Jackie Ekholm started MOO Chocolates, an organic children’s chocolate company, out of her home with her three kids when they were just teenagers. Inspired by Swiss chocolates, they wanted to create premium delicious, organic, whole milk chocolates with healthy ingredients, such as crunchy grains and cereals, in the United States – all without the use of chemical fertilizers, pesticides, food additives or genetically modified organisms. Today, MOO products are sold in approximately 600 major retailers, cafes, and specialty food stores nationwide.
MomIncorporated: What inspired you to start Moo Chocolates?
Jackie: My children and I came up with the idea while vacationing in Switzerland. They asked me “why I only bought chocolates when we were there.” When I stopped to think about it, I realized it was because all the chocolates I bought in Switzerland were full of real foods!! No additives, colors, or preservatives…just delicious premium chocolate.
MomIncorporated: How did you find the right manufacturer?
Jackie: Finding the right manufacturer was very difficult. I spent the entire year before I launched the business talking to manufactures in the US. I also found a chocolatier to help me develop initial recipes, which was very helpful.
MomIncorporated: In less than 2 years you already had your products selling in national food retailers as well as local and specialty food stores. How did you establish these relationships?
Jackie: I did a ton of networking and made some great connections by attending the key food shows for natural foods in the US.
MomIncorporated: Who makes up your team?
Jackie: I have an outsourced model so everything from manufacturing to distribution and warehousing is all outsourced. We have 2 people in my home office: Lisa helps with all the logistics, ordering, everything administrative. Susie and my son, Alexander, share the job of sales and in-store support
MomIncorporated: What challenges have you faced along the way and how did you overcome them?
Jackie: In any business you can expect challenges continuously, especially a start up business! I face constant challenges from chocolate and ingredient supply issues to cash flow. All I can do is try to deal with every issue as it comes up, as effectively and efficiently as possible.
MomIncorporated: What tips can you share about creating relationships with vendors?
Jackie: It is so important to establish good relationships with everyone you work with. Be friendly, respectful, fair, always do what you say you will and follow up. As in life, treat vendors the way you would like to be treated!!
MomIncorporated: How have you used Mom, Incorporated as a resource in starting or running your business?
Jackie: I love to read everything I can get my hands on about other peoples experiences. It’s easier to learn from other peoples mistakes!
MomIncorporated: What business tips or advice would you give other women about starting a business while raising a family?
- Pick a business that you can fit into your lifestyle.
- Be realistic about the amount of time, energy and resources you will need to start a business and really figure out if you have the help and support that you will need.
- Involve your kids if you can … even if it is just by talking to them about what you are doing
- If you are working from home, it is important to have a designated space (even if just a small desk) that you use for work and a designated time that will allow you to focus on just work.
- Do something you LOVE! Hopefully that one should be the easiest!
Jackie came up with the idea for Moo Chocolates while vacationing in Switzerland with her family. How did you get the idea for your business?