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Nicole Patel | Texas | Footprints To Follow!

Tell us about your journey! inspire someone.

In 2006, while pregnant with my first child, I chose to make a batch of chocolate truffles as last-minute holiday gifts. To the delight of my friends and family, truffle making became an enjoyable pastime for me that relieved the stress of my corporate engineering job. Two years later a chance trip to Becker Vineyards in the Texas Hill Country led to me becoming the first person in Texas to make truffles using local wines. Within five years of launching Delysia Chocolatier, I was named a Top 10 Chocolatier in the Americas and a Grand Master Chocolatier for two consecutive years, a designation few chocolatiers have the privilege of receiving.

What made you take the leap into entrepreneurship?

In the beginning, Delysia Chocolatier was just a side hobby my husband and I thought could bring in a little extra income. We thought, we could cater for a few weddings here and there and be set for a good while. I think the big “aha” moment to an entrepreneur is leaving a footprint or mark for my kids to follow. I want to inspire them to go excel in anything they set their mind to and be proud of themselves.

What were the biggest initial hurdles to building your business and how did you overcome them?

There were a handful of hurdles that my family and I had to overcome when starting the business. When I started Delysia Chocolatier, there weren’t very many resources for small business and definitely not for a chocolate company. It was a tough; there was no one to ask for advice. I had to figure everything out on my own, one hurdle at a time.

Fast forward to a few years and the little hobby I started now had a steady line of customers and some growing demands, despite that the world was experiencing one of the worst economic downturns in decades (the year was 2009 / 2010). We needed to expand; we needed our own production facility. At the time, banks weren’t loaning money to small businesses (they didn’t want to take the risk) and I was told repeatedly by bankers to not grow my business. Instead of deciding to throw in the towel and stay very small, my husband and I decided to invest in ourselves and use our own savings to purchase our facility and pay for all of the remodeling. Thinking we had solved our biggest issue, we hired a general contractor and the 4 month construction project was underway. A year into construction, the general contractor was not seeing the urgency to move faster with the project. I started to pressure him on deadlines and refusing to pay until milestones were met. I was faced with a disaster when he skipped town after he gutted things, cut plumbing lines, and stole supplies. Devastated, as we were supposed to be officially opening in 2 months (and after some tears of frustration), I regrouped and planned my next more. A trip to the City revealed faked permits, calls to suppliers showed the materials paid for had never been ordered, and no general contractor wanted to clean up someone else’s mess. I jumped in, acted as general contractor, hired my own set of subs, and finished the construction project within 9 months - all while still running Delysia Chocolatier, being a mom to my 2 little boys, and a loving wife. Looking back, at that devastating time, I really had two options - throw in the towel and sell the facility OR keep moving forward. At the time, the later was really the only viable option - throwing in the towel never even came to mind. I guess I was in way to deep to get out now! My husband later told me he was very impressed that I found a way persevere.

Did you ever deal with contention from your family and friends concerning your entrepreneurial pursuits?

How did you handle it? What would you do differently in hindsight?

There was not any contention from my family at all. They were there for support and ready to jump in at any point to help. My family is very involved in the business from my parents coming in every other week to help with some packaging, my husband generating new ideas for the business to pursue and my kids always love being at the Delysia Chocolatier Culinary Center to talk to people and share their favorite flavors. I think having a strong family support system is essential to being a successful entrepreneur because you can’t do it all yourself - you can’t carry the weight on your own. You need a support system to be a sounding board or just to vent to when things aren’t going exactly as you had hoped. The biggest challenge is probably that I want to be even more successful than I am because my family believes in me so much.

What would you say was the single most influential factor in your business success?

One of the things I enjoy doing with Delysia Chocolatier is giving back to the community and helping those in need. Thinking back to the roots of our business development, I really wanted to show my network and community that you can do anything you put your mind to. I was an engineer turned chocolatier. Two totally different professions that require a heavy workload everyday. I feel growing my knowledge and opening my mind into a different market was another influential factor. I want to show my kids and staff that you can never stop learning and to keep pushing for what you want in life.

What do you know today that you wish you would have known when you first got started as an entrepreneur?

I’m not sure if I can pinpoint an exact method or strategy I would have liked to have known before becoming an entrepreneur. I strongly believe that entrepreneurial methods are different for every market you enter. I could say that I have learned a lot from my experiences, and that is something I would never want to change. If you knew everything going in, where’s the fun in learning and molding your brand into your own? I believe that if knew most of the struggles and challenges I would face as an entrepreneur, I don’t know that I would have launched Delysia Chocolatier. I believe that things are thrown at you because you can handle them, even if you doubt yourself in that particular moment.

What advice would you give to an upcoming young and old entrepreneur locally and internationally?

You will only get as much as you put in. Put in your all and you will see the results you want. Always believe in yourself and your capabilities. Being an independent business owner is a 24/7 role and with every storm of issues that may arise comes a rainbow.


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