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Your Name: Nicole Patel

Business Name: Delysia Chocolatier, a maker of handcrafted chocolate products

Type of Business:  Food & Beverage

Business Location: Austin, Texas, United States

Reason for starting
I am often asked, ‘Why did you become a chocolatier?’ or ‘Where did you study?’ Most people assume I attended culinary school, studying to be a pastry chef or chocolatier. It was actually quite the opposite. Delysia Chocolatier was launched in late 2008, but our first truffles were created in December 2006 when I was pregnant with my first child. Exhausted and too tired for holiday shopping, I made truffles as gifts for our family and friends. My first truffle flavors were hazelnut, peanut butter, and mint. I simply modified a recipe I saw on the Food Network, adding a little of this and a little of that. Much to my surprise, they were delicious. I found myself making them for every holiday, birthday party, and potluck dinner. Friends continuously asked for my truffles, delighted when we would arrive with a plate of these chocolate delights. Over the next few years, I found myself making truffles quite often. I found it relaxing – a way to take my mind off of my stressful engineering career. I am, in fact, an Industrial Engineer with a background in statistics and business process improvement. With my loving husband’s encouragement, we slowly created a business. And we made our first delivery in October 2008. I am Nicole Patel. I am the proprietor and chocolatier at Delysia Chocolatier. My lifelong love of baking and cooking impassioned me to turn a hobby into a business. And my vision for launching Delysia Chocolatier was to provide customers with the most unique, flavorful, and memorable chocolate creations available. I knew that those with a discerning palette deserved the best in quality, flavor, and customer experience possible. I graduated from Texas A&M University with both a Bachelor of Science and Master of Engineering degree in Industrial Engineering, with a focus in statistics and process efficiency. Upon graduation, I worked for a technology and communications Fortune 100 company in Austin, Texas, as a supply chain and business process improvement expert. I continued to develop my career, receiving my Six Sigma Master Black Belt certification. In my oversight of the corporate Six Sigma programs at my previous employer, I was responsible for program development and training for a privately held technology company in Austin through the summer of 2009.

How do you define success?
Success for Delysia Chocolatier is watching the faces of patrons enjoying our chocolates for the first time. Success is watching the delight in a bride’s face when they see their custom chocolate menus we created for their wedding reception. Success is building a business from the ground up simply on word of mouth. We believe that the foundation of success for Delysia Chocolatier is based on effective customer service. You can have a fabulous product but if your customer service and interaction with end consumers is horrible, customers won’t come back – no matter how much they love your product. Excellent customer experience = repeat business and word-of-mouth recommendations. Marketing that effective is priceless. Our business is all about word-of-mouth and I love it!

Biggest Success
A few years ago, my son and I were at the store and they were handing out chocolate samples. He took a taste of it, wrinkled his nose and said, “No thank you, Mommy. It’s not as good as yours.” And from that day on, he will only eat Delysia chocolate! If I give him a piece of chocolate, he specifically asks if it is mine because, “I only eat Mommy’s chocolate.” Nothing has made me prouder than satisfying the discriminating taste buds of a three-year-old. I inadvertently created my own little chocolate connoisseur. Earlier this year, we were named on of the ‘Best Chocolatiers and Confectioners of America’ by Taste TV & International Chocolate Salon. Not sure whether that ‘tops’ the approval of my 6-year-old’s discerning taste-buds!

What is your top challenge and how have you addressed it? 
The biggest challenge we have ever encountered involves our remodel of a facility to be our production kitchen and chocolate education center. REMODELING PROJECT: One afternoon, I decided to stop by the building to check on progress of the remodel. I didn’t notice anything strange immediately, except for the fact that my contractor wasn’t there working like he was supposed to be. As I examined the area more closely, I noticed that things were missing – lights, supplies, tools, and materials I had personally purchased were gone. GONE! I did the only thing that seemed appropriate at the time – I sat down in the middle of an empty shell of a kitchen and cried. I can now add General Contractor to my list of occupations! FULL STORY:

Who is your most important role model?
Throughout my life, my parents and family have been a constant role model for me. My father is an engineer and spent 23 years as an Officer in the U.S. Air Force. My mom said that from a very young age I wanted to be ‘just like my dad’. And an engineer I became, earning both a Bachelors and Masters degree in Industrial Engineering. It is this degree and encouragement from my parents that gave me the courage, confidence, and financial footing to be able to become an entrepreneur. When I decided to embark on establishing a chocolate business, my younger brother became my role model. He works in NYC as a brand strategists for clients such as Walmart, Calvin Klein, Delta Airlines, and McDonalds. My brother created the branding for Delysia Chocolatier, developed our first website, and assisted with outlining a strategy for our products. My brother is my sounding board – and family visits often involve us sitting around over a glass of wine discussing the ‘next big thing’ for Delysia Chocolatier.

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