Some businesses can succeed regardless of their location. Others are only created with a specific location in mind. Such is the case for Black Dinah Chocolatiers. The founders fell in love with Isle au Haut in Maine. And they built a chocolate business to support their life on the island. Read about their journey and the business in this week’s Small Business Spotlight.
What the Business Does
Creates unique chocolate confections and truffles.
The company is mostly known for its chocolate truffles. But it also sells a variety of other chocolate goods. And none of the company’s products can be found anywhere else. CEO Steve Shaffer told Small Business Trends, “Confections that we created and are unique to Black Dinah Chocolatiers.”
Making chocolate into an experience.
Chocolate Presentation is Key. Shaffer explains, “It begins with the crafting of a well-balanced confection that brings all the intended flavors into play. By using only fresh ingredients, these flavors are slowly revealed to the palate. The chocolates are carefully and beautifully packaged so that the recipient is enticed and intrigued.
Under the ribbon that seals the box is a scroll that tells you about who we are and what we do. So, when the recipient receives the box, they are automatically slowed down. They remove the scroll and are seduced by the story. They slide the ribbon off and lift the lid to be presented with a foil wrapped shell and an insert that lets them know what awaits. And when the candy pad is lifted, beautifully hand crafted chocolates sparkle back at them. The customer feels transported and in that moment, feels cared for and appreciated. Oh, and then the first bite.”
How the Business Got Started
Because of a desire to live and work on Isle au Haut.
Shaffer’s wife Kate originally worked as a seasonal chef at a bed and breakfast on Isle au Haut. And the couple discussed moving there for years before actually taking the plunge. That’s where she started experimenting with chocolate and making chocolate truffles. The couple eventually converted the addition on their house into a café and used it to open Black Dinah Chocolatiers.
Getting featured in Martha Stewart Magazine.
Shaffer says, “One typical day, when I was gazing out the window, looking at the dirt road that led to our home, and wondering if anybody knew we existed, we got a call from Martha Stewart Magazine. They wanted to know if we would like to be featured in their magazine and if so, would we be able to handle the expected deluge of orders. Kate and I looked at each other and said absolutely. We knew that this would be the chance to move the business out of the house and into a barn that was on the property.”
Expanding off the island.
Shaffer says,” Five years later, we found ourselves again in need of expanding, and this time we had to take production off island. This expansion would be riskier and more costly. It was necessary to be located in a more populated area, which meant a move four hours south. Again the expansion involved a place to live, a space to lease and new equipment.”
How They’d Spend an Extra $100,000
Shaffer explains, “We are in need of increased sales. I would spend the money on creating a marketing strategy and then implementing it.”
Shaffer says, “During the busiest times of the year, everyone does Yo Mama Jokes to keep the atmosphere light.”
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Images: Black Dinah Chocolatiers; Top Image (left to right): Hannah Siefert, Kitchen Assistant; Kate Shaffer, Head Chocolatier and COO; Caitlin Powell, Assistant Chocolatier; Jordan Kellerman, Assistant Chocolatier