A Year In Review for Queer Chocolatier

Happy Birthday, Queer Chocolatier! 

Queer Chocolatier shares a birthday with my late grandmother who would be 88 years old today. I launched the business on this day to honor the person responsible for molding my early chocolate experiences. Today, one year after opening up and professionally working with chocolate, I am light years from where I thought I would be. 

And I couldn't be happier. Or more exhausted. Or more nervous. Or more determined. 

Basically, I'm more of everything. I'm turned to all the way to eleven.

As we approach the opening of the Queer Chocolatier Chocolate House in the next few of weeks, I am taking a few moments to reflect upon this past year of all the growth and shaping of Queer Chocolatier. 

Enjoy this video review of our first year of being #outandopenforbusiness
 



Cheri and I knew it would be important to start a business that we weren't finding as customers. We appreciate good quality products made my passionate folx, but we also wanted to become a business that would take those key components--quality and passion--and add them to our political mindset and be unapologetically transparent to those who engage with us.

We started as an online business and added farmers' markets as ways to meet people and sell our products as well as our vision. It was an incredibly endearing process to make new friends and to be bare about who we are and what we stand for. I used to study farmers' markets as a sociologist so being a vendor at one was a complement to another chapter in my life. But being a scrappy young business the first few weeks led to a quick spurt of growth by obtaining a retail store front, despite still renting a kitchen and having lots of office supplies still at home.

Having a retail space and weekly markets allowed me to add more truffle flavors to my offerings. In addition to my every day flavors, I incorporated monthly and seasonal flavors as well, along with the occasional fun flavors to play with. We started to receive a bit of press, first with the Ball State Daily News and, just before Christmas, Cheri and I were featured in the Wall St. Journal. What an extraordinary wrap up to the end of 2017!

We also started offering Guided Chocolate Tasting Events in our cozy retail space. We wanted to make the experience of eating chocolate to be intentional, enlightening, fun, and more thoroughly delicious. During these events, we were even more transparent about where our chocolate comes from, our philosophy regarding business, and we were able to deepen relationships with folx in and around Muncie. There are doubtlessly individuals with more expertise in chocolate than I have, but I am endlessly curious and passionate about chocolate and I want to share that with anyone who might be in arm's reach or shouting distance.

As such, my wife pushed me beyond my limitations and encouraged me to leap to the next branch in our business evolution: finding a brick and mortar space to build out my very own kitchen. A Chocolate House to call our own and to make everyone's. With a Chocolate House, we could expand our chocolate offerings, spread more knowledge about chocolate, and hold space for those who just want to be welcomed as they are. 

I loved the idea but I wasn't sure I had the confidence to accomplish this on my own. I was scared. I don't have any experience in opening a Very Serious Business and I don't have much in the way of mentors or all-important resources. But my wife believed in me enough to keep pushing and came up with our financing idea of opening our business up to microinvestors. We had eleven separate $1,000 investments plus an angel investor join us in our journey.

Excuses and feet-dragging were replaced with YouTube and asking questions and getting comfortable with being ignorant in a lot of areas of regulation, construction, and business-to-business relationships. I decided to be open about not knowing things and trusting professionals who are paid to know the things I don't. Granted, this leaves a person vulnerable, and I was and am vulnerable, but in most cases I ended up being helped by trustworthy individuals. Even when I run into challenges from other folks, it isn't necessarily because they aren't trustworthy, but maybe they are in their own journey of transparency and are vulnerable to being seen as not knowledgeable. It is frustrating, but I have grown in my ability to be persistent. I am proud to say we will be out and open for business within a few weeks. 

Going into my second year of business is not really much different than when I was about to launch. I still feel like I'm in over my head but I love chocolate and don't want to stop working with it. I also love people and want to cook for them and share with them my passion for food. I hope those things about myself never change. But this upcoming second year will be marvelous and I am eager to discover the ways in which I will be surprised in how Queer Chocolatier grows.

Small Business, LGBTQIA, cocoa wonkery

"Enabler? I barely know her!" Queer Chocolatier's First Podcast Interview

Meet my friend Chris!

Chris Clarke has a wonderfully engaging and entertaining podcast: Something About Food? The title is incredibly literal; something, anything to do with food comes up and listening to it as much as being a part of it feels as nourishing and comfortable as if you're reaching across the table to sneak a bite from a beloved's plate. Chris's warm, open, curious nature--along with her own food expertise from over three decades of being a chef--makes her a gifted interviewer and I'm extremely hopeful that our chat was the first of many.

It was a pure joy, being able to speak about Queer Chocolatier, travel, food, my wife, LGTBQIA2+ issues, and more food. I hope I made all of you proud as you listen to me wax poetic about all the things I love. And, if you like what you hear regarding Chris and her passion for getting everyone around the table for a chat, you should give her a subscription and review! Support your makers and creators, be it food or stories!

Check out our conversation, Episode #38 "The Enabler," at the following podcatchers:

On iTunes: http://bit.ly/itunes_somethingaboutfood
On Google Play: http://bit.ly/google_somethingaboutfood
On Spotify: http://bit.ly/spotify_somethingaboutfood
On Libsyn: http://bit.ly/somethingaboutfood_38
On Stitcher: http://bit.ly/stitcher_somethingaboutfood
On iHeartRadio: http://bit.ly/iheart_somethingaboutfood

Thanks again, Chef! Can't wait to have you come visit our Chocolate House in Muncie!

LGBTQIA

Thoughts on Pride from a Queer Chocolatier

Thoughts on Pride from a Queer Chocolatier

In the forty-nine years between the Stonewall Riots and today, the LGBTQIA2+ community has experienced wave upon wave of changes, from new letters of identities being included in our community acronym to the SCOTUS ruling in 2015 that same-sex marriage be federally recognized and from a reboot of Queer Eye and to black and brown stripes being sewn into the rainbow flag.

The month-long celebration of our queerness and trans*-ness in the heat of June sunshine has also changed from its inception. Some of the changes render Pride celebrations hardly recognizable from the early riots, yet much of the emotional outlets and connections remain as true to message as ever: “We’re Here! We’re Queer!”

My wife and I have attended three Pride marches in two states in the last three years. We weren’t married during the first year we marched alongside one another under the brutal Indiana summer sun but, again thanks to SCOTUS, we wed later that same year. Indy Pride was extraordinary that year due to the outpouring of support in the face of the passing of RFRA--Religious Freedom Restoration Act--which was a blatant attempt to codify statewide discrimination against queer and trans* folx.

Hoosiers showed up in large numbers to surround us with love.

 
 Cheri and I, before we were married, marching with Indy Feminists in the Indy Pride Parade in June 2015.

Cheri and I, before we were married, marching with Indy Feminists in the Indy Pride Parade in June 2015.

 

Living in Minneapolis for our first year of marriage allowed us to attend the Twin Cities Pride celebrations and, although we knew that it was the third-largest Pride parade outside of San Francisco and New York, we were in awe. It was truly a massive crush of humanity.

We relished in our open celebration of our love in a city that seems beyond accepting of queer folx.

 
 My wife and I sharing a Pride-ful kiss at Twin Cities Pride in 2016.

My wife and I sharing a Pride-ful kiss at Twin Cities Pride in 2016.

 

Last year, my wife and I moved back to Muncie, Indiana and our small cadre of queer friends all attended Indy Pride together. Our group has folx ranging in age from 20s to 50s and Pride means different things to us individually as much as generationally. This was also the first Pride where I got to meet up with my aunt and her own queer crew.

 
 Our return to Indy Pride in 2017, without marching in the parade this time.

Our return to Indy Pride in 2017, without marching in the parade this time.

 

Queer Chocolatier's First Pride

Bittersweet Truffles (4-pack)
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Queer Chocolatier first became #outandopenforbusiness last August, so this is the first Pride month for the business. As such, Cheri and I put lots of thought into how we want to celebrate the month with chocolate and transparency.

