Owning a bed and breakfast was a dream of Nashville Wraps customers’ Mark and Kim LaPolla. While working in the computer industry in California, they began searching online for B&B’s and discovered Greenville Arms 1889 Inn located outside of Albany, New York. They fell in love with it and purchased it in 2004.
Kim is a quilt artist and avid workshop attendee and dreamed of opening a retreat center to foster the creative spirit in others. The idea evolved into finding an inn where they could host art quilting workshops. Not only was it a beautiful inn, but it was also the home of the Hudson River Valley Art Workshops – a renowned program that had been hosting art workshops since 1982. Currently, they host around 20 painting workshops and 15 art quilting workshops each year.
Because they also belonged to several internet discussion groups for quilts, often the question would come up about what would be the “ultimate” quilting retreat. The one “must have” at the retreats was always chocolate! So Kim told Mark to make sure he made plenty of chocolate desserts! This resulted in Mark taking several classes at the Culinary Institute of America and The French Pastry School on the art of cooking with chocolate. In the process, Mark discovered that he loved making chocolates!
Organic chocolates fit right into his philosophy as a chef and chocolatier. Soon the chocolates went from a dessert for their art students, to a shop opened to the public at the inn and finally to a much larger wholesale business.
Currently, their business Life by Chocolate ships to about 20 states and have a large number of different stores including health and natural food stores, co-ops and gift stores. Their retail shop at the inn is picking up a devoted following among local residents and guests who come to the inn.
Cross promoting the chocolates and the inn on their websites, blogs, Facebook, and Twitter is also important. Their friends re-tweet their blog posts and share our Facebook posts as well which reaches over forty thousand people for free. They also advertise in regional magazines, but their best advertisement is the colorful sign in front of their inn that says “Chocolate Shop Open”!
One of their best pieces of advice for candy businesses is that “packaging matters!” They have used Nashville Wraps products from the very beginning back in California when Kim sold her quilts. In their retail shop they use our Green Way® bags, because they have always believed in recycling and using organic and local products. Reducing, reusing and recycling is a big part of how they run our businesses.
They especially love the gourmet presentation boxes with attached satin ribbon. Kim stated, “They are perfect because not only are they elegant, they are sturdy for shipping, and the little window on top allows the customers to see the tempting chocolates. They are also great reusable boxes for the customers.” See our video about how to use these boxes:
Their other suggestion to candy and gourmet food businesses is don’t be tempted to start with too many products or flavors at once. Leave room for growing into the business. When they started they made over 400 different products and tried to sell all of them wholesale. Now they limit it to only 100 wholesale products which they also sell retail.
What Mark and Kim love most about their business are happy customers and living a life filled with creativity and chocolate.
Internet Advertising Manager