LA BONBONNIERE FINE BELGIAN CHOCOLATES
WHAT IT IS: Maker of handcrafted Belgian chocolates
OWNER: Bebette Smith
ADDRESS: 231 Furys Ferry Road, Augusta
IN OPERATION: Nearly three years
EMPLOYEES: Two, including Ms. Smith; (her husband, Larry, also helps)
HOW DID YOU GET INTO THIS BUSINESS? I attended the Callebaut Chocolate Institute in Brussels, Belgium, and completed an apprenticeship with a Belgian chocolatier in Beaumont, Belgium.
STRANGEST CLIENT/INCIDENT: I was asked to make two chocolate coffins for the grand opening of a funeral home. And I did!
WHAT YOU LIKE ABOUT THE BUSINESS: I like creating new chocolates, trying out new recipes. I love to hear the "oooh" and "mmmm" when customers try our chocolates. I also love to see them come back because "it's the best chocolates they ever had."
WHAT YOU DON'T LIKE ABOUT THE BUSINESS: Frankly, there is nothing I do not like about my business. It is the best job I ever had. Oh, so rewarding!
WHY YOUR BUSINESS STANDS OUT: Because I am the only Belgian chocolatier in Augusta.
ORGANIZATIONS/EVENTS INVOLVED IN: I participate in the yearly Taste of the Harvest, Augusta Historical Society and other fundraising events. I also speak at various civic clubs such as Rotary, medical alliances, churches, garden clubs, etc.
AWARDS: None yet. But having repeat customers and word-of-mouth recommendations is well worth any award.
BIGGEST CHALLENGES IN THE BUSINESS: It is sometimes very challenging to meet the demand during peak seasons such as Christmas and Valentine's Day; however, I never turned down any customers and was always able to please them.
WHERE YOU SEE YOUR BUSINESS IN FIVE YEARS/10 YEARS: Probably in the same little store, making chocolates, making people happy. I am not trying to get bigger or famous; that might jeopardize the quality of my products and take away the personal relationship I have with my customers.
MOST IMPORTANT BUSINESS PRINCIPLE: As far as my business is concerned: use first quality and freshest ingredients possible. NEVER, NEVER try to cut corners for whatever reason.
ROLE MODELS/INSPIRATIONS: Alain Bressant, a chocolatier in Belgium. He is my mentor and my friend. My instructors at the chocolate academy who believed in my passion for my work and allowed me to excel.
YOUR BEST BUSINESS ADVICE: Always respect your customers. Do whatever it takes to meet the challenge, and, most of all, enjoy what you do.
COMPANIES INTERESTED IN PARTICIPATING IN THE BEHIND THE BUSINESS FEATURE SHOULD CONTACT BUSINESS EDITOR DAMON CLINE AT (706) 823-3486 OR DAMON.CLINE@AUGUSTACHRONICLE.COM.