For the month of June--for Pride--I am going to return to my roots and celebrate this month with my Bittersweet Truffles. No rainbow truffles or glitter from Queer Chocolatier.

Bittersweet Truffles represent not only my beginnings as a chocolatier, but they represent pride in the quality of what I offer you as well as serving as a metaphor for the complicated feelings I have about Pride celebrations: 

I am simultaneously critical of and hopeful for Pride.

Pride Critiques

As Pride has grown even more flashy and colorful, it still remains overwhelmingly white, racially-speaking. Recent Pride events across the nation also have increased their rapidly-growing corporate and police presence.

In part, this can be explained because of the organizing bodies that put the work into coordinating Pride events are also mostly white. Observing this isn't meant to be callous; it is a feat to put together such events but the amount of labor, including emotional labor, must be absolutely draining. For someone who is of lower income, or not able-bodied, or of an ethnic or racial minority, such labor may be simply too much to add to their own daily struggles of societal navigation.

In many instances, it is easy to see how today's version of Pride lacks resonance with queer and/or trans* persons of color as well as younger folx. QTPOC are more likely to have negative encounters with law enforcement than white queer and/or trans* folx. And, broadly speaking, our queer and/or trans* youth are savvy and critical of capitalism and conspicuous consumerism in a way that older generations are not. Both QTPOC and younger queer and trans* folx are at greater risk of economic, physical, and mental harm.

QTPOC

When the 2017 Columbus, Ohio Pride parade was blocked by Black Lives Matter protesters who were bringing to light the violence that QTPOC experience, some white organizers and participants were irate that the space was no longer made comfortable for them. Not only were they irate, they aggressively pursued charges against the Black Pride 4, thereby shining a harsh spotlight on the growing chasm between the middle-class white cis queers and QTPOC. There was a stark division on display during this parade and later at the Twin Cities parade, where protesters were quickly mobilized after the acquittal of the officer who killed Philando Castile; it is shameful that cities that have shown a lot of acceptance with queerness have not put in the labor to be as racially and ethnically inclusive.

It is especially shameful that this division is within our own house. Particularly as we owe Sylvia and Marsha a great debt for the roots of our month of celebration but we also demonstrate that we would likely kick them out of "our" space were they with us today. Pride organizers can and must do more to pass the mic and be inclusive.

Queer and/or Trans* Youth

A segment of our queer youth lack a connection with Pride because they haven't directly witnessed some of the ugly historic events firsthand.  Possibly this could be a consequence of the success of society's acceptance of queer and trans* people. But I suspect our queer and trans* youth is sometimes leery of Pride because in part of the pervasive "Rainbow Marketing" corporatization and commercialization of the events.

For the longest time, queer and trans* folx weren't seen as market-worthy. More frequently, we were discriminated against before we even could show that some of us had money to spend; folx would have to remain in the closet when banking or purchasing a home or applying for work. Some still do since there are too many states that still have no legal protections for queer and/or trans* persons. When Pride parades are filled with corporate sponsors and employers touting their diverse workforce, some older queer and/or trans* people see this as progress because they remember a time that corporations willfully forgot that green ($$$) was a color in the rainbow.

However, the youth in our marginalized community are often crushed under the wheel of society's venomous "religious liberty" laws and are more concerned with finding a safe place to call home rather than which company is courting them for their disposable income. Our youth are still suffering from violent bullying, mental health issues, and lack of stability at home or work once they enter the job market. It is shallow to be excited over the next rainbow flavored or colored widget to buy when LGBTQIA2+ youth are 120% more likely to experience homelessness versus others.

These overlapping issues of race and class must be addressed in order for Pride to remain inclusive, relevant, and courageous. 

Pride Praise

Pride is not without bright and shining moments that are praiseworthy. As an effort to listen to and address the concerns of QTPOC, some cities such as Minneapolis and Edmonton, Canada are adopting a policy that uniformed police officers are not allowed at the Pride events but police officers can instead participate out of uniform as members of the community. Whether this will fully tackle the dynamic between law enforcement and marginalized communities is not the question, but the steps taken in engaging with the community on their terms will hopefully bear fruit to show how we can reclaim our spaces.

Again, it cannot be overstated that Pride began as a riotous demonstration of visibility, dignity, and liberty. 

As such, we cannot remain complacent in simply partying and shopping our way to full equality and justice in society. To that point, Anthony Niedwecki wrote in his piece in The Advocate earlier this month, "As we again feel that same boot of oppression crushing down on us and other minority communities, it is time for us to once again use our collective might in active defense of justice and equality." Pride, out of necessity, must be a political event and we need to do all we can collectively to engage one another so that we can more fully resist the oppression of dominant groups.

One way that folx are making a political statement is to throw Queerbomb events rather than participate in the mainstream Pride parades. Queerbomb Austin, for example, turns to crowdfunding instead of courting corporations for money to celebrate their queerness on their own terms, with promoting speakers such as a queer deaf community activist and sex workers' rights activists in 2018. In contrast, Pride events have arguably pursued palatability rather than authenticity. 

I hope Pride can reclaim some of its defiant glory.

But perhaps out of some small measure of defiance, several communities throughout the country organized their first Pride events for 2018. Rural spaces and small towns often are challenging places for queer and/or trans* folx to be visible and free. When communities come together to launch their own Pride parade, without the flash and slick advertising found in LGBTQIA2+ meccas, the main thing on display is courage. Columbus, IN, home of the (in)famous Mike Pence, celebrated Pride in April of 2018 based on the hard work and organization of a bisexual high school student. Southern Illinois is also having its first Pride event this yearwith much of its efforts on supporting the rural LGBTQ youth who struggle with isolation and rejection more than their counterparts throughout the country.

DIY Pride events aren't limited to small towns throwing their first celebration. The National Women's Soccer League recognizes Pride as a meaningful event for its players and fans, however, one team regularly holds out. The Washington Spirit owner, Bill Lynch, is a person who holds conservative political views and projects them regularly over his team and its operations, in ways that include not only dismissing Pride events but also in thwarting visiting team's star Megan Rapinoe's national anthem protest by unilaterally deciding to play the anthem while both soccer clubs were in their locker rooms. As a result, fans create their own Pride Night events as a way to push back against an owner of a club they feel doesn't represent their voice.

Still Proud

When queer and trans folx have adversity to face, we can galvanize to push back and boldly make a statement. But, when we have reached a certain level of "tolerance" or "acceptance" from society, we tend to forget that while some of our struggles have lessened, others in our family are still at risk of great harm. 

As a businessqueer, I am proud of being visible but I recognize it isn't easy for all of us to be so. Founding Queer Chocolatier has given me a platform. For others, Pride may be their platform and for others still, there may not be a platform to be had.

For me, to remember the current challenges and risks faced by the most marginalized in our community is also to remember the recent and historical struggles our community faced. Our liberation must be for our most vulnerable. 

We need to continue to remember our roots. We need to return to our basics. We need to return to unapologetic love. And I can do that while still being proud.


Let me know how you feel about Pride, our community, and Queer Chocolatier. What would you want to see from our business to stand in solidarity with queer and/or trans* folx in our community?

And let me know how you would like to join me in solidarity. Because Pride is about all of us and it is political. And we can't make it in this world without each other.

Small Business, LGBTQIA

Expanding my business has introduced me to Shadow Morgan

I feel like a walking shadow version of myself.

I think folx generally like to fancy themselves as good people, good friends, and good partners. Include me in that camp. But, deep down, we all know the few times we could have all been a better friend to someone (letting a call go to voicemail instead of answering) or a better person (I don't pick up every piece of litter I see, but I sure as hell take back my shopping cart to the space it belongs because I'm not a monster).

What I mean by Shadow Morgan, though, is I feel something different and shifted in addition to not feeling like a good friend or wife or person.

  • My energy is shifted. I feel less extroverted than what I usually feel.
  • My home-cooking is different and uninspired, mostly because of a lack of appetite.
  • My interest in anything new, unless it is complete escapism, has waned.

