Thursday, February 14, 2013

Chi Chocolat for Valentine’s Day

In today’s culture, where we all seem to be rushed to get the quickest cup of coffee, Chi Chocolat is a refreshing escape from ordinary. Located in the former Naval Training Center area transformed into the urban village of Liberty Station, Accion clients Tess and Jesse Brown started their chocolate boutique, Chi Chocolat, in 2009. Specializing in quality chocolates and espresso drinks, Tess and Jesse have created an oasis for the chocolate and coffee lover.

When Tess moved to San Diego from the east coast 12 years ago, she wanted to build something that would be a special addition to the community and would enable her to be a mom to her children. Combing over 5 years of experience in the food industry with a lot of hard work, she began her catering business, Banyan Catering.

Starting a business has enabled Tess to earn an income, while working from home. With a passion for serving quality food with great service, Tess has built an extensive clientele base. After several successful years with her catering business, she and partner Jesse decided that having a small storefront would help drive more clients to their catering business. They invested in a retail chocolate shop, and when the shop was for sale, they decided to jump on the opportunity to own a chocolate shop.

A loan from Accion San Diego enabled Tess and Jesse to purchase essential equipment and other needs for their new chocolate business. Diving right in to retail chocolate, they also used the funds to launch their website, create menus and employ staff.

She shared, "I tell a lot of people who start off that if they ever need loans to go through Accion. We’ve always had personal service and personal relationship with our loan officer. When you work with Accion they actually sit down and talk with you and ask you all these questions and learn about your business to see if it’s a fit for them as well. It’s definitely been a great experience."

Tess and Jesse were one of the first small businesses to open in Liberty Station, and since then they’ve watched the area blossom into a great community and small business space. “There’s definitely a community feel here,” Tess explains, “there are lots of other small businesses, non-profits, and even an art gallery next door.”

When asked what she loves most about being a small business owner, Tess answered, “I’m never bored. It’s exciting every day and the adrenaline is always going. It’s creative—we get to meet really different people. It can be stressful, but at the end of the day it’s worth it.”

Today, Tess and Jesse not only offer fresh and delicious catering service, but also unique and specialty chocolates and coffees from their storefront, Chi Chocolat. They employ two other full-time employees, another part-time employee and frequently take on interns or contracted employees. Using locally roasted coffee beans from Caffe Calabria, Chi Chocolat is a prime example of a small business with a commitment to the community.

Check out Chi Chocolat for the month of February and receive $5 off a $20 purchase when mentioning “Accion!” Be sure to visit Liberty Station for ‘Friday Night Liberty’ on the first Friday of every month.

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