MyCity4Her recently spent some time with Debora Varon – the Founder of Izzy’s Chocolates, “the chocolates that tell a story” and learned about this former high level scientific researcher turned chocolate alchemist. The working mother of a daughter and transplant from Peru had the following insight to share about her foray into entrepreneurship. Over time Debora found her way to the Towson Global incubator where she got some business mentor-ship and advice to help her better position her product and grow her business. Since then, things at Izzy’s Chocolate are now full speed ahead. Debora’s delicious chocolates can be found online by clicking here, and at select retailers including Ma Petite Shoe and Whole Foods.
Did you ever imagine yourself achieving what you have?
Yes. For many years I have wanted to have my own business. Your customers give you a measure of your success. If you have a good product, you will hear from them, you will receive feedback and referrals that are essential for a company’s growth.
What in hindsight would you say you underestimated about your industry or business and why?
In the chocolate manufacturing business in particular, I underestimated the effort needed to assure that the buyer sells the product. As a wholesaler it’s not enough to sell the product to a store, many times the stores want you to do demos to introduce the new product to customers. This takes time and costs money. When one starts a business there are things that we envision doing, things that we like to do. But a successful business needs work in many different areas that we may not be aware of and we may not enjoy doing as much.
What is the best business related advice you have ever been given?
I have been very fortunate to receive advice and help from many people at every step of the way. I can think of one specific piece of advice I was given by my SCORE counselor who, after reviewing my costs recommended that I produce the chocolate myself and not hire help because 80% of my costs were going to labor. So I did. Making the chocolate myself limited the amount of chocolate I could produce but it was the right decision at the time.
What do you love most about what you do and why?
I love the fact that I have my own business. There is a lot of pride in that. There is pride in my product. I know and I hear all the time that I have a great product. It’s special, it’s tasty and it’s healthy. It has no preservatives, and it’s made by natural ingredients. People worry too much about calories. They are important but eating healthy food is as important as the number of calories you ingest. I also love the flexibility and independence that I get from having my own business.
What if you knew then what you know now – would you do differently and why?
It is one thing to produce chocolate in small quantities for a couple of customers. It is a totally different thing to manufacture chocolate for a large number of customers. It’s almost a new business. I don’t know how else I would have done things. I think this is the way businesses grow. It is a challenge. I think it’s important to have a financial cushion to be able to grow in a comfortable way.
When you’re not working how do you like to spend your time?
I love spending time with my partner and daughter. We just got a pool in the backyard. I like to relax, watch my daughter grow and hear the things she says. That makes me happy.
How do you define success?
Success in this business is having a hotel place orders; it’s having a chocolate factory interested in mass-producing my chocolate. Success is being in the same market as the big guys and having customers choose my chocolate over theirs. I have all of that.
If you had to share one final thought with our audience of thousands of women in business –what would it be?
Before you embark in any business venture learn as much as you can from that industry, your competitors, etc. Every minute you spend before will save you time and money after. A business you love is part of your self, it’s with you all the time, it’s a very personal relationship. It’s a good thing. And it’s big.