My husband’s love for chocolates is not the only reason for me to turn a chocolate maker. Gift boxes of expensive mithais hardly evoked any surprise. The need to gift something that was not only sweet but also exotic led me to chocolates.
But gifts need special presentation. You can’t just pack them in glossy wrapping paper; the mood of the event has to be kept in mind. And this is where all my training in fine arts came handy. I have always enjoyed painting and learning different forms of art. After my marriage in 1998, I did two short fourday courses in Singapore and Malaysia and learnt the fine art of creating designer chocolates.
All along I continued with my job as a school teacher. I would try out various packaging styles after school hours. After six months of experimenting at home, I opened La Chocolat, a small workshop in Okhla, Delhi with three workers in 2003. The initial investment was quite low and my husband helped me financially.
From the beginning I knew that to make my venture viable I would need to cater to corporates as just individuals and families as customers would not get me the scale. One bulk order from IRD Canada, a highway traffic management company, through a friend worked as the catalyst and soon more orders poured in.
While I was conscious about maintaining the quality of the chocolates, I was equally focused on creating innovative packaging and designs. If the event was to announce the birth of a child, I would create miniature cradles in blue or pink and pack chocolates in them and similarly add a candle or idols of Lord Ganesh for Diwali gifts.
I soon branched out to organising theme parties. It required a lot of networking and legwork. I couldn’t just sit in an office and carry out the work. I had to visit the sites and personally get the decorations done. I manage to organise three to four parties in a month. Sagar Ratna and Kingfisher are among my regular clients for corporate gifting. By now I have some reliable and talented employees. I just have to explain the designs and things are done. Initially, I had to create the samples myself. I am mostly on the move, from meeting clients to arranging material. However, I have a very strong support system in my joint family and my seven-year-old daughter is well taken care of. The only disadvantage is that the earnings are irregular.
With some orders I manage to make Rs 10,000 while with others the returns are quite low. But the creative satisfaction is immense. And nothing can be more exciting than spreading sweetness and getting paid for it.
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