Finding The Sweet Spot
05 Mar 2019
Chocolate creator Alicia Chapman has blended her two TAFE Queensland qualifications to achieve her lifelong dream of opening her own business. Alicia started her career as a 15 year old chef with an apprenticeship in Commercial Cookery at TAFE on the Gold Coast and recently completed a Certificate IV in Small Business Management.
Alicia’s business venture, Little Cocoa, creates hand-crafted chocolates for weddings and special events. The chocolates are made to order with numerous personalised options. “I’ve created chocolates for weddings with the bride and groom’s names on them and can also add company logos and colours for corporate events,” says Alicia.
And while Alicia seems to have found the sweet spot of her career, it’s been anything other than a planned journey.
“When I started out I just wanted to cook with food, then I realised I really loved pastry. I finished my apprenticeship on the Gold Coast and moved to Melbourne looking for pastry jobs. I ended up working in a prestigious event catering business in the heart of the CBD and also spent some time working for Koko Black and that’s where my love of chocolate really began.”
A Taste of Europe
After three years in Melbourne Alicia moved to Europe, training at the Chocolate Academy in Cologne and also working at a bakery in Berlin. It was there where she discovered a chocolate maker who made bean-to-bar chocolate.
“The concept is that you process the beans yourself, rather than melting chocolate supplied by another manufacturer. They were using single origin beans from South America and it was the most amazing chocolate I’d ever tasted. The chocolate was fruity with a slightly sour taste with unique characteristics like good coffee.”
When Alicia returned home to the Gold Coast she discovered the city had changed remarkably from the one she left five years earlier. “The Gold Coast has picked up its game. The coffee standards are really high now and there’s some really amazing restaurants that have sprung up here too.”
With a new business idea in mind, Alicia returned to TAFE, this time studying Small Business Management. Alicia says it was a different experience at TAFE second time around. “It was great because I had flexible training options, which allowed me to study and still work at the same time. I learnt a lot about marketing and running a small business, which was essential for getting my new enterprise off the ground.”
When Alicia decided to set up her hand made chocolate venture Little Cocoa, she realised there was a gap in the market for her new business on the Gold Coast. “When I was in Melbourne I noticed that there were a lot of chocolate companies, but hardly any in Queensland and certainly very few bean-to-bar chocolates.”
Alicia’s ultimate goal is to move to a bean-to-bar business model and while she hasn’t yet made the leap to that enterprise just yet, she believes there’s an untapped market here for fresh, high quality chocolates. “People are looking to increasingly create unique and authentic features for their weddings and events and I can offer that with local hand-crafted chocolates.”