San Francisco-based small business owner Renata Stoica and her company, tinyB Chocolate. Renata, a native of Sao Paolo, grew up making brigadeiros—a Brazilian cousin to chocolate truffles—at home with her mother and sisters. When word of her family’s sublime chocolate treats spread throughout town, a small business was born. Her family began catering weddings and parties with their wildly popular chocolates. Later, when Renata moved to San Francisco, she met, fell in love with and married an ambitious tech entrepreneur named Andrei Stoica. Andrei instantly loved Renata’s brigadeiros upon tasting them. A smart business man, he recognized a great business model when he saw it and the two have set out to replicate Renata’s Sao Paolo success here in the States. They now ship the beautifully-packaged chocolates (made fresh to order) nationwide. They have even become a favorite business gift of companies and organizations including Sotheby’s, Go Daddy, Kaiser Permanente.
How did you get into the industry?
My mom was - and still is - a chocolatier in our town in Sao Paulo, Brazil. Soon after starting her business, word got out and her treats became very popular, so she needed some help - very quickly! Since I'm the oldest of three sisters I was the natural choice to be her helper. I started when I was 11 and I had no idea of what I got myself into because I stayed in that role for the next 10 years. Even after graduating high school and studying nursing, I would come home on weekends and help out.
Any emerging industry trends?
There are industry trends, but mostly in Brazil where they're already popular. For example, very high quality brigadeiros have become very popular a few years ago and many boutique brigadeiro stores have opened up across the country. They're not pastry shops - they only sell brigadeiros.
Here in the US, there are only a handful of companies selling brigadeiros and relatively few people who have tried them - but we intend to change that! :)
Any industry opportunities or challenges?
There's an interesting opportunity to make cannabis or cannabinoid treats, but that's not our profile because we're more of a family business.
I'd love to make a vegan brigadeiro and I think there's a market for it, but making chocolate without milk is challenging. And making brigadeiros without condensed milk is like heresy :)
Inspiration for the business idea, and your vision for the Business?
Like so many Brazilians, I grew up with this treat and even now, after trying so many amazing things, they're still my all-time favorite. I started tinyB to be able to share brigadeiros with people who have never tried them before, see their face light up, hear their reaction and know they're hooked! I'd love to see them be as popular here as in Brazil.
I also enjoy seeing people's connections deepen by sharing this amazing, handmade treat.
What's next for the Business in the near future?
In the short term, we're offering a subscription for those who want to sample different flavors and don't necessarily need to send gifts.
After that, I'm really excited about publicizing a product we're already offering called Brigadeiro in a Jar - a brigadeiro spread that can be easily heated and spread on toast, eaten with pancakes or just spooned onto a strawberry. YUUM!
Your key initiatives for the success of the Business?
We've made great progress in online advertising and selling to businesses. I believe these two initiatives will transform the company in the next 12 to 24 months.
Your most difficult moment at the Business? (and what did you learn?)
Initially we were not sensitive enough to the range and variety of competition. I learned to seek out experts with deep experience and we've benefited tremendously from their advice.
Ideal experience for a customer/client?
There are a few comments that I hear frequently:
"my husband doesn't really like chocolate or desserts, but he loved tinyB!"
"this is some of the best chocolate I've ever had - and I'm a chocolate snob"
"I can feel the love in your brigadeiros."
How do you motivate others?
Mostly, our staff really enjoys chocolate in general and our treats in particular. Apart from that, they see how excited I am and I think that's infectious.
Career advice to those in your industry?
There is a ton of competition in the food industry, and having a tasty product is not enough - you need to be as good at marketing as you are at cooking. Or become good very quickly.