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VaHi's Cacao Chocolate Owners Unveil New Line and Sweet Secrets of Success

These two female entrepreneurs knows what it takes to keep a business that serves a very niche demographic afloat. Just find your business soulmate and take the plunge.

Cacao Chocolate Co. in Atlanta is known for its rich, luscious chocolate and unique infusions of creative and surprising flavors, but it’s the pairing of these two fearless entrepreneurs that proves sweetest.

The chocolate company, which has a location in VaHi and another in Buckhead, will celebrate its ninth anniversary this year and just unveiled its new chocolate line last week.

Starting a business is always challenging, but starting one with such a specific product can be almost a death sentence for entrepreneurs who have less tenacity.

Sure, the new line of 14 specially crafted flavor infusions paired with dark, milk and white chocolates is mouth-watering, but the pairing that really sticks with customers is that of Cacao owners Kristen Hard and Caline Jarudi.

Hard said she knew when she met Jarudi at an event that she had to listen to the voice telling her that this would be her business soulmate.

“She is like my perfect other half in the business, and we’re best friends. She’s the godmother of my daughter,” Hard said about Jarudi.

Jarudi calls Hard a “model entrepreneur for a woman” while describing herself as more of an accidental entrepreneur.

However, together, they’ve created a successful business that continues to grow, and they shared some of the secrets to their success.

Take a plunge, then learn from the results.

“It’s such a big move, and I think that you have to really be willing to take a plunge and be OK with whatever happens,” said Jarudi, who attribute’s Hard’s business success to her ability to take a plunge and inspire others in the company to take it right along with her. “…And whatever happens from it, if it’s good, amazing; and if it’s not so good, it’s a learning experience. Everything is a learning experience, and I think we’ve been really good at that. Not everything has worked, and we’ve looked at what hasn’t worked. What hasn’t worked has been valuable.”

Listen to Feedback. Make Changes.

“It’s definitely been a path. I think that over the years, we’ve tried to become more and more accessible. I think that we heard from people some years ago that we maybe were not so accessible, and so we worked hard to relate more to people in a way that is like an entry level into fine chocolate,” Hard said.
She said in the beginning an experience at Cacao was a high, connoisseur level experience that left others feeling intimidated.

“And that’s what this new line is about. One more step in that direction of introducing people to fine chocolate without making them feel that they should know more.”

The new collection is inspired by the store’s truffles as well as recent relationships Hard has made in the coffee world. She said the line is whimsical and fun.

Go the Distance

The Peruvian addition to the chocolate line was inspired by Hard’s two weeks traveling the South American country while she was four months pregnant last year. Hard said she always travels (usually to Venezuela) for about two weeks at a time, visiting about 12 farms during her visit to find the best cocoa beans.

“It’s pretty difficult to locate this kind of chocolate,” Hard said.

Only Accept the Best

Hard said, “I try to find the best of the best of the best, but that’s really hard because much of it is made from commodity Cacao,” which has regulated prices. This means that regardless of quality, the cocoa bean prices remain the same.

Hard says her company pays several times the regulated prices for their cacao beans to ensure the highest quality of beans.

“It’s important that those cocoa beans are the best in the world,” she said.

Be Fearless and Focused on Your Vision

“You have to be really fearless. You really have to be a visionary and be fearless at the same time,” Jarudi said.

She said successful entrepreneurs see the big picture while observing the small details simultaneously without allowing the small details to hinder, overwhelm or paralyze them.

Share the Love, er, Chocolate.

Of course, Hard and Jarudi are absolute chocolate lovers. They opened their stores to share their love with the world.

“When someone takes a bite of the chocolate, we hope there is an experience of love and joy,” Hard said.

Cacao also has Love collections, which can be great for Valentine’s Day. Find out more by checking out visiting Cacao’s Buckhead location at  2817 Peachtree Road or its location in Virginia-Highland at 312 C North Highland Avenue or visit them online here.

Brian Gross February 13, 2013 at 01:49 PM
Nice to see some new content about VaHi! Thanks Kiri
Kiri Walton February 13, 2013 at 01:54 PM
No problem, Brian. I had a great time speaking to these fearless women. Got a features idea? An arts, faith or nonprofit story idea? Shoot 'em my way to kiri.walton@patch.com.
InTown Chicklet February 14, 2013 at 01:34 PM
I hope that Cacao learns that their business is about the customer experience and not presentation and product alone. Imagine trying to order from a catalog of items only to learn they no longer carry what is listed, with prices that aren't accurate... imagine placing a $2,000+ order with a company and not even receiving a thank you note. I really want to support their local business, but some of the basics need to be addressed first. The expereince and value of a client should be considered first, improved, and only then will the business flourish.
Denise & Dom Romeo February 14, 2013 at 03:26 PM
For those of you who would like to do more than woo your sweetheart with a box of truffles this year, it is not too late. You can immerse your sweetie in the world of chocolate at one of five 40-minute classes taught by Chocolate Whisperer, Kristen Hard (owner of Cacao Atlanta) THIS evening. The class will feature a brief educational talk, three ounces of artisanal chocolate to craft your own confections, hot cocoa, cookies and pastries. Classes will be held at their Inman Park “laboratoire”. To register, please visit http://www.cacaoatlanta.com/events. And, for even more information about Cacao Atlanta, please visit http://vahi.org/its-not-just-chocolate-its-cacao.

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