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Chocomize

chocomize

You want bacon and beef jerky in that chocolate bar? Coming up, how three college roommates found sweet success.

In 2009, 21-year-old Nick LaCava a student of Columbia University, accidently left a bag of chocolate and Gummy Bears in a hot car. The result was a mess! But Rather than waste that mess and throw it away, he decided to put it into a freezer.

Nick had two dorm mates, Fabian Kaempfer and Eric Heinbockel. Actually, Eric lived in their walk-in closet because he had already graduated and had no income.

Well, the guys all ate the frozen concoction, and it tasted good – really good!

It was the lightbulb moment for the guys. They wondered what would happen if you offered customized chocolate bars with all sorts of crazy ingredients — and let people choose their own.

When all three amigos were graduated, Chocomize.com was born.

The online shop for chocolate lovers offers multiple types of chocolate and 90 different ingredient choices – everything from graham crackers to rose petals and 14 karat gold flakes.

Gold flakes?

Yep. In fact, the founders say there are more than 30 billion potential chocolate combinations – if that’s possible!

Chocomize.com was launched just before Christmas 2009, and the timing was great. They sold several thousand bars within the first few weeks and were profitable within 3 months. Soon sales approached $1 million.

In 2011 the company moved from its 1500 square foot plant in Cherry Hill NJ headquarters a 5500 square foot facility in Long Island. And apparently they need the space. Today customers the world over order dark chocolate, white chocolate or milk chocolate bars with up to five toppings — choosing from more than 100 options.

The bars themselves start at $3.95 each. To that you can add cayenne pepper for 75 cents, dried raspberries for $1.20. And yes they do have a beef jerky topping. It costs $1.85. But those gold flakes? They’ll nearly double the price of a bar, adding $3.25 to the price.

And if you’re confused about what to try, their website lists a number of favorites other consumers love.

For their wedding, one couple ordered 125 dark chocolate bars with bacon, Brazil nuts, and raisin toppings. As Heinbockel told BusinessWeek.com, “It’s their day, so I guess they get to do what they want.”

If the concept seems unique, it is! Chocomize is the first custom-order chocolatier in the United States. In fact it was so unusual, the trio had difficulty attracting investors. So the founders raised $80,000 from friends and family. One member even sold his car to raise cash.

Today the founders are thankful for their success and donate a portion of their proceeds to charities such as: Doctors Without Borders, the Michael J. Fox Foundation and A Drink For Tomorrow.

Nick LaCava, Fabian Kaempfer and Eric Heinbockel exemplify one of our business axioms for entrepreneurs: Go with the Flow. When things aren’t going your way, they may be taking you to a better place. 

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