Embracing the Squiggly by Making Truffles

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In anticipation of Small Business Saturday, I had the opportunity to meet Jenny of J&G Chocolate and Tea. A self-taught chocolatier, she used Youtube and Pinterest to learn the delicate art of making chocolate. While working in a traditional job, Jenny learned that she was actually pretty good at making tiny moments of delight with her creations. One thing led to another and then she was able to leave her job to start building the business with her sister Gina.

Jenny and Gina

Pictured: Jenny (left) and Gina (right).

Having launched J&G at the beginning of the year, the startup chocolate shop has seen success pretty early on. With an ultimate goal of being a chocolate and tea cafe, the sisters have grown their reach by selling online and at farmer’s markets throughout the Central Florida area with new locations to be announced.

While many may pick up chocolate making as a hobby, Jenny’s commitment to building a business took timing and “growing a pair.” Not a natural risk taker, Jenny was encouraged to take the leap by her supportive husband and sister. With their backing starting a chocolate and tea company seemed completely doable.

Photo Credit: J&G Chocolate and Tea

Photo Credit: J&G Chocolate and Tea

At first, Jenny didn’t completely realize what kind of risk she was taking by leaving her stable job to start a chocolate company. That is, until people started to say, “Wow, you are so brave” and other things that made her take a second and question the path she had already taken. For example, challenges with figuring out the permitting rules, red tape with licensing, and the very steep costs when it comes to shipping chocolate. These constraints led the sisters to start doubting what they had already accomplished and the research they had done.

But then Jenny had a moment of clarity, “until you know what you are going to do, you can’t do the research.” It took making the mistakes to learn how to ask the right questions so she could get the right answers and get the business to where it is today.

Photo: Jenny at a Fall Pop Up Shop

Photo: Jenny at a Fall Pop Up Shop

In addition to being in a constant game of trail and error, Jenny noticed how at times she felt like the odd duck in her circle of friends. To have a work schedule where she may not get started until 10am but was working until midnight in the kitchen, sometimes did not come across to anyone else as work. That simple difference in schedule can be hard for others to understand. However, for Jenny, having that flexibility is one of the most rewarding parts of being an entrepreneur.

Another challenge that almost every female business owner has dealt with is the self imposed need for perfection. In Jenny’s case, she learned to overcome getting bogged down with the details through the valuable experience of planning her wedding. “As the planner you can get all wrapped up in the teeny tiny details, but no one else will know but you if it is missing. Now with J&G, time is what influences how things will get prioritized and accepting that has allowed me to keep getting our product out there and refining it as we go along” and it might come out even better than planned.

When asked about the greatest piece of advice she would give to anyone who would want to start something like J&G,”research and testing are the most important things for anyone developing a product, especially a food product. Get the feedback of your family, your friends, everyone you know so can be confident in your product.”

Photo Credit: Candace Dyer at http://bit.ly/12cYvU0

Photo Credit: Candace Dyer at http://bit.ly/12cYvU0

Now I had the chance to eat one of J&G’s Caramel Pretzel and Bacon Apples and I can honestly say it was one of the best things I ever ate. But don’t just take my word for it, check out Candace Dyer’s review on her dessert blog Dessert Geek. And if you are interested in purchasing any of their chocolates or teas go to their online shop here or visit them at these locations.

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The Wall Finally Broke: The Lessons I Learned From Failing

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Last week, I learned about the law of attraction and how if you put something out into the universe, the universe will respond. Now, I totally thought this was a load of bull because, let’s be real, we are the masters of our own destiny …. right? Well, a couple Tuesdays ago I was lamenting to a friend of mine about how depleted I felt because I was so miserable at my job. I equated it to banging my head against a wall and the wall was showing no sign of damage nor was it causing enough pain that it would force me to stop. It was only a matter of time until one of them did. The next day, my boss called me in for a heart to heart. By the end of the conversation and a parting of ways was settled upon. Day after that, I happened upon a free week long teleconference by Christine Hassler that brought together experts on how to “upgrade” the various aspects of your life.

Call it coincidence or call it the power of the law of attraction, either way I found myself recuperating from the all too common challenge that all people, especially 20-somethings face: failure. Learning how to overcome and build back better from failure is crucial to succeeding in life, especially for those of us who aspire to be influential in this world. It is not enough to have excellent ideas or develop a beautiful vision, but truly successful leaders know how to learn from failing. I have seen this advice given by several thought leaders, and often thought about how that could possibly relate to me.

Reflecting back on my professional experience, I realized that I struggled to bring the best version of myself to work and allowed myself to fall into a vortex of misery and whining. I avoided making new friends and focused solely on how I was stuck in this awful situation with no solution. As awful as it was, I can now say I learned so much about myself and what parameters I need to be successful.  Some of those parameters are: a supportive and positive work environment, the sun (I guess you really can’t take Florida out of the girl), and the ability to connect with diverse cultures.

What about you? How did you overcome a failure and what lessons did you learn from that experience? What are some parameters that you need to be successful?