A Taste of Curiosity
Erin Andrews is the founder and chocolate maker at indi chocolate, which is located in Seattle’s famous Pike Place Market. indi chocolate is a bean-to-bar chocolate company that sources the world for great tasting beans and then pays premiums to farmers for great flavor–which Erin believes is the best way to produce the best products. You may be thinking to yourself, how does someone decide they want to start a chocolate company? Well, if you asked Erin, she would tell you that she did it all backwards, however, most would beg to differ. Erin began indi chocolate with pure curiosity and passion, which are two reasons she has been so successful as an entrepreneur. Erin reminisced, “My sister called one day and said, ‘I’m taking the family to Belize for a week to sit on the beach’. I’ve been there before scuba diving and I thought I’ll go and teach my kids how to scuba dive and then show them show chocolate grows on trees. When I was down there, I met two people who become my very first business partners for my first company. Through their expertise, I learned how to make chocolate and I absolutely loved it! However, I didn’t live down there [Belize], I lived here [Seattle]. After the first two years, I realized I wanted to work with farmers and that I wanted to make delicious chocolate because this is what I love.”
A Sweet Treat for All
Erin harvested this passion for working with chocolate and the farmers in Belize and turned it into a product that first and foremost her family would enjoy. Her eldest daughter was experiencing adverse reactions to body care products at this time, which prompted Erin to create a cocoa butter lotion that her whole family could use. This is how indi chocolate was born. indi chocolate’s first product wasn’t actually chocolate, but the lotion that Erin made for her family. Erin explained, “I bought a canning pot and I would make lotions and lip balms in my kitchen on my stove top. I started with our mint-chocolate lotion and our lip balms and people loved it! I then had a lot of people ask, ‘Would you make a chocolate orange lotion too?’ and I said, ‘alright’.”
Lesson #1: Listen to Your Customers
Based on these suggestions, Erin began producing an orange chocolate lotion, which her customers loved as well. Through the creation and success of the orange chocolate lotion, Erin learned an important business lesson. Throughout the interview Erin associated important business lessons she learned with the products that indi chocolate sells. To her, the orange chocolate lotion represents the importance of listening to your customers. She elaborated, “You’re customers will often tell you what you need to do next. The thing I absolutely adore about our lotions is that I can hand somebody this lotion and I get to see what joy it creates. I like to say I’m in the joy business. I make body care products and I also make chocolate, but ultimately, I get to create joy.”
Lesson #2: Listen to Your Employees
Erin not only mentioned the importance of listening to customers, but how listening to your employees plays a crucial role for a successful business as well. Erin began, “Becca, who plays a very big part for the business, is a big rose lover. She asked me one day, ‘Can we make a chocolate rose lotion?’ and I said, ‘Well, let’s try it!’ I think most of our customers would agree that it was a good decision.” Erin really emphasized this point during the interview and expressed how crucial she believes it is for a business’ success to utilize the people and resources around you. Erin went on further explain, “I think it’s important for small businesses to use the resources that they have in front of them and to seriously listen and consider what the people who are closest to you have to say.”
Lesson #3: Think Outside the Box
Another interesting product that indi chocolate sells is their spice rub set, which Erin used as an example to explain her third entrepreneurial lesson. She stated, “When you’re in business and you think like everyone else, that’s not innovation. Innovation is about being open and trying. I got people to enjoy chocolate in ways that they never even thought about. I always say that lotion is one way, but our 6 spice rubs also allow people to enjoy chocolate that is both sweet and savory.” For Erin, she likes to keep her business playful and light-hearted and her chocolate products allow her to do so. Erin continued, “For me, it’s essential to think and play in different ways. One of my favorite things about chocolate is that it’s playful. It’s one of those things that we discover as children when we really have less boundaries and preconceived notions of what things “should be”– and that’s what I love about chocolate!” Erin also mentioned the importance of surrounding yourself with people who will be honest with you when need them to be. She mentioned how she thrives in creating products that are “exceptional and extraordinary.” These exceptional and extraordinary products would not exist if those around her did not offer the constructive criticism needed to do so. Erin stated, “Be open to both the positive and the negative to really be able to hone in on what you have in order to make it better.” Embrace feedback because that is what ultimately helps you produce that perfect product!
Lesson #4: Believe in Yourself
Throughout the interview, Erin provided great insight on how to run a successful business, but her most important lesson came at the very end of the interview. Erin encourages everyone to simply believe in themselves and take leaps of faith. She calls these scary leaps of faith “the door that you can’t afford to not open.” She went on to further say, “I know that’s easier said than done. Sometimes, as an entrepreneur, you see an opportunity in front of you and you just know it’s the right thing to do. If there’s a point where it really resonates with you that an opportunity will be the right thing for the long-haul, that’s when you know it’s time to really commit. Sometimes that next step is not the next step that you thought it was going to be, but it’s ultimately the right step.”
To learn more about indi chocolate and their products, check out their website at https://indichocolate.com/.
Contributor: Ally Massimi