But I don't let calls go to voicemail anymore. Mostly because a lot of those calls have rightfully just stopped coming through.

Is it worth it?

I have this very question in my head that works like a nagging snooze alarm. It's nagging in the sense that it comes around way too often, but irregularly so. Usually at times when I am feeling particularly low.

Funny how I don't often ask this of myself when I have good moments and days.

It gets increasingly difficult to remember and focus on those good, solid wins and it isn't fair to make my wife the Keeper of Good Memories when I am the one who needs to have them in my back pocket. It also isn't fair for me to look externally for the answer of "Is it worth it?" when I am actually living out what I know is a dream.

The honest answer is a begrudging yes. Yes, sigh, it is worth it. Gosh!

What to do with Shadow Morgan?

I figure Shadow Morgan is not just a phase, and isn't just a contextual phenomenon that is tied to the expansion of the business. Yes, I'm sure stress is manifesting itself in some ways. I've certainly become grayer, but I actually like that (and it helps that Cheri likes it, too). But I think the truth might just be a bit beyond the stress of this stage of the business.

I think I may actually have depressive symptoms. 

And, purely speaking for myself as I do not care to speak for anyone else who experiences depression, I kinda think coming to this conclusion is a good and healthy step for me (although a confirmation rather than my amateur diagnosis would be wiser). I can explore more clearly my moods and thoughts as they come to me and I can practice a bit more reflection as to how I come to feel the way I do.

Do I intend to go on any steps to medicate myself or pursue therapy or eat nothing but turmeric for a month? 

Maybe.

I don't care for the mockery of those who rely on medicine to cope with their day-to-day lives. I also don't particularly care for the mockery of those who follow acolytes who peddle snake oil. 

I care for people. 

I know that lots of folx are hurting and experience that hurt in a myriad of ways. I know that a lot of people seek refuge in whatever way they can. To that end, I know that there are others who seek to take advantage of those who are seeking help.

Those manipulative assholes can go jump in a lake.

Depression in the LGBTQIA2+ community

Our community experiences significant mental health issues at a greater rate than the general population. Much of our mental health stems from society's treatment of queer and/or trans* folx. Yes, we can get married now, but that was never the main issue for the diverse queer and/or trans* community as much as it was for cis gay men. We still face stigma and discrimination, both on the micro and macro levels (see Oklahoma's new bill signed for "faith-based" agencies to discriminate against LGBTQIA2+ couples from adoption).

Major depression is one of the two mental health issues queer and/or trans* folx experience, along with generalized anxiety disorder. Which means it shouldn't really be too much of a stretch for me to come to understand that I may be experiencing depression that is just manifesting at a time that is also coincidentally stressful.

  • I've isolated myself more than I would care to, but I don't have the spoons for a lot of company either.
  • I find confirmation of my failures rather than my successes.
  • My overall self-esteem is lower than what I would call usual for myself (although, to confess, it was quite high to start).

But, ultimately, coming to see this for what it is will allow me to make adjustments in my life, to communicate these adjustments, and to better manage my own expectations of myself and others.

Shadow Morgan adds another dimension to Morgan, it doesn't replace me altogether, nor is it something to "cure" or "push through" to "get over." That language is fairly violent. It can cause a lot of self-harm to someone who hears those words as a constant message. 

Our happiness/comfortable-driven society can go jump in a lake, too, for all I care because we need to address mental health with the dignity and respect it deserves.

New expectations, but same end goal: Open a damn fabulous chocolate house

Opening the Queer Chocolatier Chocolate House is still worth it. I need to say it more emphatically, in all honesty. And the reasons are countless in number. One of them is pertaining to this post: I care for the well-being of myself and for our queer and/or trans* family. 

I'm no doctor, although on my way to becoming an entirely different sort of doctor (which I totally and thankfully bailed on), I learned over and over again the importance of communities, spaces, and places and our personal connections to them. Queer Chocolatier is more than just tasty, ethical chocolate. We are queer and we demand to have a space carved out for queer and/or trans* folx and for those who stand in solidarity with us. 

  • We will post access to resources, both in our chocolate house and on our website for the days you just can't quite leave your own home.
  • We will create a library for folx to hear stories that more closely reflect their own.
  • We will have Homo Decor pieces to warm your own spaces.
  • We will provide ways of connecting folx so that bonds can be created and strengthened.
  • And we will keep making damn fine chocolate along the way.

Reminding myself of the things Cheri and I plan to do with our chocolate house, and reminding myself that no one else is building what we are building, is a way for me to peek my head above the fog for a moment and keep in mind that, yes, this is all worth it. 

And even Shadow Morgan agrees. Albeit, begrudgingly. I'm okay with that.

Queer Chocolatier Chocolate House Updates Aplenty!

I am ashamed, as all fledgeling bloggers tend to be, of my recent dearth of blog entries.

But, it is all with good reason, I promise.

Not the shame, the dearth. Okay, maybe the shame, too.

So, without a whole lot of ado:

Chocolate House Progress Updates

 I'm so adorable while I document our deconstruction work!

I'm so adorable while I document our deconstruction work!

  • Demolition has not only begun in the space we are building out, but we are nearly done with the tearing apart of things and will soon be shifting toward building and creating spaces, features, furniture, and other elements in a constructive sense. The intention is to build and customize bench seating, counter space, a farmhouse table for large groups, and some neat-o decor using recycled and repurposed wood!
 Removal of a window display platform. Seating will be built in its place.

Removal of a window display platform. Seating will be built in its place.

 The removal of ceiling tiles opened the space up to reveal another two feet in overall height.

The removal of ceiling tiles opened the space up to reveal another two feet in overall height.

 Tearing down a partial wall in order to improve flow of foot traffic to the restroom.

Tearing down a partial wall in order to improve flow of foot traffic to the restroom.

  • Procurement of key materials, equipment, dishes, and additional furniture is well underway, including a steal-of-a-deal on some tables that my sister-in-law tipped us off to find! After acquiring the tables from OH-IO, our return trip to Indiana led to an impromptu venture to an antique mall and purchasing my first ever Fiestaware pieces that we will use for our delightful in-house rainbow coffee mugs!
 DRINK UP! WE ARE ALL A PART OF THE GLORIOUS RAINBOW!

DRINK UP! WE ARE ALL A PART OF THE GLORIOUS RAINBOW!

  • City and County officials have been quite helpful and informative once I went and actually ask questions. Folks are generally business-positive and want to help people get their businesses up and running properly.
    • But, as a note of constructive criticism: our City and County websites are fairly dreadful, I'm sad to say. It is a challenge to understand information or to know how to provide the necessary information that is being asked. For example, one Department's form is a catch-all form that could include businesses like me that are just beginning or larger businesses that are expanding their footprint. It is hard to know what applies and what doesn't without a skilled interpreter in these offices, which luckily, there are and they are friendly!
    • Conversations have been much better and clearer. Thanks to all who have given their time and knowledge to the project!
       
  • Queer Chocolatier now has angel investors as well as two new microinvestors who have demonstrated their belief in our vision and product (and a desire to have free truffles for life!)! The success of our company will truly be due to these kind (and savvy) individuals.
 Even though I'm not by myself, I'm doing it on my own terms with the support of phenomenal individuals. It is a daily inspiration to have folks invest in my vision and in me they way they have.

Even though I'm not by myself, I'm doing it on my own terms with the support of phenomenal individuals. It is a daily inspiration to have folks invest in my vision and in me they way they have.

Things I have discovered in this lair of mystery

I have yet to find gold doubloons or pieces of eight during the demo of this strange and mysterious space in a Muncie historical building, but I reckon it'll happen soon. Our Chocolate House is a head-scratcher when it comes to uncovering how it was built and "updated" (in the utter loosest sense of the term) over the decades by previous multiple tenants. 

For example:

  • Check out this rather stunning and fairly pristine wallpaper that was covered up by layers of wall augmentations.
 
