Q: Which Ecole Chocolat courses have you taken and when?
A: I took the Professional Program in 2006, Quality Assurance in 2008 and the Cocoa West Master Program also in 2008.
Q: What other courses in chocolate making/chocolatiering have you taken?
A: I attended the Callebaut Academy in Quebec in December 2006 and February 2007.
Q: Why did you choose Ecole Chocolat for your education?
A: I was making goat milk fudge, buying my chocolate from Qzina, and the sales rep invited me to a one day tempering course. It was free and sounded interesting, and I always like to learn something new. So I went to Vancouver, and at lunch the other students were talking about Ecole Chocolat and it sounded so interesting I was immediately hooked and had to take it.
Q: What do you love about chocolate making?
A: Of course it’s the satisfaction of people liking what you do, it’s creative but I also like the freedom of not working a 9-5 job in an office. I like making things, and I like when my customers love what I have made – the satisfaction of hearing someone say ‘oh this is the best!’ There’s nothing like that feeling. I love connecting with other chocolatiers and comaraderie of other chocolatiers. Whether you are raising goats or stamp collecting, you need connection.
Q: What is your favourite piece you’ve ever made?
A: My personal favourite is my salted caramel for eating and for selling.
Q: How do you get your products into the hands of happy customers?
A: I primarily sell at my local Farmer’s Market on Saturdays during the summer. It’s hard work to set up the booth and truck everything down the hill every week, but it is so social and fun, I just have to keep doing it.
Q: Do you have any advice for people considering taking one of our classes?
A: Be prepared to take time and studying and reading because there is so much to learn. It laid an incredible foundation and was extremely worthwhile for getting into the business or even deciding if you want to go further. I had already done a tempering course and that helped me immensely. You really want to master the art of hand tempering – it is the fundamental skill for working with chocolate.
Q: As a seasoned business woman, do you have any advice for anyone starting their own business?
A: I believe in starting small, and learning the basics, such as learning to temper by hand perfectly. Do an internship if you can, or work in a chocolate business to get experience before you open a bricks and mortar business. Don’t go into it underfunded. Know your market. Selling chocolate at an outdoor summer market is not easy. The fudge is our bread and butter, it is a big seller. I love the idea of being home based, especially with today’s economy. You don’t want to get in too deep only to find out it’s not feasible. Build a client list and strive to develop relationships for loyalty from your customers.
Q: What are your business goals?
A: It has to be fun. And I want to be known for having a high quality product and personal relationship with my customers, but when it stops being fun, what’s the point? The market keeps us socially and physically active. It’s perfect fun for me.
Got questions about running a business in retirement? Leave us a comment and we’ll catch up with Joanne in the future.