Tips for Starting a Successful Specialty Business

Tips for Starting a Successful Specialty Business

by Heleigh Bostwick, February 2010

Wine with your Chocolate?

If you're thinking of starting a specialty business, you've probably done your due diligence. But there's nothing like learning from those who have been there before. That's why we've asked three successful specialty business owners to share their tips for success.

Lisa Francoise Schafer

Owner, Sweet Beauty Organic Chocolate Spa Treatments

“Owning a business is the hardest, yet most rewarding thing I have ever done,” Schafer says of her organic fair trade-certified spa treatment company. Schafer offers her top three tips for starting a successful specialty business:

  1. Write a business plan with a mission statement, and to stick to it. “You cannot be all things to all people,” Schafer says.

  2. Follow your instincts: “I knew how to make wonderful skin care products, but knew little about starting a company. I questioned my instincts and ended up making some costly [mistakes].”

  3. Ignore the naysayers: “It doesn't matter if your idea seems crazy; I got lots of giggles when I said that I was starting a chocolate skin care company.”


These tips have helped Schafer's Sweet Beauty quadruple its revenue in just four years.

Ed Engoron

Co-founder, Choclatique

“Even during difficult economic times, people still love their chocolate,” says Ed Engoron, Co-Founder of Choclatique, a “super premium-quality chocolate company”.

Engoron echoes Schafer's advice of sticking to the plan saying, “Do not be tempted to change a well thought-out plan.”

Like many businesses today, Choclatique is online. This is why Engoron advises focusing on your website and packaging. “Since we don't have a store, our packaging and our website are the most important things,” Engoron says.

His final bit of advice: perseverance. Engoron credits last year's holiday season as a turning point in his company (and a life-lesson in perseverance.)

“Three weeks before Christmas I was [giving out samples of] Choclatique Chocolate at Bloomie's in the Big Apple,” Engoron says. The next thing he knew, Engoron and his chocolates were featured on the Rachel Ray Show and promoted on other television and radio shows and magazine articles. “After nearly 5 years of working 15 to 18 hours a day, we were an ‘instant' success',” says Engoron.

Alexandra Marnier Lapostolle

President, Marnier Lapostolle Inc. and owner, Lapostolle Winery

While many new business owners are tempted to do it all, Lapostolle cautions not to. “Don't be afraid to delegate, even if you think it won't be done as well as if you did it yourself.” she says.

One way to ease your anxieties, Lapostolle says, is by laying the groundwork upfront: “Establish your priorities— hard work, commitment, patience, and leadership.”

A final piece of advice: Think out of the Box, but not too much: “Be innovative, but not out there,” she says, adding “Have a vision, but be able to adapt it to reality.”

How did Lapostolle know she'd finally made it? “On the production side, when producers were fighting to sell us grapes, and on the consumer side, when The Wine Spectator and The Wine Enthusiast give us their highest awards last year,” she says.

In addition to awards, Lapostolle's vineyard also achieved Carbon Neutral status, a nod to wine bottles made from 70% recycled glass and cases made from sustainable forest wood.


For more information please visit:

1. Sweet Beauty Organic Chocolate Spa Treatments

2. Choclatique

3. Marnier Lapostolle Inc.