 I can't tell if I really like it or not, but I like that it is there. Under lots of random other wall layers...

I can't tell if I really like it or not, but I like that it is there. Under lots of random other wall layers...

 
  • Based on the sheer number and placement, I think at least one person who modified this space was paid by the nail. Why does anybody need to put a nail at every blanketyblank inch?!?!?
  • Potentially related: I suspect someone was drunk during previous remodels.

Tl;dr...

  • Nothing is square and geometry is dead. Someone call Pythagoras and let him know.

New recipe development

If I can make it out of chocolate or put chocolate in it, I've tinkered with it in my home kitchen in the last few weeks!

Scones, chocolate ravioli, chocolate cinnamon rolls and other exquisite foods have been chucked away in my freezer because apparently I can only eat so much and those words have never made sense to me ever before in my lifetime.

An end of an era (albeit quite short)

This Saturday, April 21, will be Queer Chocolatier's last official farmers' market vending day.

I still remember all the butterflies I had in my stomach when I first hung up my banner last August and I am reminded daily of all the new friendships and connections I have made from being a market vendor. 

Farmers' markets hold a dear space in my heart, not just because I launched my business here but I also researched them in my sociology days. It is incredibly bittersweet to make this decision. As much as I want and try to be in multiple places at once, I'm unable, and while I will miss the summer mornings smelling fresh coffee and kettle corn, I am dreaming of the first Saturday morning that brunch will be served at our Chocolate House!

Small Business

It takes a village to build a house...in the Village.

It takes a village to build a house...in the Village.

I'm a headstrong, stubborn queer woman.

Occasionally, I'm reminded of this but not always in a negative way.

Expanding Queer Chocolatier into a chocolate house is one of the most positive ways I've been reminded that my stubbornness in doing things on my own is not needed here. 

Doing things on my own is, largely, a trait borne out of being a only child. It also comes from a place of lack. And, I'm more than sure that my own self-assuredness and ego has a role to play.

But, I've learned (and am learning) that people want to help and rally around those they unapologetically love. 

 Coffee cupping for the first time at Quills Coffee in Louisville, KY.

Coffee cupping for the first time at Quills Coffee in Louisville, KY.

The new year has brought a whirlwind of joy in the form of new knowledge and new connections. I'm learning so much from so many that my head is on a happy lil swivel. Seemingly everyone I meet has a way of contributing and bettering the upcoming Queer Chocolatier House. If it weren't for all of these folks chipping in, sharing, absorbing, blending all of their knowledge, expertise and passion, I would not only have a slow and lonely go of it, it wouldn't have the depth and richness it is bound to have.

I'm not only honing in on my chocolate passion and encountering other choco-philes (who host podcasts I listen to!),
I'm learning about business modeling from a friend I've known for a decade.
I'm learning about branding philosophies from a kind and creative soul I've just met.
I'm learning about coffee from roasters, equipment vendors, former baristas (including my wife) and former coffee shop managers.
I'm learning about queerness and gender from countless people everyday.
I'm learning about buildouts, remodels, and design from my father-in-law and my aunt along with others who are passionate about architecture and interior design style.

How could one person build that wealth of knowledge on one's own??

Maybe it is possible. But then to take that knowledge and act on it? That seems like quite the task. Luckily we have folks who believe in us and our vision for our contribution to our community that they are contributing financially and knowledgeably.

And I know I'll continue to need help along the way, and there are many ways you can join us in our venture.

The Village will be made all the better and sweeter for their efforts.

Thank you from the bottom of my headstrong, stubborn queer heart.

 

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Small Business, LGBTQIA

Unapologetic Transparency: Queer Chocolatier Makes The Wall Street Journal

Unapologetic Transparency:
Queer Chocolatier Makes the Wall Street Journal

 Cheri Ellefson (left) and Morgan Roddy at their retail space for their business, Queer Chocolatier in Muncie, IN.

Cheri Ellefson (left) and Morgan Roddy at their retail space for their business, Queer Chocolatier in Muncie, IN.

Our business model sits on a bedrock of transparency. 

We are queer and we will make you indulgent chocolates.
We take great care in knowing where and how our source chocolate is made. 
We love to explain our processes, our practices, our relationship, our social/political/economic positions.

Transparency and openness is who we are and what Queer Chocolatier stands for.

Our venture into transparency was furthered by an article feature in the Wall Street Journal

Raw, unyielding financial transparency.

The article, in the Wealth Management section of WSJ, digs into our salary, debt, expenses, and goals. When posed with this opportunity, Cheri immediately realized that not only was it tremendous exposure, but it solidifies our passion about being open about who we are, whereas I was truly nervous. Cheri is the perfect guide and business coach. She was right, and I knew that she was right, but it took her belief in me to steady my nerves and recognize the marvelous chance to double down on transparency. 

With this article, perhaps we can demystify the small business process, build solidarity with those who constantly feel shame about their debt or worry about money, and also strengthen our relationships with new and long-time customers with our consistency and commitment.

It isn't easy building a business from scratch. We have self-funded our business and our aunt is our first financial backer by loaning us $500. We hit hurdles and have challenges, but we are persistent and we accomplish our goals.

Our long-term goals are large. We know reaching them will take a lot (hard work, luck, and financial capabilities, etc.). And sometimes I'm afraid. It really isn't easy and if it weren't for a beautiful community of customers who have repeatedly demonstrated their belief in us and in our product, I would have already crawled into a hole by now.

But I am in unapologetic love. With my wife. With chocolate. With our community. With adventure.

Ask us any questions you have. We will gladly answer. We are your Queer Chocolatier.

LGBTQIA, Small Business

Cake, Christ, Court, and Country: A Series of Short, Open Letters by a Queer Chocolatier

Dear Charlie and Dave,

Congratulations on your wedding! What a beautiful occasion to celebrate your love with the most special human on earth! Your love must be incredibly enduring to hold your bond so fast, especially with such events that have lingered since your nuptials. 

Within the last two years, my wife and I got married as well! We went very cheap, simple, and small for our ceremony, but we intend to have a grander celebration in the coming years. We both love cake. And I will speak for both of us (and the larger LGBTQIA2+ community) and say "thank you" for helping us weed out bakers that we won't need to patron!

You see, we all deserve the best. I'm guessing that you visited Masterpiece Cakeshop under the impression that it was of high-quality. I'm sorry that instead of getting high-quality you got high court.

To me, as a queer woman who owns a small business, transparency has been paramount to my operations. My customers know who I am to the core. They know they will also receive an outstanding product. I truly wish that transparency was how everyone and every business operated, but I'm shouting at the wind with such a wish. Maybe my transparency model will catch on through example rather than wish.

But, to the point, no one deserves to be discriminated against, especially during a time of celebration and a moment that will imprint itself on your memory until twilight.  Your case not only represents many queer and/or trans* folk, but it represents a large percentage of the frayed and worn social fabric of our nation. At least the patches that are not square, white, male, cisgendered, heterosexual, and claim Christianity as their faith regardless of their misinterpretations of Christ's words and deeds. As Lourdes Rivera writes in her piece

"The Court cannot accept those arguments in the LGBT context without undermining hard-won gains in equality for women and other groups and inviting a regression to the dark parts of our past we thought we’d left behind: a world of segregated lunch counters, and women confined to the home."

This is all a rehashing of our value in society through the foggy lens of religion.

We are valuable. We are lovable. 

Remain courageous and remain unapologetically in love, Charlie and Dave.

In solidarity,
Morgan Roddy, Queer Chocolatier


Dear Jack,

I'm sure these are trying times for you as well. You hold a deeply-held belief and feel as though you are only defending your rights to creatively express yourself and maintain your religious freedom.

We actually have a few things in common. We are both passionate about our culinary creations. We are both white and cisgendered. We are both businesspersons, albeit you have certainly been in business much longer than I. And, on the face of your argument, I can imagine that I would not want to be compelled into doing something I do not believe.

