It fractures the proverb, but for Chapel Hill Chocolatay Confections, motherhood was the necessity of invention. When their son Mateus, or Tay for short, was born 14 years ago, Danielle De La Rosa-White and husband Matthew discovered he was dangerously allergic
“We had a hard time finding confections he could eat,” she says. Because Matthew was skilled at cooking and had completed professional chocolatier training, they saw an opportunity. “We decided if we couldn’t find things Tay enjoyed, we’d make them.”
When the high-end appliance retailer where Matthew worked shut down, the couple moved from New York to Chapel Hill, where some family members lived. She had worked conventional 9-to-5 jobs in real estate and other ventures.
In 2013, the couple chartered Chocolatay. “North Carolina is one of the few states where you can start a business from home, so it was very low risk,” she says.
Eight years later, it practically defines a successful cottage industry in North Carolina. From a stainless-steel commercial kitchen certified by the N.C. Department of Agriculture and Consumer Sciences, the couple produce chocolates such as $5 almond ginger turmeric bars, $6 sunflower crunch cups, vegan-friendly cherry pistachio bark, and catered boxes for events and other special orders. Everything is prepared in a peanut-free environment.
Nearly all materials are sourced from farmers markets in Durham and Orange counties or from other local vendors. Salt for their dark chocolate sea salt bar comes from Wrightsville Beach’s Sea Love Sea Salt Co.
“As we were honing our skills, we started to notice that people were more and more interested in sustainable food and knowing where your food comes from,” she says.
United Parcel Service recently featured Chocolatay in a national corporate advertising program as an example of small-businesses success during the pandemic. De La Rosa-White credits a UPS application called Shippo for helping boost its package shipping from one or two a week to dozens.
Being sole proprietors initially meant a work trap of 14-hour days. “It was like having a newborn — there were no days or nights. We got into the habit of overextending ourselves.” Now, they set formal work hours, balance work with family life and schedule production at least a week in advance. And they focus on their initial goal.
“We just want to make candy we can feel good about,” De La Rosa-White says.