn’t love it.” But she was terrified about quitting her job and leaving that stability. With her husband’s support, she began exploring her passions.
Switching gears: Mary had always loved food and began exploring a culinary career. One day, the name Chocollazo came to her, combining her love of chocolate with the play on her last name. Her decision to focus on her love of chocolate was made! She began researching courses and found Ecole Chocolat, completing the Professional Chocolatier, Business Plan and Quality Assurance courses all in 2012. “Taking the course online was extremely convenient, and gave me the foundation that I needed to find my niche in the chocolate business.”
When it came time to open her business, she had initially planned to open a retail location. But knowing that she wanted to make truffles and other chocolates that often sell at a higher price point, she knew that she needed to be in a more affluent area. But that meant opening her store in an area where the rent was also extremely expensive. She tabled the brick & mortar idea and began thinking about other options.
San Antonio has a thriving gourmet food truck scene, and after enjoying dinner in a food truck park one evening with her husband, Mary had the epiphany that would set the wheels in motion (literally) for her business. There was nothing to eat for dessert! What about a chocolate food truck? And so, Chocollazo the Chocolate Trolley was born!
At first, Mary wondered if she could even sell chocolate off a truck. It can be an extremely temperamental product – for one thing, heat can be chocolate’s worse enemy and she was in Texas, never mind other possible logistical challenges! But it also seemed like a good first step for her business. “The truck seemed more manageable than a traditional brick & mortar location”. It gave Mary a chance to develop recipes and products and test their popularity without taking on the huge overhead costs associated with a brick and mortar location. She spent about 8 months doing her research and perfecting her recipes.
Her business: Mary works in a commercial kitchen making her products during the week, and sells her products off her truck from Friday to Sunday. She also sells some products online through her website with local delivery and shipping during the cooler months. Mary also does catering and custom orders, offering everything from wedding & party favors, desserts, to having the chocolate trolley make an appearance at events!
Mary makes her truffles and bonbons by hand, with 5 or 6 flavors typically in stock at any one time. She has traditional flavors such as raspberry, and mint, as well as creative combinations such as bacon-German chocolate, and Thai iced tea.
In addition to truffles and bonbons, Mary also makes other treats. She makes a delectable chocolate baklava called choklava (of course)! Her personal fondue platter with chocolate, homemade marshmallows, bananas, strawberries and pretzels is a popular choice. She also makes éclair cake, a smoky chipotle English toffee, and Nutella banana ice pops. You can see on the faces of Mary’s customers in a recent episode the Cooking Channel’s Eat St. how much they love her delicious products!
Being a chocolatier-ing mompreneur: When Mary started her business, her son was 4 and her daughter was 16. Being a mompreneur isn’t always easy – it can be difficult to balance the demands of running your own business while raising a family. “I definitely work more now than I did at my old job, but the trade off is that I also have a lot more freedom and autonomy. I call the shots, I can decide to take a week off in the summer to spend with my kids.” She also found support through other Moms “Chatting with other moms who were also business owners was very inspiring.”
Advice for would-be chocolatiers: “My advice is to take the leap – if you love what you’re doing and work hard at your craft, you won’t fail. I am perusing my passion, and it’s so rewarding to see the moment of ecstasy on someone’s face when they try one of my products. Chocolate is a wonderful blank canvas – you can always find the one thing that hasn’t been done yet.” And as Mary would say, every day she’s trufflin!