|Jen Posey of Hedonist Artisan Chocolates|
Welcome, Jen, to The Chocolate Cult.
You co-founded Hedonist Artisan Chocolates back in 2007. What was your experience in the chocolate business or the food industry prior to that?
Growing up our family would make confections, cookies, and all kinds of treats for holidays and special occasions. I have fond memories of being with my mom, grandmother, and sisters making caramels, fudge, and popcorn balls. My first real introduction to the world of chocolate came when I was in college. I worked for Chocolatier Richard Donnelly in Santa Cruz, California. It was there that I was introduced to fine chocolate, where it came from, and why it was so special.
2007 was the start of a big economic downturn in the USA and the world. What were some of your early struggles with a new chocolate business?
Fortunately I didn’t realize the world was in a downturn, I just thought business was hard. I started Hedonist with $300 and a credit card. I worked long hours alone for a few years, saying yes to everything and everyone.
I loved working hard, and still do. Difficulties are all around if you want to see them, but I like to think of difficulties as challenges: challenges that I’m going to conquer, or games I need to figure out and win.
We first tested your chocolate creations on The Chocolate Cult back in 2011, seven years ago. A lot can change in that time, but I note that a big change for your business was you becoming sole owner in 2013. What prompted you take on that role in Hedonist?
Divorce. LOL. Being a small business owner was always my idea and dream. Hedonist was started so I would have a long-term project. Until Hedonist, I would change jobs every 2-3 years, so I wanted to be a part of something that I could take care of, watch grow, and see results.
|Hedonist Valentine's Truffles|
Hedonist is always slowly growing. Currently we have about 15 employees, 6 summer interns, and a variety of contractors. We have added an Ice Cream Shop and a Letterpress Studio. We have increased our online sales, walk-up traffic, wholesale relationships, and business networking. We also run or help run several community events! Basically, we are always busy doing something.
Jen, do you still personally craft some of the treats that Hedonist makes? If so, what is your favorite type of product to make?
Nowadays I typically am the cheerleader on the side of the kitchen, rooting on the chocolate makers. However, I do still get my hands dirty when there is time, an emergency, or I just can’t help myself. I love making everything, but what I really find joy in is crafting our themed collections. An example of this is our Wildflower chocolates, one of our newest collections, inspired and made with parts of natural wildflowers. It forces me to research, discover, and assemble flavors together that are interesting as well as delicious. Then, I also get to design them to be beautiful, inside and out. That’s my favorite.
|Hedonist Bacon Salted Caramels|
After being on the cover of the New York Times, our Salted Caramels is our best boxed chocolate seller. We also have a very popular Classic Collection that we keep year-round and is a perfect gift for anyone, regardless of their chocolate experience. We also create a number of awesome chocolate barks that we have year-round. Many wineries around New York pair their products with ours, and the most popular varieties are: Sesame Milk Chocolate, Ginger Pistachio, Curry Coconut and Ancho Chile Pumpkin Seed.
How often does Hedonist introduce new types of products or new flavors?
We offer new “limited edition” chocolates often and regularly. In our shop you can see and taste our most recent inventions. In addition, we commission two different artists each year to create the art that will be transferred on to our Valentines and Halloween Collections. We introduce a new Spring or Fall Collection each year. If we have a graduating intern, they will also release a collection. We are always making new custom products for Wineries, Brew Houses, gift shops and business customers, so there’s something new almost every month!
Thinking ahead, what are your hopes and goals for Hedonist by 2025?
Seven years from now I hope Hedonist will have a stronger online presence. Our goal is to have half of our sales come from folks that live further away than Rochester. We will always keep our quality high and our products fun and unique. Our challenge will be having the rest of the world taste our creations so they know what they are missing and where to get the good stuff.
Finally is there anything else you'd like us to know about Hedonist Artisan Chocolates that I haven't asked about?
We’re always learning and always changing: from our seasonal products to our packaging. We’re always looking for the best solution and best experience for our chocolate-loving customers. We love our customers and we love our communities, from our neighborhood, to our long-time supporters, to our online fans who may have just found us! We absolutely love what we do at Hedonist, and we hope other people will try our chocolates and they bring them as much joy as they bring us.
Thank you, Jen, for talking with us. Sisters and Brothers in Chocolate, do you have any other questions about Hedonist Artisan Chocolates? If some please leave a comment. Or just leave a comment and let us know that you read this interview today.