Jacek Chocolate Couture, Sherwood Park
It may be just her second store, but the recently opened Jacek Chocolate Couture on Edmonton’s boutique 104 Street means Jacqueline Jacek now has twice as many shops as she did in 2013. But Jacek also has entered a new world of demand.
In 2012, Jacek started her boutique chocolate business, which is modelled on the world of fashion far more than it is on a typical chocolate store, out of her basement. She was working by day as an HR recruiter and hand-making chocolate late into the night. After hiring a part-time packager, she invested $12,000, quit her job and opened her first storefront and food prep location in an industrial park in Sherwood Park. That location exposed her to customers that saw the store as a destination, a place to buy gift packs of her designer chocolates for special occasions. But as the business grew and she became profitable within the first year, Jacek looked to expand – both to create demand and for more brand exposure. She says the downtown Edmonton location will bring a new, welcome demographic. “I felt that we were in the position where the production team was so strong that we could make more [chocolate] without compromising quality,” she says. “When you have the opportunity to make more, what do we do with that opportunity? I felt it was right … to find a foothold in downtown Edmonton.”
That expansion has opened Jacek up to a new demand stream, but also new customers with new traits. The 940-square-foot shop has a Parisian fashion-boutique feel – vintage wallpaper, impeccably clean and stylish display cases with a restrained, curated supply of chocolates. But where the Sherwood Park store sees big purchase buyers, the 104 Street store is an after-lunch treat destination for office workers, who walk in and buy one, two or three chocolates. “One of the business challenges we have is it’s not just selling a service or a product, we have to [hand] make it,” Jacek explains. “So it’s really matching that demand and supply. It means we have to place orders to ourselves differently.”
The new store has become a reality thanks to a $70,000 investment, much of it through a loan with ATB. Jacek describes herself as more conservative when it comes to risk than the average entrepreneur, and intends to pay the loan back and put her 10-person company into the black within a year. Will there be more expansion? “I’m four days in, so right now I’d like to think it’d be the last expansion, but I know myself well,” she says. “Our core purpose is to bring joy, and we do that through chocolate. So the more locations we have, the more joy we can bring.”
Three things to ask yourself before expanding your markets:
- Too different? Is the new market just like the one you’re in now? If it isn’t, will that complicate the value chain you’ve built into your business model?
- Have a plan
What does expanding into the new market do for your brand?
- Exercise caution
How quickly do you want to expand away from the business that got you where you are now?
38% of Alberta small business owners are women