Interested in starting your own entrepreneurial journey in food and beverage but unsure what to expect? Then read up on our interview with Richard Tango-Lowy, Founder of Dancing Lion Chocolate, located in Manchester, NH, USA.
What's your business, and who are your customers?
We are a bean-to-bonbon chocolatier, which means we source rare and Heirloom cacao beans directly from farms and make the chocolate for our truffles, bonbons, and bars. Customers purchase our products at our shop or online, and many come in to enjoy a bowl of Mayan drinking chocolate or a Zen Brownie at our tiny cafe. Our customers are of all ages and all walks of life and are bound together only in the knowledge that no matter who they are, they'll get the best product we can possibly make for them.
Tell us about yourself
I worked in a research physic laboratory (electro-optics and superconductive electronics) in the 1980s, and my science-based approach to life manifests strongly at Dancing Lion Chocolate. We recently published a paper linking early cacao origins to chocolate flavor and have also been working on a new and better understanding of ganache--the beautiful chocolate and cream filling that makes up most chocolate confections. I started Dancing Lion Chocolate in 2011 after finishing my Master Chocolatier work in France and Italy. Since then, we've never repeated a bonbon recipe--we make only 60 to 100 of a piece, then move on. I love the blend of science with creative artistry. Okay, our customers tend to be a lot of fun, as well.
What's your biggest accomplishment as a business owner?
There are several. I love my staff. There are currently four of them, and it's a joy to nurture them and watch them grow into the extraordinary chocolatiers and chocolate makers they are.
The other is that we mentor and teach chocolate professionals. Each time I hear back from one about how we helped them improve their business, revolutionize their products, or just see things in a new way, I feel like our work is entirely worthwhile.
What's one of the hardest things that come with being a business owner?
My staff. I love them very much, but raising a great staff is like raising a family. There are easy days, and there are challenging days. But I wouldn't trade any of them for anything.
What are the top tips you'd give to anyone looking to start, run and grow a business today?
- Have a solid business model before you begin. That means knowing why you're doing what you're doing and how you'll make money doing it. Because...
- It's critical to remember that according to the US Small Business Administration (SBA), 50% of all new businesses fail within 5 years, and 80% within 10 years. Going into business with that in mind helps keep you sharp and on your toes.
- Use the resources available to you. We rely heavily on the NHSBDC (Small Business Development Centers)--there's one in every state, and they're free. I developed the business using the tenets of the Malcolm Baldrige Criteria for Performance Excellence (http://baldrige.nist.gov)--also free or close to it.
Where can people find you and your business?
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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