But there is more than just the face of your argument. Its core, its roots, its bones are not only discriminatory but it is just really, really bad business, to the point that over 30 large businesses filed an amicus brief in support of the case's respondents. Not that you're without powerful, if not controversial, support of your own. You may contend that, even though the majority of America and the majority of small business owners find discrimination against queer folks to be utterly distasteful, we are in the wrong because we have been swayed while you remain resolute and firm in your beliefs.  

Fine. I'm not a Christian and, as a self-identified comfortable agnostic, I can say that I am not guided by a religion. You've got me there.

But I am often moved by the words and deeds of Christ and I am especially taken by those who preach the gospel through actions instead of words.

The message of Christ was neighborly love.

And I am thoroughly befuddled why a cakemaker--someone who makes a product that is nearly universally loved--who claims to be a follower of Christ can perform some monumentally unloving acts. Not only are you performing un-love, you and those defending your case in the highest court in the land are making a significant effort to codify your unloving, discriminatory business practices.

I know that my queer self will not discriminate in my business practices. I would even prepare a box of truffles for you, despite your "sincerely-held beliefs" that my marriage is an abomination. I consider myself lucky that you would simply not choose to do business with me since it is clear from the outset who I am and what my business is about.

It is about solidarity, fierce and unapologetic love, and chocolate. 

Jack, I hope your collective efforts prove to be a modern-day parallel of Sisyphus. 

Unapologetically yours,
Morgan Roddy, Queer Chocolatier


Dear Tony, 

(Wait, can I call you "Tony" or should I just stick with Justice Kennedy? I'm sorry for my fluster. You're the first Justice I've written, despite my deep and abiding love of RBG.)

You've got quite the hot seat on the bench! All eyes will be on you and your position on the Masterpiece Cakeshop v Colorado Civil Rights Commission. Folks like me are not exactly comfortable with this arrangement, but we are hopeful all the same.

We watched you give Hobby Lobby--and conservative businesses and the religious right--a victory in taking away women's access to birth control through employer-sponsored health insurance coverage. But, a great many of us also celebrated your position in Obergefell: 

No union is more profound than marriage, for it embodies the highest ideals of love, fidelity, devotion, sacrifice, and family. In forming a marital union, two people become something greater than once they were. As some of the petitioners in these cases demonstrate, marriage embodies a love that may endure even past death. It would misunderstand these men and women to say they disrespect the idea of marriage. Their plea is that they do respect it, respect it so deeply that they seek to find its fulfillment for themselves. Their hope is not to be condemned to live in loneliness, excluded from one of civilization's oldest institutions. They ask for equal dignity in the eyes of the law. The Constitution grants them that right.

You tempest of the Court! How you pitch us to and fro!

All feelings aside (or as many as will be patient enough to sit for a brief minute without jumping back into the fray), you have quite the case in front of you. The questions of how corporations govern themselves, how government and businesses and individual customers engage with one another, and the friction between free speech (or religion or expression) and anti-discrimination are not easy ones to mull over, but you fully begin that process today.

I begrudgingly recognize the personhood of corporations that our nation seems to hold as true. That seems to be of a particular import in this case as Jack Phillips contends mightily that it is his beliefs that are under assault, his expression that is being coerced by the State of Colorado.

Is that the same as Masterpiece Cakeshop holding those positions? Can the corporate veil simultaneously protect Phillips while he also seeks to shed it? Can he possibly begin to, and please forgive me Justice Kennedy, have his cake and eat it, too?

I will be waiting anxiously until the coming year until you indulge us with your views on this case. As a businessperson, a queer person, and as an American. 

Respectfully yours,
Morgan Roddy, Queer Chocolatier


Dear America,

We are in a fit. And I am exhausted by it.

If you think queer men don't deserve a wedding cake, that they deserve to be discriminated against, that religion is above law regardless of the notion that religion can and is used by some as a thin veil to display power rather than a platform to display love, then how can we move on as a nation?

Perhaps we need to have a sit down chat over some chocolate to figure this out. Together. 

We must do better,
Morgan Roddy, Queer Chocolatier

LGBTQIA

Getting Ready for the Holigays!

Getting Ready for the Holigays!

It's the middle of November and I am now contractually obligated as a small business owner to talk about the holidays.

Or, holigays!

This time of year is a pressure cooker of emotions inside a frenzy of motion wrapped underneath a pretty paper wrapping and bow. Memories, both pleasant and decidedly not, flood us wave after wave in unrelenting fashion until we've turned the corner to January.

And this is for all of us.

Not just those of us in the LGBTQIA2+ community.

 Our wedding announcement in December 2015.

Our wedding announcement in December 2015.

Holidays Since Marriage

For me, since marriage, holidays have meant something different. Throughout my 20s and most of my 30s, I'd spent holidays with my aunt or my family of choice (friends who I'd adopted, you see). I'd throw a big meal around Thanksgiving (before "Friendsgiving" as a term had legs) and I'd crash someone's home for Christmas.

No muss, no fuss.

But now I have in-laws and my idea of family has grown. I have a mother-in-law who loves to bake, a father-in-law who can make nearly anything by his hands, sisters-in-law who have brought me into the fold more quickly than I ever expected (to the point where I often can't keep up!), a delightfully charming 9-year-old nephew, and a beautiful bouncing baby niece who will be 6 months old on my and Cheri's second anniversary.

I love each of them. But our queerness has been the rainbow elephant in the room during our family get togethers.

I didn't have to deal with that in my 20s and 30s because I didn't have holidays with my own parents, having never known my father and having no relationship with my mother after my grandparents passed away. 

The very definition of privilege. I never had shouting matches or conflict or violence or eviction from my family over my sexuality or gender identity.

My wife's parents lean hard conservative in their social views, but I honestly believe they love me as an individual. That doesn't necessarily translate to a love of having me as a daughter-in-law by way of being married to their lesbian daughter, however. But, I'm still sheltered by my own privilege in that this is not something that I have to battle directly as a) it is Cheri's parents who have to come to their own reckoning and b) I've aged into adulthood and independence and have no threat of economic or emotional relationships being withdrawn or turning toxic.

In a week, though, we are northbound for Wisconsin for Thanksgiving and we are set for the holigays to commence, in their full tension-filled and passive-aggressive glory!

 It's always warm and welcoming at Queer Chocolatier!

It's always warm and welcoming at Queer Chocolatier!

Queer Chocolatier Celebrates YOU during the Holigays!

I know that many other folx have more challenging times during this part of the year and I want to let you know that I am here for you.

I am here for the moments that memories overwhelm or nerves take hold.

I am here for the times you feel you have to steel yourself for going back into battle over dinner trimmings.

I am here for you when you don't feel validated in who you are or who you love by the people who you were surrounded by during your early years.

I am here for you.

Queer Chocolatier sells crafted chocolate truffles, yes. But we also stand in solidarity with those who need neighbors and friends and family but may be lacking during the moments we are most vulnerable. If you need a moment to chat, near or far, send me a message or visit our shop. The only darkness I want you to experience during these last couple of months of 2017 is the darkness of my chocolate confections.

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Show Someone That You Love Them Unapologetically

If you aren't queer and/or trans* (or even if you are), and you know someone who is and has a rough time during the holidays, let them know you love them. Reach out to those around you who may not have a great experience with going home to visit family or doesn't go home at all because of what has happened in the past.

This is the time of year that allies can actually do allyship work and not simply label themselves as allies.

Some things that you can do include making sure you hold yourself accountable to any microaggressions you might accidentally commit. During the holidays, the following microaggressions can be among the most common and the most painful:

  • If you misgender your friend, work through it to do better but don't turn the attention back to yourself on how hard it is to remember pronouns or names.
  • Stand up when someone deadnames a friend or relative. Let that person know that such an act is harmful and violent. 
  • Never, under any circumstances, out someone in front of others, including the family or friends of that individual. Your friend may trust you with that knowledge but may not be in a place in their life to be out fully and that is okay.

