chocolate

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

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.

 

Looking for ways to help outside of micro-investing for free truffles for life? Become a subscriber!

Truffle Box Subscription
from 30.00
Subscription length:
Shipping included:
Quantity:
Add To Cart

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, 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!