Todd Masonis and Cameron Ring didn’t set out to start a chocolate company.
When the pair met at Stanford University in 1997, they created Plaxo, a social contact service that ended up selling to Comcast in 2008.
At the time, Facebook and Google were also rumoured to be bidding for Plaxo. But Comcast ultimately won with an offer estimated between $US150 and $US170 million.
Shortly after the company sold, Ring and Masonis decided to try to reinvent chocolate.
They wanted to create a place where people could see and learn about how chocolate is made, Ring tells Business Insider.
So they started Dandelion Chocolates in San Francisco late last year.
There are a few different facets to the Dandelion Chocolates business. There’s the factory where it produces its own chocolates, as well as a cafe where it serves up candy bars, hot chocolate, and pastries.
Some days, Dandelion even hosts classes to teach people the basics about chocolate. It’s appropriately called “Chocolate 101.”
Earlier this year, it had about 50 wholesale retailers on board. Today, that number has more than doubled to 120 retailers. There’s even a waiting list of about 100 wholesalers that want to carry the chocolate, but there’s just not enough to go around right now.
On the cafe side of the business, things are going well, Ring says. There are months when Dandelion brings in more money than they spend. But they’re still looking to further scale the direct-to-consumer side of the business.
Masonis and Ring set up the store using an iPad and cloud-based point-of-sale system from ShopKeep. Ring even created a custom back-end solution to sync up every aspect of the business.
“It’s hard to come from a technology company and not apply tech in every way that you can,” Ring says. “Once you’ve done tech, it kind of always affects how you see the world.”
Dandelion Chocolates prides itself on its high-quality chocolates. All of their chocolates are 70% ground cacao beans and 30% sugar. That’s it.
Dandelion will typically make three types of bars at any given time. Even though they use the same ingredients in every bar, they have completely different flavours, Ring says. Some cacao beans are sweeter, more nutty, acidic, and so on. Depending on what beans they have at any given time, Dandelion can achieve a variety of flavour profiles.
Down the road, Ring says he’s looking to open up a parklet, which would be a little permanent pedestrian area installed in a parking space outside the shop. The company is also looking for another retail opportunity, Ring says.
Dandelion Chocolates is mostly self-funded, but also raised a small friends and family round.