Salt Lake City, Utah
South Salt Lake City
Industry: Food & Beverage
Product: Hot Chocolate
Other girls may ask for roses and jewelry, but there’s only been one way to the heart of Laura Gaillard, one of the owners of Kokopelli Cocoa: hot chocolate.
"I am a hot chocolate aficionado," admits Gaillard. "Whenever my husband traveled out of town, he would bring me back a different, local chocolate. I was always looking for the perfect mix. One day a friend had me try hot chocolate on a popsicle stick. It was pretty good, and I asked for the recipe. I kept tweaking it until it was perfect for me."
A few years later, Gaillard met another hot chocolate fan that was interested in more than trading recipes. She was ready to start a business. "We brought together four kinds of chocolate and five kind of spices," Gaillard says. "Together, it creates a very comforting drink. For me, it is my reward at the end of the day, for being a mother of five, keeping it all together, and not killing anyone that day. It is so good, it makes everyone happy. I jumped when the opportunity came to share it."
Gaillard knew a lot about how to make a great product but product development and business development, Gaillard has learned, are very different.
"I am learning about business as I go. Creating a product is easier than creating a business. From accounting to time management to marketing, we are learning how to manage it all," Gaillard says. "We are going at a pace that works for us, and that is helpful in our learning curve. We are not drowning. We are doggy paddling through this. It's hard; it's a baptism by fire. And some days I think that all I really signed up for was just making great chocolate. But we keep paddling through."
Seeking a mentor, Gaillard reached out to another business owner in her neighborhood, Swirly Girls, and not only asked her about sourcing ingredients -- ultimately from Dawn Foods -- but also worked out an agreement to work in her commercial kitchen at night.
"Kokopelli Cocoa has never been a home-manufactured product," Gaillard says. "I have five kids and a dog. That's not going to fly. We started the first year by working out of the Swirly Girls kitchen. But we needed something that was available in the day, and we found a commercial kitchen in South Salt Lake that we can rent by the hour. It has worked for us."
Customers can find Kokopelli Cocoa on the Internet, at boutiques, and at Farmer's Markets. "We're trying to reach people with the budget we have available. Right now, a lot of our marketing is through word-of-mouth. But it's really about getting our cocoa in more mouths because once someone tries it, they are hooked," Gaillard says. "It's different. It's wonderful."
Challenge: Finding customers at the right pace. "Some days you want to go into debt and hit everything as big as you can and make lots of cocoa. But then reality set in," Gaillard admits. "We want to do this right. We want to put our families first, even if they don't feel like we do some days. Owning a business can consume you, so it's really a conscious decision to grow carefully."
Opportunities: A new fall farmer's market in the growing Sugarhouse area. "We just joined this month, and we are excited to share our passion with a new market. I love chocolate, and I love getting to know new people. Selling chocolate at a market setting is really my idea of a good time," Gaillard laughs. "Besides," she adds. "It's chocolate! It's an easy sell."
Need: A new commercial kitchen. "It would be wonderful to own something that is ours. I think it's in our future. And it would allow us to dictate our own hours and cut down on our rental costs."