COMTEK Helps Launch Local Chocolate Jewelry Business

February 3, 2009

Syracuse Community Test Kitchen Helps Launch Local Chocolate Jewelry Business

Thursday, January 29, 2009

A year ago, opening her own business to sell edible chocolate jewelry seemed like nothing more than a pipe dream to Stacey VanWaldick, a resident of Oswego, N.Y. But after VanWaldick spent time at the Syracuse Community Test Kitchen (COMTEK), located in Syracuse University’s South Side Innovation Center (SSIC) on South Salina Street in Syracuse, her dream began to take shape. Today, she is founder and sole proprietor of Promise Me Chocolate, which sells premium artisan chocolate gems, rings and bonbons crafted from custom molds and using only the finest chocolate and fillings by Meyers Chocolates of Oneida, N.Y.

“I am very excited about how well received Promise Me Chocolate has been,” says VanWaldick. “People are enthusiastic about how good the chocolate jewelry pieces taste and also about how unique they are. When people first see them, they ask, ‘Can I eat that?’ They are pretty amazed that not only is the jewelry edible, but that it tastes so good.”

VanWaldick’s success would not have been possible without the assistance of COMTEK and Lynne Foster, COMTEK’s product development director. Foster led VanWaldick through the steps of taking a favorite recipe and scaling it up for commercial sale. The process of transitioning from concept to saleable product required developing a business plan; troubleshooting and engineering molds, ingredients, processes and packaging; establishing a target group; and creating a marketing plan.

“Lynne Foster at COMTEK and the SSIC as a whole have been invaluable in the development of Promise Me Chocolate,” says VanWaldick. “They have helped me with everything from finding a co-packer to getting my product on the shelves of a local store.” Promise Me Chocolate products are available now at the Village Candy Shoppe in Manlius, N.Y.

The seeds for creating edible chocolate jewelry were planted when VanWaldick was studying jewelry making and metalsmithing at the Parsons School of Design in New York City. From Parsons, VanWaldick began teaching art and jewelry making at Oswego High School and was able to hone her idea while earning her master’s degree in fine arts at SU, where she began working with materials other than metal and was introduced to the process of mold making. Mold making and a love of chocolate were instrumental in the development of Promise Me Chocolate.

“Promise Me Chocolate is a great example of what COMTEK can help a budding food entrepreneur accomplish,” says Foster. “Stacey had an interesting idea and the passion to pursue it, and COMTEK helped turn that passion into a reality. I’m proud to say all our clients have products in various boutique grocery stores around Central New York, and we are looking forward to helping them grow their businesses even further outside the CNY area.”

In conjunction with the SSIC, COMTEK also offers training for accurate costing, pricing, sales and marketing, and other related issues critical for success in the competitive food industry. COMTEK is a joint partnership with the Whitman School of Management at SU and the Nelson Farms subsidiary of Morrisville State College. The project is funded in part by a grant from the U.S. Small Business Administration.