Chocolate can be a sinful indulgence, debauchery even – whether you’re alone or with that special someone. Whether it’s milk, dark or liqueur, hidden skillfully in muffins, pastries, rolls, and tarts or just enjoyed in its good old-fashioned bar or block form, chocolate is one food that’s definitely a universal delicacy. From an aphrodisiac to a health food to a sure shot cure if you’re just having a bad day, there’s no reason why you should think of chocolate as a ‘guilty’ pleasure.
Which is exactly why Sonam Raheja didn’t think twice before starting her very own ‘chocolate parlor’ specializing in-house, fresh, delicious, indulgent chocolate made to order and customized with care and love – or ‘Choc-O’. For Sonam, it was her passion for progression – her passion to try something new every day, taking risks and learning from her failures along the way. Sonam realized that ‘It’s time to taste happiness!’.
The Making of This Cocoa-Lovin’ Connoisseur
Sonam didn’t want her brand to be perceived alongside the rest of the chocolate-making housewives around the block looking to make a few extra bucks. She was different. Sonam worked hard to get that right mix in terms of flavor and the percentage of cocoa that people in India would love and that would leave them drooling for more. Sure, she had her share of sleepless nights, but it was all worth the effort. As much as she planned her work in advance, she had orders rolling in by the minute, especially during the festive season which would keep her up and cooking till 4, sometimes 5 in the morning. But this didn’t make her go ‘nutty’. Despite the short turnaround time and some regular but very demanding customers, Sonam made sure she left a smile on every one of her customers’ faces, leaving very little breathing room for her cocoa competitors.
Launching her brand at a pre-Diwali sale at the JW Marriott in Bangalore way back in 2013, Choc-O is now easily everyone’s favorite go-to patisserie for some soulful, comforting chocolate goodness – be it for themselves or to gift to their loved ones on special occasions such as weddings, festivals, Father’s/Mother’s/Teachers’ day and more. Specializing in dark chocolate, Sonam’s chocolate factory makes about twenty-two different flavors of milk, white and dark mouth-watering chocolate. Word of mouth and social media were two of Sonam’s strongest contributors to her sweet success, helping her reach her target audience and allowing her to have her cake and eat it too!
Tastier Than the Rest
In the food business, it’s no doubt that the customer is the king. And Sonam didn’t forget that for one second. She has repeatedly satisfied her regular customers, thereby retaining them and fulfilling their chocolate cravings every day. Winning their trust by tantalizing their taste buds was a tremendous source of motivation for Sonam to keep making and baking. Her cocoa company now caters to the big fish like Air India – who has been her loyal customer for four years now, and Mapplinks, by helping them make their Diwali gifts a little sweeter and a lot more soulful.
“We have created a niche for ourselves,” says a very proud and deserving Sonam. The others competing in the chocolate-making market don’t stand a chance when it comes to Sonam’s loyal clients who just love her exclusive edible, imprinted chocolate treats featuring their brand logos and team pictures, that nobody else in the market has mastered the art of making. Why just give any ordinary bouquet of flowers when you can give a ‘chocolate bouquet’ – a wonderfully smelling – and tasting – combination of fresh flowers and chocolates, another innovative idea that Sonam’s clients just can’t get enough of. Having her packaging ideas replicated is just one of the few glitches that she has to deal with. Sonam may not be able to stop her competition but she can definitely beat it – and how she has!
Sonam’s take on entrepreneurship? “I think it would be the ability to be dedicated and sustain a business however small or big it may be. Keeping that goal in mind and continuously working towards it in an innovative, smart and efficient manner.” Short, smart and simple, which also explains how Sonam has enjoyed the sweet taste of success so early in her life.
I think it would be the ability to be dedicated and sustain a business however small or big it may be. Keeping that goal in mind and continuously working towards it in an innovative, smart and efficient manner.”
The Inspiration Behind Her Chocolate-Making Mastery
Sonam draws her chocolate-coated inspiration from the western world. Friends from faraway lands have reached out to her, sharing images on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter, asking her if she can replicate some of those wacky western chocolate designs. Sonam is also open to taking ideas from her customers who help her with innovation when she least expects it.
Not to mention her very ‘sweet’ and supportive family who has always had her back. Although they have been extremely patient and tolerant of Sonam, she recalls jokingly, the few times when her family has wanted to throw her out of the house what with all the back-to-back chocolate orders and her odd working hours, especially during season time. Maybe, for Sonam, “Life Is – Not Always – Like a Box of Chocolates!”
What’s to Come for Choc-O and This Courageous Chocolatier?
Sonam took baby steps over four years and took each day at a time. She envisions Choc-O to be the best chocolate brand for chocophiles worldwide including everyone’s one-stop gift shop to surprise their loved ones with customized, drool-worthy chocolate-covered treats. After conquering the chocoholics of India she hopes to conquer the rest of the world.
What’s more is that Sonam has managed to attain her chocolate-coated success while managing a full-time job too. She has her business run in what she likes to call ‘autopilot mode’ whenever she feels it’s required. Her dedicated team helps her handle the volume of business and generate quick turnaround time. She admires and greatly appreciates their hard work, energy, and enthusiasm which only motivates her to keep up with the orders that are continuously flowing in.
Work hard and work smart. You got to believe in yourself and you will see those miracles happen for real!”
Sonam is a bold example of how ‘sweet’ dreams really can come true, especially when they’re filled with richness, coated to perfection and sprinkled with love.