Let me help you in showing your friendship and love by providing gifts that can affirm or comfort those you adore. Consider a piece of art from our line of Homo Decor for their home or any one of our selection of truffles, in Classic or Vegan.

Let's all do a better job of taking care of each other during the holigays!

Love,
Morgan

 

 

LGBTQIA

Queer Finances: Should Queers Have Their Own Credit Union?

QUEER FINANCES: SHOULD QUEERS HAVE THEIR OWN CREDIT UNION?

 Queer folk can face discrimination at banking institutions. Is it time for queers to have their own credit union?

Queer folk can face discrimination at banking institutions. Is it time for queers to have their own credit union?

If you subscribe to my monthly newsletter, you'll notice that I include a section that I adorably call "News Bites": a curated list of news and media pieces related to chocolate and/or the queer/trans* community. November's issue of the Cocoa Communiqué contained a piece from Forbes (though the original interview was a podcast episode from Queer Money(TM)) and it asked the question: "Should the queer community have its own credit union?"

Dozens of internal responses engaged immediately in a mental traffic jam, desperately trying to nudge their way past another to get out first.

Here's why:

  1. I'm queer and I have some thoughts about how I would like my personal and business finances handled.
  2. I used to be a stockbroker and have a certain amount of financial and economic professional knowledge.
  3. I have an advanced degree in sociology and tend to think about systemic issues, such as the economy and LGBTQIA2+ communities.

Hence, this blog post.

Do I think the queer community should have a credit union of its own? Yes. 

But.

The original interview between Phillip Endicott (who is attempting to launch a queer credit union: Equality Credit Union) and John and David, the hosts of Queer Money (TM), contained some references to data that were interesting and, on the face, very convincing:

  • “In 29 states, you can get married and be denied a home loan because of who you are, how you live and who you love,”
  • Endicott struggles with the notion that LGBTQ people are “considered wealthy and well-off when, in fact, we’re struggling financially.” He continues, “We’ve been adversely affected by all the years of fighting for equality and acceptance.”
  • Endicott says, “We’ve been fighting the HIV/AIDS crisis. We’ve been fighting for marriage equality and equality in general. We’ve been fighting for our rights for so many years.

However, I think there were elements of homogenizing the homos to make a point.

It is true that there have long been battles that the queer community has waged, but some of those battles have been labeled as "LGBTQ issues" instead of what they might have been more accurately described as "cis white gay men" issues. And that's problematic.

Demographics of Wealth and Homeownership

Discrimination of any sort is wrong, particularly when it leads to a barrier preventing financial betterment. In Endicott's reference of discrimination at the bank when applying for a home loan, the only folks who might be shocked or find themselves seeking pearls to clutch are white folks.

People of color (PoC) have long been denied home ownership, which has led to a staggering generational wealth discrepancy between white households and non-white households.

In 2009, a representative survey of American households revealed that the median wealth of white families was $113,149 compared with $6,325 for Latino families and $5,677 for black
families.
— Shapiro, Meschede, and Osoro. 2013. IASP Research and Policy Brief.

These figures are before any consideration is taken regarding sexual orientation, but we can cautiously extrapolate this to mean PoC who identify as LGBTQIA2+ are multiply marginalized and increasingly less likely to enter into homeownership due to discrimination and socioeconomic barriers and, thus, lose out on the biggest wealth generator in our economy. 

Discrimination was pervasive throughout the entire sample, yet the combination of anti-transgender bias and persistent, structural racism was especially devastating. People of color in general fare worse than white participants across the board, with African-American transgender respondents faring worse than all others in many areas examined
— Grant, Jaime M., Lisa A. Mottet, Justin Tanis, Jack Harrison, Jody L. Herman, and Mara Keisling. Injustice at Every Turn: A Report of the National Transgender Discrimination Survey. Washington: National Center for Transgender Equality and National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, 2011.

Trans* folks were surveyed and found to have a homeownership rate of less than half of the general population (32% compared to 67%).

To layer on an additional challenge that is far too frequently ignored, our aging LGBTQIA2+ folx are being crushed by our nation's economic machinations. According to a 2014 report by SAGE, our queer/trans* elders are facing "adverse differential treatment against older same-sex couples seeking housing in senior living facilities" and "this report attests to the role that discrimination plays in worsening this housing instability among LGBT elders."

Housing instability affects millions of LGBT older people around the country, many of whom face severe financial hardship, challenges with employment and unequal treatment under the law.
— SAGE and ERC Documents Discrimination against Older Same-Sex Couples. 2014.

Sexual orientation and gender identity minorities face housing and banking discrimination, but PoC and the elderly are suffering disproportionately when compared with younger and white cis gay males.

As a small favor, I will begrudgingly leave out the rural/urban divide that can also be layered onto this verbal model I'm outlaying! You're welcome!

Queer Financial Struggles

It is also true that the queer community struggles with the duality of being stereotyped as having gobs of money to spend while also not actually having a strong financial situation or outlook. But this might be simply because of lumping folx together who have vastly different experiences and levels of privilege.

According to Experian's 2012 survey, married or partnered gay men have the best financial partnership out of any possible couplings. The average annual household income for such pairings is approximately $116k while married or partnered heterosexual men household earned nearly $22k less, on average.

When it comes to individual income, gay and straight men may earn roughly the same amount, but married or partnered gay men personally take home nearly $8,000 more, on average, than their straight counterparts.
— Experian. 2012. "Understanding Your Customer."

In a clumsy attempt to compare the venerable apples-to-apples, Experian's survey also referenced that lesbians--single or married/partnered--earn more than straight women, but all this does is muddy the waters surrounding the wage gap between men and women, regardless of sexual orientation. 

This is not to be dismissive of the financial challenges faced by straight, unmarried women but rather point out that the notion of a cis white gay man saying "we're struggling financially" while sitting atop the financial mountain falls flat.

Yay! Queers can get married! Now what? wait, where'd you go, gay guys???

When trans* PoC are being murdered at terrifying rates, with 2017 already surpassing the number of such murders in the previous year, planning nuptials isn't at the forefront of their minds for causes worthy of fighting. Whereas, cis white gay men have the majority of the same socioeconomic and political privileges as their straight counterparts, the main thing they lacked in terms of institutional access was in the ability to legally marry their partners. Thus, the cause célèbre of same-sex marriage was born.

This is not to say that other queer/trans* folx didn't benefit from being able to marry whomever they unapologetically loved, but consider that there has been a deafening silence from cis white gay men on a myriad of social justice and civil rights issues after they won their SCOTUS ruling. The amount of capital (social and financial) gay men initially had to invest in the cause of same-sex marriage had a tremendous return; but where are they now?

The backlash against queer/trans* being given a modicum of equality has led to a more focused attack on our community, particularly the trans* community, with a rash of so-called bathroom bills and preventative measures against enacting the passage of hate crime bills.

Gay cis white men need to use their access and privilege to help build a safer and more just environment for the most marginalized in our community before trying to win over our support for a new cause célèbre of wanting a credit union.

Do I think queers should have a credit union for our community? Yes. Credit unions serve communities and we are a community that has unique financial conditions. But a queer credit union does not need to be led by cis gay white men and it does not need to come into existence through the exploitation of the marginalized socio-economic and political contexts of those in the  LGBTQIA2+ community who do not share in such privileges.

Brief Thoughts on Grief and Senses

Today has come and gone for the last fifteen years in much the same painful way for me as before: flashes of laughter caused by memories, streams of tears also caused by memories, a weariness in my muscles and bones for short spells caused by the lack of new memories.

And then, it passes.

This year, the anniversary of my grandmother's death caught me on my emotional heels. Someone I had recently met has unexpectedly and suddenly died. She and her friend are my neighbors at one of the farmers' markets where Queer Chocolatier sells and I felt like the three of us were nearly neighbors in a truer spirit. We'd catch up, shoot the breeze, nag and complain and laugh, talk about all the dogs walking up to their booth, and talk about chocolate. Lisa got the news during our market this past weekend that Jill had had a massive heart attack.

