Interested in starting your own entrepreneurial journey in food and beverage but unsure what to expect? Then read up on our interview with Elena Angeli, Chocolatier of Angels Food Chocolate, located in San Mateo, CA, USA.

What's your business, and who are your customers?

I make "chocolate salami," which by name is confusing. Essentially it is chocolate mixed with a variety of nuts or cookies and rolled into a log that resembles a traditional salami. The product is entirely a dessert: there is no meat! My version is a modern take on an old Tuscan tradition, which usually had only cookies. I have adapted it to include different flavors infused with the chocolate, such as lemon, orange, ginger, and peppermint. We have seven varieties. It is fun and wonderfully decadent all at once.

My customers are just about anyone: who doesn't love dessert?? I have many customers who buy my product for themselves and then send it as gifts to customers, friends, and family.

Tell us about yourself

I first started making the salami as gifts for my children's teachers. I then started gifting it to friends, and the requests started coming. As this progressed, I wanted to make new flavor pairings to keep me excited. Some were huge hits, like Sicilian (Lemon) or Peppermint, and some flopped. Making new flavors and sending them to friends all around the country became a fun way to test new products and catch up.

I studied culinary arts in Rome, Italy, and I find great joy in feeding family and friends. Chocolate Salami became an easy and fun way for me to share my love of Italian culture and food.

What's your biggest accomplishment as a business owner?

Getting my product to market! I love having my website but also selling at my local Farmer's Market. It is a great way to feel connected to the community and to get to know my customers. I love it when someone asks me to do salamis for gifts. But above all, being the "salami lady" has been fun, especially when people recognize me out of the market.

What's one of the hardest things that come with being a business owner?

Keeping up! You create something that people want, and it's wonderful to fulfill their wishes. But I'm demanding on myself: I want the product to be perfect and pleasing to everyone. You cannot please everyone, but you take the critiques as suggestions. If the point is valid, you adjust.

What are the top tips you'd give to anyone looking to start, run and grow a business today?

  1. Keep good records: this helps you grow!
  2. Make a plan-- even a small one. Why did you start this? Who is your audience? Where do you see this sold? This became the beginning of my business plan.
  3. Talk to trusted friends, but only a few. Trust your instincts based on your plan. Bounce ideas off those trusted friends. They often will help you see an avenue that you might have otherwise missed.

Is there anything else you'd like to share?

You don't have to have formal business training to build a business. You need conviction, a good understanding of your own vision, and the courage to try.

Where can people find you and your business?

Angels Food Chocolate – Devilishly Good – Artisanal Chocolate Salami

If you like what you've read here and have your own story as a solo or small business entrepreneur that you'd like to share, then please answer these interview questions. We'd love to feature your journey on these pages.

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