Black Woman Launched Chocolate Business With Laser Focus on Funding, Money Management

This Black woman went the extra mile to get the funding she needed for her company.

Jessica Spaulding, the founder of Harlem Chocolate Factory, launched her dreams of becoming a chocolatier after taking the chance to pursue startup capital for her company.

According to Forbes, Spaulding launched her business in 2015 after working hard to ensure it was a standout entrant of the New York StartUP! Business Plan Competition, sponsored by the New York Public Library.

To ensure success with funding, Spaulding took NYC Small Business Services FastTrac NewVenture, a free course facilitated by Sandra Holtzman.

In addition to winning one of the New York Public Library’s $15,000 grants, the chocolatier received a $3,000 loan from Ascendus (formerly Accion), a Community Development Financial Institute (CDFI), and free legal and accounting services from Start Small Think Big.

“The store was a game changer,” said Spaulding, but it wasn’t without its challenges. “Opening the store gave us a chance to create an experiential brand,” she said.

Spaulding was turned down by numerous bankers who thought her idea of chocolates celebrating Black culture would not appeal.

“Pre-pandemic, the idea of having a business supported because it’s Black-owned was unheard of, especially one steeped in African-American culture,” she said. “The beauty of Harlem is its bittersweetness: projects and brownstones; caviar and quarter juices; opportunity and poverty.”

“Seventy percent of our revenue came from corporate gifting and events,” Spaulding added. “All of them canceled. Foot traffic to the store dropped dramatically, too. It was a nightmare.”

Spaulding later won a $25,000 grant from QuickBooks.

“Our ‘CFO’ was QuickBooks,” said Spaulding, recalling how the program helped her manage cash flow, understand the impact of inflation on ingredient costs, and adjust prices accordingly.

“QuickBooks’ various features and tools enable us to track all of our finances accurately and create a better path forward,” she added.

Spaulding’s Harlem Chocolate Factory has been featured on Oprah‘s Favorite Things List and highlighted by celebrities like Beyoncé Knowles-Carter. These recognitions caused online orders to surge, even though the pandemic eventually interfered.

“It was a wonderful pressure on how we would make this work,” said Spaulding.