Meet the Chocolate Engravers
It only took a few years of working for someone else before Michael and Jennifer Sauvageau’s entrepreneurial drive kicked in and they decided to make a change. For 13 years they had loved running their toy and entertainment company and now they decided that they wanted to be business owners again. They started going to trade shows to explore ideas and after attending one where every vendor handed out chocolate, they started to think about chocolate and how much people love it. A little research on the way home showed them that chocolate was a huge market. That same day, Michael was reading an article about laser engraving and the question he asked Jennifer was, “What if we could laser engrave into chocolate?” So they decided to find out.
Having no chocolate or laser engraving experience to do this, Michael and Jennifer devoted themselves to learning what they needed to know. How to temper chocolate; what kinds of fonts and designs work in chocolate; and what laser settings to use were all questions they had to answer if any of this were to work. The idea of laser engraving a custom message into chocolate and developing a new product for the chocolate gifting market became their focus. Using mason jar and sandwich container lids for molds to create chocolate “stationery”, Michael and Jennifer bought a tempering machine, took over their dining room table and improvised and innovated until they were convinced that laser engraved chocolate messages could be done.
As they developed the idea, a few things became very important. First, not only did the chocolate have to be premium, it also had to be allergy friendly. As co-founder, Jennifer felt she had to be able to eat her company’s own chocolate, but when you’re allergic and sensitive to 40 foods, finding chocolate that’s safe to eat is challenging. Once they found peanut and soy-free chocolate that could be enjoyed by almost anyone with food allergies, and was also Fair Trade certified, one more piece of the puzzle was in place. After developing a few more important parts of the creative puzzle, such as creating a beautiful gift experience using only sustainable packaging, they were ready to raise the funds to make it happen.
Michael and Jennifer created a Kickstarter campaign during which they sent over seventy custom engraved chocolate messages to test market the product. Each recipient provided feedback through a survey and they used the results to help shape the final product and the website they wanted to build so customers could write and create their own chocolates. Thanks to the support of almost 400 backers, they raised $28,500 in startup funds. With this money they built a chocolate laser lab and kitchen, purchased a laser and chocolate molds, created packaging, developed an innovative website, and started employing 2 part-time workers.
Access to the laser engraving machine, resources and expert advice at the Danbury Innovation Center and the Connecticut Small Business Development Center, were key as Michael and Jennifer researched, experimented and innovated their way from concept to a noteworthy new business in under a year.
We attribute so much of our startup success to the help we received from our CTSBDC advisor, Nelson Merchan. Nelson was instrumental in guiding and advising us as we wrote and revised our business plan, which helped us build our business on a strong foundation. He introduced us to networking opportunities that have brought in some of our first clients and customers, and he also helped steer us in the right direction to find the financing we need to keep growing. Noteworthy Chocolates is a stronger business, and we know more about owning and running a small business thanks to his advice and expertise. –Noteworthy Chocolates Founder, Michael Sauvageau