BY KRISTINA HACKER
Manteca resident Alice Johnson is living an entrepreneur’s dream. She took something that she is passionate about and turned it into a successful business venture with sweet rewards — and it’s not just the taste of Johnson’s award-winning chocolates.
It all started 12 years ago when Alice’s husband gave her a book about making chocolates. She soon immersed herself into everything chocolate, coming up with different recipes and sharing them with friends and family.
When her husband went back to school to get a teaching credential two and half years ago, she thought it was the perfect opportunity to turn her hobby into a business. The homemaker and mother of five turned a playroom next to the kitchen into a dedicated “chocolate room” and obtained a Class A Cottage license — and thus Alice’s Chocolates was born.
“The reason I started doing this as a business is because working with chocolates makes me happier than anything else. And when I give people chocolate, they get happy eating them,” said Alice.
She said making the leap from hobby to business venture was relatively easy as the friends and family members who had enjoyed her chocolate gifts throughout the years were all too willing to recommend her chocolatier services for corporate events, weddings and holiday presents.
Alice also has a sure-fire marketing strategy —free samples.
When Alice entered one of her chocolates into the California State Fair competition in 2016, she spent her days at the fairgrounds walking around and offering fairgoers free samples. Alice left the Sacramento fairgrounds with a Best in Show award for her dark chocolate raspberry confection and dozens of new fans.
While the busiest time of year — November through Valentine’s Day — is almost behind her now, Alice stays pretty busy with orders year-round and also takes her chocolates to different fairs and festivals in the area.
She said it’s a juggling act to stay busy, but not too busy as she only makes her chocolate orders one week before delivery so they stay as fresh as possible. While a storefront may still be years away, she is considering investing in a larger production area and in better equipment.
“I get excited about the machinery,” said Alice, who remembers when she used to heat chocolate up with a toaster oven before purchasing a tempering machine. She still can be seen stirring the fudge centers of her chocolate treats for an hour at a time.
She also spends a lot of time creating new recipes. She’s currently trying to come up with a marshmallow and caramel mix.
“It’s not as simple as it sounds,” she said.
Her children enjoy her creative bouts, she said, as there is a “blooper” jar just inside the door of the chocolate room where the delicious rejects are available for anyone to grab. She also tries to have a day every couple of months where her kids can come in the chocolate room and have some fun dipping marshmallows and pretzels to make their own chocolate creations.
“My youngest introduces me as ‘This is Alice, she makes chocolates,’” said Alice.
The most difficult part of having a home business, she said, is time management. There are many steps in the chocolate making process that cannot be put on hold at a moment’s notice and sometimes running a busy household at the same time can be a challenge.
“The most rewarding is the satisfaction of doing something I’ve dreamed of for so long and the Cottage law came around and made it a reality,” she said.
For more information about Alice’s Chocolates, visit aliceschocolates.com or call 209-483-1190.