Today’s “I Want to Be” series features Sarah Swenson, who is an independent chocolatier working for Dove Chocolate Discoveries. She is married and has two kids, ages 5 and 7. Now that her kids are older, she plans to devote more time to her career since her husband will be pursuing his Ph.D. Find out how to connect with Sarah at the end of this article.
How long have you had your business?
I started in January 2009. I was a stay at home mom looking for something fun to do. I fell in love with the idea of a chocolate party! There were no reps in my area, so I decided to go ahead and sign up and give it a try. We figured if it didn’t work for me, I’d simply get to eat my starter kit! That seemed like a low-risk investment to me.
What led you to pursue it?
My goal when I started was to simply get out of the house without my children once or twice a month and hopefully make a little money. After holding the occasional party, I realized that I was missing out on an opportunity. There were still only a handful of reps in my state. I decided to be more proactive with my business and take advantage of the opportunity to grow a team and business.
Are you part-time or full-time? If part-time, do you anticipate moving to full-time?
I currently do my business on a part-time basis. I average 1-2 parties a week. That currently has worked for my family. I spend a few hours a week on the phone with my team members or holding training calls. I’m looking to expand the business as we move next month. We’re making a lifestyle change and will be more dependent on my income, so we anticipate that I will hold at least 2 parties a week. In my family, we treat this as a family business. I schedule my parties around my husband’s work schedule. My children like to help me get my catalogs and paperwork ready for parties. And, of course, they’re always ready to help eat any leftover chocolate from my parties and events.
How do you market your business?
I’m a firm believer that any business you pursue, especially one with start-up costs, needs to be something you strongly believe in. There aren’t many products I can get excited about, but I’ve always loved quality chocolate.
I also loved the opportunity to be in on a ground-floor company. I had the opportunity to be one of the first Chocolatiers in my part of the country and build a team. But, we have the name brand recognition of Dove Chocolate. We don’t have to tell people who were are. Everyone is familiar with this amazing chocolate. I simply get to help them experience the unique and specialty items. And, the products we sell are not available in stores. Having that niche market is very important. I want my customers to have to come back to me when they run out of something. If they can buy the same product at the grocery store, I’ve lost a repeat customer.
Most of my marketing is done by word of mouth. When someone has a good time at a chocolate party, they tell their friends about it. No one wants to miss out on attending something like that. I do participate in the occasional event. Those can be great ways to get our name out there. Because we’re still a fairly new company (6 years), most people haven’t heard of us, so talking with people is the best marketing tool we have.
What is your favorite part of the business?
My favorite part of this business is that I get to share chocolate. You just can’t stress about work when you’re going to a chocolate party! Everyone is happy when I walk in the door. Guests love to arrive and be handed a Chocolate Martini or Coconut Chocolate Chip Smoothie to sip. And, then we take a chocolate journey tasting amazing products. It’s fun to bring something new to their taste buds. We have a BBQ Sauce that is one of my most popular items, and it’s fun to watch the expression on their faces as they try something so unique.
I do encourage anyone looking at any direct sales opportunity to do their homework.
- What are the start-up costs?
- What is the commission plan?
- Are there other fees (credit card processing, website, etc.) and are they required or optional?
- Are there penalties if you decide not to continue with the business?
- Find out if there are other reps in the area. Any area can support multiple reps, but if you know a dozen people who already work with one company, how are you going to build your customer base? If you don’t know anyone who sells what you’re looking to do, then that’s a good company to look into. You’ll be the first of your social circle and in your area.
It’s possible to keep the parties very simple. I don’t have to carry a lot of products with me. I make one trip into my host’s home carrying everything that I need. I arrive about a half hour before the party starts to set up and pack everything back up in about 15 minutes after the party. I want to keep things easy for myself and my hosts and make sure that everyone at the party can see how easy it is to do this chocolate business.
What advice do you have for others who want to get into a similar opportunity?
I love the direct sales industry because you can make it whatever you want. I’ve had people on my team who simply want to get out of the house once a month and make enough money to pay the cell phone bill. I have others who are working towards building their business so they can quit the full-time corporate job. If you do want to be very successful with your business, be sure to share the opportunity. You’ll grow your business and make more income as you sponsor people. Dove Chocolate Discoveries has an amazing training program. I do the majority of training and coaching with my team by phone and email because of the distance. We have so much training and information available online to our Chocolatiers and a fantastic home office staff.
What is the first step?
May is the perfect time to start your chocolate business. Our starter kit is on sale this month for only $85. It’s regularly $115 to get started. It still contains everything, along with a fun bonus for the new Chocolatier of Mars candies and products. We have a great new Chocolatier program where new Chocolatiers can earn Free products to use in their business. We even have some extra cash bonuses available right now for those looking to build a team. It’s very simple to sign up on-line at this link: http://www.mydcdsite.com/pws/thechocolatemom/tabs/ouropportunity.aspx
To learn more about Sarah, stop by her website, Dove Chocolate Discoveries: The Chocolate Mom. You can also follow her on Facebook.
*Photo by Siona Karen via Flickr.