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Meg mixing chocolate at Nicobella Organics

I was excited to interview Nichole Dandrea and her husband, Ricky, co-founders of nicobella organics, not just because they were the first food company we’d be talking to, but because they work in a literal chocolate factory. I couldn’t stop myself from imagining a colorful, Oompa Loompa-filled landscape with chocolate rivers and ponds.

The unique thing about Nichole’s chocolate company is that it’s driven by her mission to educate others on better health, a cleaner environment, and animal welfare. As a nutritionist, Nichole is passionate about fair trade, organic, and plant-based food, and her chocolates reflect that.

I was interested to learn more about what it’s like selling food products online. Obviously, Nichole has to be diligent about expiration dates and shipping timelines in order to ensure her customers receive the highest quality product, but it goes deeper than that. Buying food at a brick-and-mortar store is one thing, but customers have much higher expectations when it comes to ordering food online. To help make her customers feel comfortable buying from an e-commerce store, “I include as much detail as possible on our website,” she says. “That way folks know exactly what they’re eating and can truly feel good about it.”

Nichole shows Meg how she organizes the truffles

Of course, her customers always want more info. “I’ve updated the website countless times thinking all of the information anyone wants to know is now on there. Then the next day I’ll receive an email saying, ‘Are your products gluten free?’ or ‘I don’t see a Nutrition Facts label for the Blueberry Almond Truffle’ and sure enough, I missed something.”In addition to keeping her website updated with any and every piece of data about her food, Nichole leans on her nutritionist background to help lend credibility to her chocolates. Her title as a Registered Dietitian helps her gain trust with her customers. And she doesn’t just post nutritional facts, she explains them, educating her customers on the health benefits inside each ingredient.

Running a business requires you to juggle a million different things, and it’s easy to feel like you’re dropping the ball sometimes. For Nichole, taking a minute to refocus helps keep her motivated and moving forward. For example, Nichole initially wanted to sell her product in spas and imagined her antioxidant, anti-aging truffles lining the shelves in lobbies, but it just didn’t pan out. She had to find a new strategy. Instead of spas, she refocused her efforts toward natural markets, juice bars, and coffee shops, while still staying true to her passion.”Whenever I feel myself getting burned out or exhausted, I often go back to the roots and focus on the beauty and power of plants (cacao/dark chocolate included, of course!).”

Crushing a cacao nib

Nichole is refueled by her passion for nutritious food. I was refueled by Nichole’s delicious chocolates. And it turns out, they’re the same thing!

-meg

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