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Hidden Gems: Meet Shana Elson of Top This Chocolate

Today we’d like to introduce you to Shana Elson.

Shana, we appreciate you taking the time to share your story with us today. Where does your story begin?
I began taking baking and pastry classes for fun while working as an attorney. I got really into it and began interning in restaurant kitchens to improve my skills. I was unfulfilled in my legal career and looking for something happier and that felt like a contribution. I wanted to open a dessert business or at least transition into the food & beverage industry. I went back to business school to explore the options. Top This Chocolate began as an idea for a class project in Entrepreneurship 101. The idea gathered steam as I went through the entrepreneurship program and continued to work through the concept, Before graduation, I entered it into a pitch competition for women and ended up winning the $25,000 first-place prize! That was the vote of confidence I needed to actually launch. Today the store is two and half years old and I love the delight each customer takes in curating their own chocolate creation.

Would you say it’s been a smooth road, and if not what are some of the biggest challenges you’ve faced along the way?
Not at all! It took five years and multiple failed lease negotiations to find a suitable retail space. I was underfunded and had to move to Ventura to make the numbers work. Then I had trials and tribulations getting the health department to approve standard chocolate equipment. That almost sank the opening of the store. Five months after the grand opening Covid hit. That’s a whole other story. But at the end of the day, the chocolate and toppings speak for themselves.

Thanks for sharing that. So, maybe next you can tell us a bit more about your business?
Top This Chocolate is the world’s only customizable-on-the-spot chocolate store. At the shop in Ventura Harbor Village, customers can see premium milk, white or dark liquid chocolate poured out, topped with their choice of nuts, dried fruit, candy, cookies and salty snacks and flash dried right before their eyes. The liquid chocolate is in full view pouring from chocolate machines. Customers can also put a name on a bar in chocolate letters. Each custom creation is ready in less than EIGHT minutes.

Any advice for finding a mentor or networking in general?
I email people I want to know and explain to them who I am and why I’m reaching out to them. You never know.

Pricing:

  • $12 for a premium chocolate bar with four toppings
  • $18 for a premium chocolate bar with name on it (up to 9 letters) and four toppings
  • $11 for ready-made chocolate bars on shelves

Contact Info:


Image Credits
Ed Rudolph (Addition and five bars photo) Rebecca Kajumba (Sophia Bar) Socially You (the other four)

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