In Edible-Alpha® Podcast Episode #7, Tera talks with Leanne Cordisco of the Chocolaterian Café about her path as an entrepreneur and what led her to her current food business model. The Chocoleterian is a 3rd space in the style of a French patisserie, where people can relax and treat themselves.
Leanne started out as a biomedical engineer building/repairing anesthesia and x-ray machines. After working in corporate setting for 25 years she decided she wanted to start her own business. Through a business professor, she was connected with Sam Jacobson, the founder of PDQ and father of the modern convenience store, who convinced her to open a candy store using local ingredients and became her first investor. She started out making a toffee with Belgian chocolate, French sea salt, and Wisconsin cream for wholesale via a local distributor. Once her bacon toffee caught people’s attention at the state fair, she was asked to provide her toffees for the 2000 Emmys celebrity gift bags, prompting a trip to Hollywood and national recognition.
She realized that she was on a path to becoming a national brand, but didn’t want to raise the equity and other funds to cover the at least $1 million of upfront costs. She opened Chocolaterian as another revenue stream and more immediate source of cash flow. Now, this retail concept of a 3rd space with wine and chocolate is now her main business model. Leanne was able to actualize her vision in a different way than she originally thought, and has been so successful she has opened a second location. She still has had to raise a lot of money from both investors and banks to finance her activities, and cites the importance of building strong relationships with those people as essential to her success.