Hours later, she was gone. As I did my clumsy best to console Lisa and be present (via text) for her, Lisa instead consoled me by saying how much Jill enjoyed my chocolate.

It made me smile but bittersweetly.

People tend to say things, well-meaning things, during the grieving process. One of the things I have heard is "she can still hear you." Another is "she's looking after you." It hit me today, unlike any other day in the last decade and a half, no one talks about the other senses that the deceased may be still connected with and using.

Right now, taste is the sense that I am consumed with. 

I've frequently mourned the meals missed by my grandma since her passing. I used to wish aloud for Grandma to have had a plate of such-and-such meal I'd just made. But honestly, those wishes were fairly selfish and an indulgence of my ongoing battle with a need for validation.

Today, I heard myself wish for my grandma to taste my chocolates. And I wished it for her, not for my own validation or need for affirmation. Which might sound incredibly full of myself, and to a degree that is possible, but the ideas of her hearing my words or thoughts and seeing me from an unknown vantage point feel more selfish than for my imagining her tasting my truffles. Taste is a sense that seems incredibly personal and unique and challenging to articulate beyond blunt basics of (dis)approval. Taste is for you.

Jill got to taste my chocolates. She bought from me weekly when I'd see her, even after she, blessedly, caught me in an error in my making truffles and was extremely polite and kind in her feedback. In retrospect, it reminds me of something my grandma would have done for me. But the veil keeps her from a chance to taste them herself and that has made today an impossibly sad day for me.

Today will pass, probably with more tears than previous todays did, but today will come back again and maybe one day there will be more laughter in place of the tears.

LGBTQIA

October 11 is National Coming Out Day: What Does That Even Mean?

National Coming Out Day is Wednesday, October 11, 2017

 What does National Coming Out Day mean?

What does National Coming Out Day mean?

Queer Chocolatier is #outandopenforbusiness and my wife and I are out as queer ciswomen (I am bisexual and Cheri identifies as a lesbian). But we both had extremely different experiences in coming out. And everyone's experience is extremely unique to them as identities are complex and context is important. Coming out as queer is not the same as coming out as trans* is not the same as coming out gender non-conforming is not the same as a POC coming out as any one of those identities or orientations. In many cases, it is a privilege to come out that many cannot afford due to being multiply marginalized.

This is all to say the following if you identify as LGBTQIA2+:

  • You don't owe anyone any explanation. Your life and lived experiences are your own and yours to control.
  • You should keep your physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual health at the forefront of any decision regarding the hows, whys, whos, whens, and wheres of coming out. If you don't feel safe, do not succumb to any sort of pressure to come out to the people or in the environments that you do not feel safe.
  • You are not less than anyone if you do not come out in a public sort of way.
  • You are not better than others if you do come out.
  • You do not have to come out to everyone in your life all at once in order to have "officially come out."
  • You may feel like you need approval by those to whom you come out, but your truth does not change in a manner that is contingent upon their approval (you are who you are regardless).
  • And if you never "officially come out," it doesn't make you any less queer. (Here is a wonderful article that will elaborate on that further.)

However, I do want to acknowledge the importance of visibility. With visibility, there is a space or a community that provides safety. There are role models from which others may learn. There are opportunities to rally around folx with similar experiences. I am in my mid (or late...) thirties and I learn from people who are out and who are older and younger than me every day.

Community inspires me like little else can.

We chose to make our business visible as a way to carve out space. If you want to share your story, visit with people who may have some shared perspectives and experiences, or if you just want a quiet place and moment to let the weight of the world come off your shoulders for a spell, please know that Cheri and I are here for you. 

We see you.

We care about you.

Tomorrow, please feel free to come over to our shop. Come out for yourself or come out for chocolate. Just know that we're happy to see you and be seen by you.

 

Small Business Shenanigan

Small Business Shenanigans: A Month of Chocolate-y Blur!

One Month Down!

Being a small business owner requires an extraordinary amount of reflection, at least from my perspective. So, here's a brief check-in and rundown of what's happened and what I've learned so far since launching Queer Chocolatier!

1. I believe in myself more than I ever imagined!

I am tremendously confident in selling my chocolates, talking about the quality of the ingredients, discussing my production of the truffles, and opening up to folx of all sorts who come to have conversations with me about Queer Chocolatier. Believing in myself doesn't lead to arrogance; I stay in my lane, learn from people every day, and connect in meaningful ways that genuinely impact me. 

2. Learning from people about what they want is the best source for ideas!

People know what they want. I don't have to come up with every idea from a blank slate. Occasionally, my ideas do resonate with others and that's wonderful! But, more often than not, I take the ideas and suggestions of others and run with it, newly inspired! Some of these ideas include:

Speaking of which...

3. I am opening a retail space for Queer Chocolatier!!

Whoa! I know! It's a big step! But this is such an exciting step. Sometimes it makes me picture how a kitten on a wooden floor will have its rear legs outrun its front legs. I am that kitten. I am a frenzy of motion.

I'll sleep when I'm sleepy. 

That's how the saying goes, right?

Anyway, there will be a Grand Opening event on Thursday, October 5th at our new space, 405 S. Walnut St. #204 in Muncie! You should totally be there! My wife and I are big fans of the Netflix series Stranger Things and I'll have Maple Eggo Waffle Truffles to sell for this one night only! For how much do you ask? Eleven dollars for a box of 4. Eleven.

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4. I was profiled in a Ball State Daily News series featuring local businesses!

Some of my experiences I've had in the last month of being open for business are things that I expected would happen if I put some muscle and effort into it. Other things, though, have come so easy and smoothly that it really does feel like luck. My wife and I were recently interviewed for the Ball State Daily News Muncie Origins series and I am thrilled with the article! I appreciate that it was evident what my goals for the business are because the interviewer, Kirsten, did a lovely job of highlighting the overall values of Queer Chocolatier. We are as much about community as we are about chocolate. We are unapologetic. We are passionate about what we create. And we love Muncie! 

5. I created an Etsy storefront to feature Homo Decor and my truffles!

If people are shopping for holiday gifts and they haven't already heard of Queer Chocolatier, they are probably not going to make it to my site. But, if they are shopping on Etsy for their loved ones, then they may make it across my storefront and be able to purchase my truffles as well as my Homo Decor offerings!

What's Homo Decor?

 A peek in the studio!

A peek in the studio!

Homo Decor will consist of art pieces to warm the spaces of those who are not as frequently represented in off-the-shelf home decor items. Everyone and all consentual relationships should be celebrated!

Etsy will serve as another marketplace for my truffles and art pieces can reach more folx who are making purchases for themselves and those they love unapologetically! Homo Decor pieces will be up within a week for both my storefront on Queer Chocolatier and Etsy.

6. I really need to up my game to be ready for my second month and beyond!

Everything that has transpired so far has been wonderful. I've worked hard, I've been supported, I've had a stroke or three of luck. But I am ready to reach the next level of business and community. 

I'm one month down, but I'm just getting started!

LGBTQIA, Small Business

#HeyMuncie!: Queer Chocolatier Goes to Market!

#OutAndOpenForBusiness

Queer Chocolatier centers on the the tangible product of quality chocolate truffles but it also rests on the foundation of an identity that claims space. In some ways, this is nerve-wracking. But it also is refreshing and rewarding!

I am a queer, married ciswoman and I'm going to make you delicious chocolates.

And I am equally proud of my cocoa alchemy as I am of my queer identity.

However, I am acutely aware that not everyone will share my pride. We live and move in an increasingly balkanized society that pushes people to choose sides. By and large I support choosing sides. Furthermore, I believe in the idea of claiming your space first; if I am anchored and grounded in where I stand, others can use me as a landmark and decide whether to stand alongside me or not.

This past weekend of vending at two local farmers' markets was my first time staking my claim in a physical space, outside of the internet, and putting myself out there as the Queer Chocolatier.

