Today we’d like to introduce you to Robin Katz.
Robin, can you briefly walk us through your story – how you started and how you got to where you are today.
It’s been a long journey. I started my education attending Smith College in Northampton, MA studying engineering. I ended up re-evaluating my life in my mid-twenties and decided to pursue something else-something that really sparked joy in me and brought me happiness and fulfillment. That thing for me was food. To me, memories of my family and sharing and creating great meals with them were always my most precious moments. I love cooking. I enrolled myself in Le Cordon Bleu and received my Culinary degree from them in 2010. I found myself working for The Marine Room in La Jolla and worked my way up to being the Sous Chef of Master French Chef Bernard Guillas and Chef Ron Oliver. In the eight years I worked with them they not only enriched my culinary education but also showed me how to truly pay attention to detail and to never cut corners. I was able to create and be artistic, working with the best ingredients and learning about new ingredients all the time. When I first started working at the Marine Room, I met the love of my life and future husband Dan and his two amazing children Trey and Dylan. We married in 2014 and had our daughter Nola Rose in 2016. Our favorite thing to do as a couple is head to New Orleans for Jazz Fest every Spring so we thought it appropriate to name our daughter after one of our favorite cities (after San Diego of course!), so we named her NOLA.
While I was pregnant with Nola I had very strong urges for chocolate. And not just for any chocolates but for the highest quality BEST chocolates. I went on a chocolate quest that took me and my husband up the coast all the way to San Francisco, tasting fancy chocolates the whole trip! My favorite was Dandelion Chocolate in San Francisco. When I went on maternity leave I decided to play around with making my own fancy chocolates and read as many fine chocolate making books as I could gather.
When I needed to rejoin the workforce I started again at The Marine Room–it was very hard for me to be away from my daughter. It wasn’t only food that made me happy anymore, but my family. I needed to figure out a way to be with them more and spend less time “at work” on someone else’s schedule. It kind of hit me one day that I had something with the chocolates. I made REALLY good chocolates. I started working on my flavors. I would bring them into The Marine Room and we would discuss which flavors worked, which needed help, etc. Chef Ron Oliver especially took a generous amount of time to help me with this. I started selling little boxes here and there. I eventually started selling enough chocolates that I realized I had a real business and got my proper permits and licensing, naming the company after my daughter, Nola Rose.
I grew the business steadily, picking up accounts at hotels like Loews Coronado and La Jolla Beach and Tennis Club to restaurants like Chocolat and The Joint. I was even able to start a relationship with the Del Mar Racetrack, doing custom chocolates for some of their events like Opening Day and Cirque de Soleil’s Volta Show. I now have over 15 flavors (3 vegan) available for individual purchase at the Chocolat in Hillcrest. I was able to make a real business out of my passion for food and art while also being able to spend more time with my daughter. I think that because I focused heavily on creating chef-driven flavors from the highest quality ingredients, I was able to create something very special for my customers. I also focused heavily on how the chocolates looked because, in my opinion, they were something that should be fancy and special. A true gift.
The truffles and bon bons that I create are very artistic-each one is hand-painted or stamped with an elegant design. With the growth of my company, I naturally evolved into doing a lot of custom work. If someone was having a wedding with gold and white colors, I would create gold and white chocolates for them, or even have their initials or wedding dates put directly onto the chocolates. For companies in the area I stamp the company logo for their special events right onto the chocolates and put them in fancy boxes as take-away gifts. Instead of buying swag like pens or bags with their company’s logo on them, I make beautiful boxes for their employees or guests to REALLY enjoy.
At the end of the day, I’m happy I followed my passions. I truly believe that if you love what you do and do it well, money and happiness will follow.
We’re always bombarded by how great it is to pursue your passion, etc – but we’ve spoken with enough people to know that it’s not always easy. Overall, would you say things have been easy for you?
It was anything but a smooth road! It’s still not. I’m only in my second year of business and there have been too many mistakes and blunders to count. Trusting people I shouldn’t have trusted, thinking I was making money when I wasn’t, figuring out my life/work balance. You just have to keep on going. My first real year in business, I almost gave up countless times. There was a huge heatwave that summer and I couldn’t get any accounts because no one wanted to buy chocolate in a heatwave. It was awful.
Because I stopped being a full-time employee and became a full-time self-employed mom, my husband had to pick up my health insurance which was a huge financial hit at the time. But I had a lot of support from my parents, my husband and my friends and everyone told me to just keep going–and I did. You just have to keep going. Don’t look back-only forward. The amount of time you have with your children and your family is finite. You only get to experience your daughter be a baby once. I needed to keep going so I could have that time.
I believed in my product, I just needed to believe in myself, and I’m glad I did.
So, as you know, we’re impressed with Nola Rose Chocolate – tell our readers more, for example what you’re most proud of as a company and what sets you apart from others.
Nola Rose Chocolate is an innovative maker of gourmet and premium chocolates, offering unique flavors and innovative adaptations of common classics. I plan to build a brand that delivers a “wow” factor through its artistic, chef-driven creations. We make hand-painted, artisanal chocolate bon bons and customized treats (that can include corporate logos) that are made with the highest quality ingredients. Having the capability to print corporate or brand logos on our chocolates while using the most premium ingredients has been a major part of our success.
Who have you been inspired by?
I look to women like my sister and my mother to be strong and smart and caring. I have found that the majority of women I have come across trying to start my business have been amazingly generous with their time and guidance and help. I’m currently looking to expand our operation and have been shopping my business plan. While taking this route I have received invaluable insight from so many people in our San Diego community. I didn’t realize when I started this whole thing how supportive the people of San Diego would be in encouraging their small businesses. It is truly heartwarming to feel like so many people here want to see me and my family succeed in this venture.
- Wholesale pricing available upon request.
- Four piece box available for $10, 9 piece for $20. Call or email to order.
- $2 per piece on display at Chocolat in Hillcrest or Chocolate in the Gaslamp
- Website: www.nolarosechocolate.com
- Phone: 619.321.7885
- Email: Robin@nolarosechocolate.com
- Instagram: @nolarosechocolate
- Facebook: @nolarosechocolate
Dan Gurga, Robin Katz