This is Sarah Ann Lesslie here, the creator of Chocolita. I thought I’d start off the first blog post by introducing myself and sharing a bit about the company. I’ve put more information on the site under the “About” tab. You can read up on myself and the company. That info is a nice overview for you. I’d love to give you an opportunity to get to know me a little better here and get a flavor for my background.
I’ve been working with raw chocolate since 2005. That makes me feel kinda old to admit that 🙂 I moved to Sedona after I completed massage school, and promptly met my good friends, Kelly Johnson & Jen Warr. Kelly was making raw chocolate at the time at a raw cafe that had just opened up in town. I thought that was just the coolest thing, and he was just the weirdest dude, so an awesome friendship was born. I began making chocolate for him. No pay, just loads and loads of fun. We would hand-wrap every single love cup, and draw little smiley faces on them. The biggest events for us at that time were the raw spirit festivals that happened 3 times in Sedona, successively growing larger each time.
At that point, my friend (and Kelly’s lover, Jen Warr) took over the management of the cafe, and after an amazing naming pow-wow, changed the name to “Chocolatree Cafe” (which I just adore). I started working with friends, Will & Brian on launching GREEN Lifestyles magazine as a national green magazine. We deeply promoted our advertisers and friends, and brought their products (including Kelly’s LOVE cups) to about 20 trade shows a year all across the country. We launched an awesome campaign called “Visions of Paradise” where we decided to inspire people to create paradise by first envisioning it, and then moving towards it. We interviewed some pretty inspiring people and asked them what their visions were. I also helped produce some other interesting videos on chocolate and monoatomic gold at that point in time. You can check them out here: http://www.youtube.com/user/GreenLifestylesMag?feature=watch
My love for chocolate brought me back to working in the chocolate shop with Kelly. The magazine went online, and turned into a webstore, and I had some extra time on my hands, so I started making the chocolate again (instead of just promoting it all the time)! I began to make my own flavors to tickle my own fancy, which included white chocolates. I experimented with all different flavors, and sold them at the Chocolatree. The chocolate shop is actually located in the back of the Chocolatree building, so it’s a quick trip to the front of the cafe to deliver chocolate.
I soon left Green for personal reasons, and pursued my love of chocolate deeper. I returned to school to get my degree (in Theatre with a minor in Sustainability) and take some business courses. The business courses I applied to launching my own company with the chocolates I had been making for the cafe.
While I was working with Green, Jeffrey Botticelli of Fortina Chocolate moved to town and began making chocolate in the shop, so I got to share space with another amazing chocolatier. He taught me (with so much patience, might I add) how to hand-temper chocolate on a stone. Wow. This took chocolate-making to a whole new level for me. It got scientific! Which means I feel in love with it in such a deeper way. I really got to understand the science of tempering. What a wonderful gift it had been to learn that from Jeffrey.
Soon, another chocolatier showed up in town, Lulu Sharpe, of Lulu’s Chocolate. She actually began packing chocolate for me (because I was now running production for Kelly’s LOVE cups) while she was planning her business. She currently uses the shop more than half the week, has around 20 employees, and is moving into her own space where she is going to have a retail lounge/ chocolate bar. She and I have developed a very close friendship, as we both share a serious love for chocolate, and have worked closely together for quite a while now. I cannot even express my gratitude with her assistance with business building! (We also happen to share a love for Savannah cats as well, and both have 2 beautiful kitties.)
Lulu became a super-fan of my chocolate, and it also began selling like crazy up front at the cafe. People LOVED IT! They’d buy me out of flavors, and make long journeys from other towns in Arizona just to buy my chocolate. Well, I didn’t expect that to happen, but shoot was it flattering. Well, I couldn’t let people down, I wanted to give them what they wanted. So I kept going. I kept increasing the amount of bars I made and got crafty with the flavors. I like exotic flavors. Weird ones. Really I like weird everything. So I thought I’d provide people with that. Healthy and exotic…. and yummy. It had to be yummy. Too much raw chocolate tastes really weird, or it’s melty, or it’s not tempered correctly and it’s chalky, or there’s too many flavors and it’s a crazy-bomb in your mouth. I really wanted to simplify and use that beautiful science-tempering- for a quality bar.
So that there is how I got started. It was quite a journey, as all things are, with some really awesome people added in along the way. I look forward to where it will take me, and I love that it has woven our paths together, even if it is just for the moment you are reading this. That’s what I love about chocolate, it connects people. That’s a whole ‘nother blog topic for a different day though.
Enjoy the chocolate, and blessing to you.