This is an interview that I have wanted to do for a long time. Lauranie Nonotte is a young French entrepreneur and a genius! After a tour in cocoa plantations in Mexico followed by a fact-finding visit in the San Francisco Bay Area to research new chocolatiers, she created Esprit Chocolat and turned her passion for chocolate into a career. Her company specializes in the organization of chocolate tastings and chocolate tours. In her tours, she introduces her clients to chocolates from all over the world as well as pastries, and wines and champagnes. I would love to do a tour like this with friends and family and think that Lauranie is so creative and courageous for starting this company.
Can you tell us about Esprit Chocolat?
Esprit Chocolat is a company dedicated to Chocolate events for individuals and companies.
We offer Chocolate Tastings and Tours, Teambuildings with chocolate, Chocolate & Wine pairings, based on the perception of pleasure of the 5 senses.
What is your favorite chocolate?
The freshest ones! With herbs, like basil or lemongrass truffles, or citrus. I also love having a nice genuine Chocolate Bar from a specific cocoa origin or even a specific plantation, like “La Joya” from Tabasco, Mexico or “Piura Blanco” from Peru.
How did you decide to start your business?
At first I was mainly motivated by my passion for taste and especially for new tastes. I started to realize that there was a very wide range of creations in chocolate, depending on the chocolatier or pastry chef, and that every chocolate shop in Paris was a totally unique universe.
One day, a couple of American friends came to Paris and asked me to take them to my favourite chocolate shops. And at the end of the afternoon, they told me “This is a Chocolate Tour!” So I decided to offer Chocolate Tours to tourists and people who wanted to discover Paris through chocolate.
A few months later, I was in San Francisco, at the top of the Coit Tower, with some friends I met at my first chocolate tastings and they told me “You should do something with your chocolate tastings”. I could see the horizon in front of me… and the perspective of a real business with chocolate, which would be more than a tasting, but a chocolate moment, so that people would remember it for years, as my SF friends did!
What were some of the challenges and rewards?
Challenges: get notoriety and build a brand when you don’t know almost anyone, which was the case for me when I decided to start a business.
Being trusted by the chocolate makers, who at first were very cautious with a young girl coming from the communication business and wanting to know everything about their work and products!
Rewards: Making my clients happy, meeting a lot of passionate people, share emotions and pleasure everytime I talk about chocolate.
What books are on your nightstand?
“Cocoa. A trip to Mexico” by Dominique Persoon. Mexico is one of the main cocoa cradle, and it is also where I visited a plantation for the first time. This book is a sort of “memoires” of the first moving trip to Tabasco, Mexico. It is also the story of a chocolate maker who goes back to the roots of cocoa, nurturing the link between production and consumers. Which is somehow what I’m promoting.
What advice would you give to someone interested in starting a business?
PATIENCE. First, watch and listen. Do not go too fast.
PASSION.Then trust yourself, trust your feelings.
STRENGTH. Don’t count your time, be ready to work all day long, be physically prepared… and when you have all this, go!!
What is the best advice you have received?
Take your time. I didn’t take it into account for 5 years, and now I understand that I can’t do everything at the same time. But it requires maturity to be ready to hear this. Now that I have settled a lot of things, I can take more time to develop each project one by one. And I think I’m more efficient now.
I’ve started a collaboration with a Sales Manager a few days ago, this is going to give Esprit Chocolat a lot more strength to develop the business. I’m working on a franchise project in the year to come in France, and a development in Belgium and UK.
And then a TV show, and finally a cocoa plant, which has been my dream since I visited Mexico… everything is possible!