I visited a chocolate factory and learned 5 Boston small business success stories: Chicken and Shakes, Taza Chocolate, Infusion Diabolique, La Tortilleria Niña, and NoLa’s Fresh Foods.
I recently attended a summer happy hour event at the Taza Chocolate factory in Somerville, MA just outside of Boston on a blazingly hot mid-July Friday.
That’s right, it was a party at a chocolate factory!
Just like in the Charlie and the Chocolate Factory remake that I didn’t see:
Luckily, I didn’t have to unwrap hundreds of candy bars to find a golden ticket.
Instead, I just read about the event on the Taza Chocolate Facebook page.
Then I ventured out into the hot summer night, and learned 5 small business success stories from Boston, Massachusetts:
5. Chicken and Shakes Automotive Repair
On my way to the Taza Chocolate factory, I passed a small mechanic shop called Chicken and Shakes Automotive Repair.
I met the co-owner, Chicken.
It was a hot day and he was taking a break in between fixing cars:
To get to the factory, I decided to cut through an adjacent junkyard:
There were many different makes, models, and years of cars in the junkyard.
Here’s an old, damaged car that was on sale for $4,999:
There was also an old tow truck with an old car still on the flatbed. Maybe it was a 2-for-1 deal:
Since it was roughly 100 degrees F outside, I was relieved to find that the party was indoors in the climate controlled Taza Chocolate factory store.
4. Taza Chocolate
Founded in 2006, Taza Chocolate makes “100% stone ground, organic chocolate using only the highest quality ingredients“.
The factory is located in a mixed industrial/residential part of Somerville near neighboring Cambridge in a neighborhood called Union Square.
Here are two happy Taza employees, Josh and Suhayl:
On one side of the Taza Chocolate factory store showroom was an impressive wall of various chocolate goodies. I felt like a kid in a chocolate factory store:
Taza specializes in stone-ground organic dark chocolate, so I bought a disc of their scrumdiddlyumptious coffee flavored dark chocolate:
Three local startup businesses from the food industry had set up display booths and were handing out samples at the event: Infusion Diabolique, La Tortilleria Niña, and NoLa’s Fresh Foods.
Here’s what I learned about their products and what it takes to run a successful entrepreneurial venture.
3. Infusion Diabolique
“Small batch, hand-infused spirits spiked with all-natural ingredients”.
My first stop was at the Infusion Diabolique table, where I met a friendly dude named Brandon Bach, owner of this delightful liqueur.
This saying was printed on Brandon’s business card and I think it also sums up the “real food movement” happening worldwide that is the impetus for so many recent natural and organic food startups:
It was surprisingly smooth, and did NOT have that familiar “tequila kick” that you’d expect, like in this famous scene from the hugely underrated 1986 comedic tour-de-force, ¡Three Amigos!
This stuff was the opposite of that. This stuff was smooth!
This description from the Infusion Diabolique website sums up the tasting experience nicely:
“…a silver tequila imported from Mexico and infused with Hawaiian pineapple, whole persian limes, peppermint, and cardamom. 100% of the sugar is extracted from the pineapple during the infusion process, imparting a delicious sweetness complemented by a citrusy, peppery finish. This is a very smooth and complex infusion that still very much highlights the tequila we infuse.”
2. Tortilleria La Niña
“The first tortilla bakery in New England to authentically produce white corn tortillas and tortilla chips. Our products are made from an old world recipe using only 100% non-GMO (genetically modified organism) white corn, filtered water and lime. Our tortillas are made fresh daily and are gluten and preservative free.”
Next, I stopped by the Tortilleria La Niña booth, and met Nicole Leavenworth, who runs the marketing for the upstart tortilla maker:
I enjoy chips, however I am also trying to eat better and live a healthier lifestyle.
I try to avoid or at least limit my eating of processed foods that contain preservatives, pesticides, and other additives.
My first question was if the La Tortilleria Niña corn tortilla chips contain Genetically Modified Organisms, or GMOs.
Nicole informed me that La Tortilleria Niña corn tortilla chips are no-GMO.
And that’s good news, amigo!
1. NoLa’s Fresh Foods
Fresh salsa that has “NO PRESERVATIVES, NO SUGAR, NO OILS and NO ARTIFICIAL COLORS OR FLAVORS. They are Vegan and Gluten Free so everyone can enjoy the best salsa available.”
If there are tortilla chips, then usually salsa is somewhere nearby.
Luckily, this was the case at the party, since the next food vendor I met was Sherie Grillon, the “salsapreneur” owner of NoLa’s Fresh Foods.
I enjoyed the two NoLa’s salsa flavors:
As you might’ve guessed, the “NoLa” in the brand name stands for New Orleans, which is where Sherie hails from.
She developed the recipe for her salsas from her time working in Tex-Mex restaurants during college in Austin, Texas.
Many people have great ideas. But only a brave few are willing to turn those great ideas into action.
This second group of people, the ones willing to risk it all and put it all on the line for a shot at achieving their dream, are true entrepreneurs.
And if you’ve read this far, then you are an entrepreneur or you are willing to read more and learn how The Game is played.
Meeting these entrepreneurs and learning about their companies was truly inspiring.
Hopefully, you are also inspired to follow your own passion and make your dream a reality.
Got a great idea for a business?
Let’s hear all about it in the Comments!
James K. Kim
James "Jim" Kim is a commercial real estate agent with Cushman & Wakefield / Pyramid Brokerage Company in the Capital Region of New York, specializing in retail, office, and industrial tenant and landlord representation.