Staff Photo by Dan Henry/Chattanooga Times Free Press Michelle Patel, owner of The Chocolate Box, speaks about her custom chocolate treats while at the East-Brainerd company Thursday afternoon.
Nichelle Patel and Patti Taylor became bakers and business owners by chance.
The two women didn't start out their careers thinking they'd be dealing with sugar, chocolate and cakes every day, but a little bit of luck has brought them together in what they hope will be a fruitful venture.
"I was looking for a store location and just in this economy, it's not a good time to be starting something new," said Patel, owner and creator of The Chocolate Box, which opened earlier this month within Taylor's East Brainerd Cake Boutique shop. "There seemed to be a very good marriage of both of our relationships: cake and chocolate, they go together very well."
In August 2009, Patel left a job working in product development to take care of her family and soon started experimenting with making things out of chocolate. She began to grow her business, making custom cakes, lollipops, truffles and novelty items from chocolate.
After more than a year, she decided it was time to take her business from her home kitchen to a place better suited for the volume she plans to put out.
"I've always had a creative flare that I've wanted to bring to things," she said. "I'm not a baker. It's a talent that I've developed."
Patel doesn't want her business to be a chocolate shop, but rather a place where people can come to find novelty items "you can't find anywhere else." She's made carousels, high heeled shoes, ducks, houses and footballs all from chocolate, and said she won't turn down custom creation ideas.
By combining the efforts of Patel and Taylor's businesses, the two hope to be able to help one another and provide an increased array of options for customers.
Taylor has focused on specialty, wedding and cookie cakes for the past three years and said having Patel in her shop can expand her offerings.
TRY IT OUT
* What: Chocolate Box open house
* When: Jan. 18 from 10:30 a.m. to 1 p.m.
* Where: The Chocolate Box, within the Cake Boutique at 7550 East Brainerd Road
"She can do a lot -- the specialty chocolate -- that I didn't indulge in," Taylor said. "For instance, in most weddings, the bride's going to have favors for the guests. Now she can do her cake and her favors right here."
The women said they can pair Taylor's cakes with Patel's chocolate creations, effectively creating a one-stop-shop for people looking to provide sweet treats for a big event.
Both businesses require items to be made to order, with a few treats on display only in the store. Patel said she might get to the point where she accepts online orders, but for now she prefers to have the in-person interaction with her customers.
She said she's relying on word of mouth and her marketing skills to get the business off the ground, but she hopes much for the future.
"Everybody that wants something out of chocolate, we will help them -- if it's one item or a thousand items," she said.
Follow Brittany Cofer on Twitter by following this link.
Brittany Cofer is a business reporter who has been with the Chattanooga Times Free Press since January 2010. She previously worked as a general assignment Metro reporter. In the Business department, she covers banking, retail, tourism, consumer issues and green issues. Brittany is from Conyers, Ga., and spent two years at Kennesaw State University in Kennesaw, Ga., before transferring to the University of Georgia. She graduated from the university’s Grady College of Journalism in December ...