Many people would consider Katrina Markoff a daring soul. She has a rare artistic flair of taking unlikely ingredients and turning them into “gold” in her kitchen. Markoff is the entrepreneur behind Vosges Haut-Chocolat, which started in a small chocolate shop in Chicago, in 1998. This $10 million dollar gourmet chocolate company, with its distinctive purple packaging, offers an amazing array of European-style truffles with such unusual names as the Gatsby Collection, the Collection of Zion or the Volcano Island Honey Collection.
If you want to enter the food business, Markoff recommends the following business tips in order to get on the path to success:
o It is important to start the business in your own home. Make all the recipes you’ve created in your own kitchen. Taste the product and see if you like it. If you don’t why should someone else? If you do like what you’ve created, let other people sample your creations.
o Find the vendors/suppliers you need who sell the ingredients for your products. After all, you aren’t going to buy these ingredients from retail stores! For example, if you need to find spice vendors, you can find them on the Internet. You must have your vendors lined up so you know your pricing.
o Hire a photographer to take photos of your product. If you have a friend or relative who takes great pictures, hire that individual. However, you must direct the photographer to take the shots that you want.
o If you create a brand, you have to have an image-not just a logo. Markoff worked with a man from Kinko’s for one year to put her photographs and logo together. She had a vision of what she wanted her photographs to look like meaning the style and the perspective.
o Now that you have your photos, it is time to get a website. In today’s business environment, a website is a crucial marketplace tool for you.
o Network with other people in the food business to find other resources. Also attend cultural events, wine tastings and Chamber of Commerce meetings.
o Attend food trade shows, which will help you find other resources for your business. Try to find a mentor. This person may have a good understanding of the distribution network.