In 2012, Deann Wallin was a nurse, by 2013 she was a full-time chocolate maker and owner of Solstice Chocolates. Her business took on a life of its own and now she is an international award-winning chocolatier. Her secret to her success has been patience, perseverance and flexibility.
Every business has plenty of challenges and Solstice is no different. However, the challenges are different for a chocolate maker. All of the cocoa beans Solstice uses are site-sourced from all over the world, and there is no guarantee the beans will be available every year.
Wallin’s business started as a hobby. She was curious about how chocolate was made, how it’s made and what goes into it. After a lot of research and trial and error she had a recipe for success and chocolate that stood out from the competition. Her love for chocolate is what makes it work for her, without it she says the rest of it wouldn’t motivate her.
“My dad was self-employed, I saw the good years and I saw the bad years. Without a passion for chocolate, the rest wouldn’t motivate me,” she said.
Wallin took a fairly meticulous approach to her business plan, while she likes the freedom of being a business owner, she took fun out of the equation and stayed realistic in her goals. Instead of buying the biggest and best equipment upfront, she was patient and let her business grow until the equipment wasn’t able to keep up with the demand, then she upgraded.
“One thing I did really well, I think, was starting small and letting it grow,” she said. “I didn’t try to grow too big immediately, I had some roots first and then it grew to what it is today.”
Wallin says the most important thing she has learned in owning her business is patience.
“Things will happen when they happen. Even though we want them right now, sometimes it doesn’t work out that way; especially in my industry,” she said.
Her chocolate bars can be found locally in stores such as Harmon’s, Whole Foods and Natural Grocers; and nationally in other retailers. However, her biggest market is restaurants.
“I never thought a restaurant would be a place for artisan chocolate but when I saw the market I said ‘let’s go that way’ and that has sustained us with a solid footing. Then we have the bars on top of that,” Wallin said. “Things rarely go how you think they’re going to.”