And Muncie warmly welcomed me! 

 The indomitable Moth Danner runs the Muncie Makers Market and was beyond welcoming me to her roster of vendors!

The indomitable Moth Danner runs the Muncie Makers Market and was beyond welcoming me to her roster of vendors!

It was just one weekend, but I have the sense that Queer Chocolatier taking space meant something to folx. In some cases, people simply wanted good chocolate and I'm not mad! I love talking to people about my chocolate, how I make it, where I buy my source chocolate, how I've come up with some flavors (including flavors inspired by my wife).

 This is the price she pays for being my inspiration.

This is the price she pays for being my inspiration.

In other cases, folx came to my booth to talk about identity and business and community. Some came under my canopy to say "Thank you!" or "This is such a cool concept!" 

That matters. 

It matters because queer lives matter. Trans* lives matter. Solidarity matters.

Know that if you are queer, trans*, gender non-conforming, genderqueer or genderfluid, of if you fall anywhere in the spectrum of marginalized sexual and/or gender identity, I stand in solidarity with you. If you're in East Central Indiana, come visit me at Minnetrista's Farmers' Market or at the Muncie Makers' Market and indulge in truffles!

And be unapologetic about taking up the space that you do! 

cocoa wonkery

Cocoa 101: What are Truffles? Q&A

Cocoa 101: What are Truffles? Q&A

Expanded from Vol. 1, Issue 1 of the Cocoa Communique: The Queer Chocolatier Newsletter.

Question: What are "Truffles"?

Answer: Truffles are chocolate confections that, at their most basic, are made with chocolate, cream and butter, and are finished by either rolling in cocoa powder or dipping in tempered chocolate. Using these ingredients as a canvas, rainbows of flavors are also incorporated to make each truffle a unique experience.

Question: Okay, sounds great, but why "truffles"?

Answer: Folx back in the day thought these confections looked a great deal similar to the highly-prized black truffle mushrooms due to the dusting of cocoa powder that resembled dirt. The name has stuck ever since.

I personally think they look nothing like mushrooms. Mostly because I love chocolate and hate, hate, HATE mushrooms.

I'm sure it's mutual.

Question: Wait, so truffles look like mushrooms, but do they have mushrooms in them?

Answer: **shudder** I sincerely hope not. But we live in the Age of The Internet and there are dark corners of the world that would make such things manifest.

Truly though, the name really just reflects on the general appearance and their highly-desirable nature.

 He's not wrong.

He's not wrong.

Question: Are truffles supposed to be perfectly round? Do perfectly round truffles mean that they are better quality?

Answer: Not necessarily. Going from the original inspiration from the name, there are few perfectly round black truffle mushrooms that naturally grow, so it stands to reason that a slightly asymmetrical appearance is completely acceptable, and sometimes is even more desired than a perfect sphere as to demonstrate the handmade aesthetic.

Quality, in and of itself, is not going to be determined by a sole factor of shape symmetry. Instead, quality will be a confluence of many factors such as: sourced chocolate, freshness of dairy (or non-dairy) items, and ratio of flavoring elements among others including shape.

Question: Good, so is there any real difference between the cocoa dusted truffles and the dipped-in-chocolate truffles?

Answer: The only difference here is the style of the chocolatier and your own personal preference. Ultimately, the confection is still the same: a chocolate ganache that may or may not be flavored beyond simply the base chocolate.

My personal preference is the cocoa-rolled truffles but this might only be because they were the first ones I started with and are the ones I'm most familiar with. Trust me when I say I'll never kick a good chocolate truffle out of bed if it is dipped in tempered chocolate rather than dusted with cocoa. Have you seen my "volumptuous" figure?

My wife called me "volumptuous" instead of "voluptuous." Jury's still out.

I hope this quick Cocoa 101 was illuminating on how horrible I am at hula hooping and I will pay in truffles if someone can teach me how to do a better job of it. 

Small Business

Small Business Shenanigans: How to start a small business, Myths and reality

Hustle.

But, really, it isn't easy. 

I have no business experience whatsoever, nor do I have many mentors in the way of opening small entrepreneurial ventures. I do have a master's degree but instead of being helpful in starting a business, my MA often led me to regressing back to the nefarious imposter syndrome that I'd contracted from literally every grad student ever.

Instead, I plunged down the track and, at each hurdle I encountered, I asked for help. My inner monologue was begging for permission from individuals, companies, agencies, the universe, but I simply asked a smorgasbord of questions.

I trusted that people who were paid to do their jobs knew more than I would about that hurdle I was about to smack with my nose. I have a sickly sweet customer service voice that I can conjure on demand. I'm pretty fucking charming when I need to be, I mean, all the time.

But I also did a lot of research. 

Balancing trust and doing reconnaissance prevented me from becoming completely naïve or completely bitter.


myths of starting an online business

There seems to be a lot of confusion and misunderstandings about opening online businesses in particular. Such myths deserve dispelling and I will do my best to provide some of my learning experiences here to help quash them.

MYTH: Online businesses don't require permits/licenses, etc.

REALITY: I had to obtain my business license from the IN Secretary of State, my sales tax license from IN Department of Revenue, my food permit license from my County Department of Health, all while not owning a brick-and-mortar. The Small Business Association website helped me outline the course of action on how to obtain these licenses and permits.

MYTH: Online businesses are "easier" than having a brick-and-mortar because you don't have the overhead costs involved in running your business.

REALITY: Overhead is certainly a barrier to entry in starting businesses. In the case of starting small businesses, especially food-related businesses, overhead can be a nonstarter. Living in a small city as I do, resources are also on the scarce side; per my County Department of Health, there are only two (2) certified kitchens that I could be permitted to use to make my chocolates.

Sure, there are some sharing relationships where a food establishment will allow small makers to use their facilities during off hours and while this can indeed be a symbiotic relationship of sorts (small maker gets to rent space and equipment much cheaper than purchasing it, establishment gets extra revenue and potential mentoring experience) it can also provide its own set of challenges. Considerations would include any time, product, and personality conflicts.

In my case, I am going the route of the certified kitchen. It certainly meets my needs and is absolutely cheaper than purchasing or leasing building space as my own independent spot. I also have the potential to forge new relationships in this capacity with the building's community and other makers who use this space. Ultimately, all of my chocolate confections are made in a certified kitchen that I have access to, but I don't have control over, and I would be hard-pressed to label this "easy."

In addition to the kitchen space, because I am an online business owner who makes and ships product, I experience a blurring of the lines between "home" and "office." All of my paperwork, shipping and packaging materials, and homo decor materials are housed in my home office (which is predominately our kitchen table and needs to be cleared off by dinner time).

I will look forward to having the level of success that would support having a brick-and-mortar base from which I can still operate my online sales. That will be the ideal arrangement and we can throw this concept of "easier" out the window.

MYTH: Online businesses are "easier" because you don't have set hours.

REALITY: KILL THIS MYTH WITH FIRE!!!

"Easier"? Again? What about business is easy???

If you can't manage time, tasks, and relationships, regardless of set business hours of operation, business is going to be that much harder if not utterly daunting. Here, grad school experience came in handy because I was used to setting goals, planning, consiste.... where was I going with this pack of lies?

Time management is my biggest personal challenge. I've had to develop this skill and, honestly, it is still very much a work in progress and not a linear one at that.

Set hours of a brick-and-mortar is nothing more than an illusion. Lunchtime, doubly so.

MYTH: You don't have to deal with people with an online business.

REALITY: It is a lonelier venture, but people and relationships and interactions are still key to business success, online or brick-and-mortar. For me, specifically, I am a people-person to a fault and much prefer interacting face-to-face with folx. Also, that was a huge understatement, in case you didn't realize.


Myths abound in starting a business, especially a small, online business. If you have any passion in starting your own business, congratulations! You've won half the battle in starting one! 

The next half is still a beast. Don't let myths get in your way! And, if you need a sounding board just to bounce around ideas, drop me an email and let's chat.