In a small shop on Lady Hammond Road I sat in awe watching Jill Franklin assemble over 100 maple bacon chocolates as we chatted about the highs and lows of local business. Jill is the owner of Jill’s Chocolates (@JillsChocolates), a local company that sells unique handcrafted chocolates and truffles.
A few years ago, Jill was living in Japan working as a teacher. While there she noticed how popular specialty cookies and chocolates were as a tourist gift. “You would visit a place like Disney Tokyo and the gift shop walls were lined with beautiful boxes of chocolates and cookies. Visitors bought them to take back to their offices to display and share among the staff,” Jill says.
It wasn’t long after returning home to Nova Scotia that Jill found her calling in another box of Disney chocolates. She had found them in Disney World (in Florida) in a store otherwise packed with junky pens, key chains and other throwaway souvenirs. “In the box I found a peanut butter mousse chocolate, which you never find in mass produced chocolates and I don’t know when it hit me but a few days later I was looking up chocolatier schools,” Jill says.
She found a school in Vancouver and enrolled right away. Her first year, she only made chocolates for family and friends. The next, she sold batches to friends and co-workers as gifts for the holidays. By year three, demand for her chocolates started to rise and she was ready to take the leap into the small business world.
She flew to Vancouver to take a follow-up course with a master chocolatier. As part of the course they received hands on experience with the sales side of the chocolate biz, making and selling chocolates for the shop and learning business essentials for running a storefront.
When she returned she was determined to find the perfect location for a downtown storefront. She did eventually find the perfect place but the deal fell through.
Rather than get discouraged, she reworked her business model and is finding success selling her chocolates through local shops and for charities close to her heart. She’s been making headlines with unique partnerships like her recent chocolate Easter Bunny collaboration with the IWK. She is also well known for her work with The Treaures of Youth creating unique music note chocolates filled with sea salt caramel.
And that awareness has also increased demand for wholesale sales. She has been hard at work on a new line of gourmet shelf stable chocolates. Early retailers have been going through their initial orders in a single week, and she is looking to expand her wholesale operations to new NS locations over the summer.
I snacked on more than a few chocolates during our chat, delicious combinations of Sea Salt, Glen Breton Caramels, Blueberry, and Maple Bacon. Based on the taste, and the amount of work that goes into each chocolate I was expecting her to quote a small fortune for price, but most come to $10 a box after tax.
Jill has big plans to make her chocolates a signature item for those living in and visiting our province. With clean, bright beautiful packaging, unique flavours, cool partnerships and a great price point (as far as hand crafted chocolates are concerned), I suspect you’ll be seeing a lot more of this Nova Scotia business in the future.