You’d never know that Lieu was 19 when she started Socola Chocolatier in 2001 with her younger sister, Susan. At the time, she had no idea how to turn a profit or even how to make truffles. She did, however, love chocolate.
She also took a business planning course at Renaissance Entrepreneurship Center in San Francisco, where she learned that wholesale alone wasn’t feasible. She wasn’t selling enough volume, and the demos and samples were a lot of effort. It was her sister’s idea to try corporate sales, putting company logos on chocolates, which sell at a higher volume. Around Valentine’s Day, they finished a 3,500 box order for Samsung.
“Renaissance made me realize that I needed to have production and retail sales out of the same space so I only had to pay one rent,” Lieu says. “Plus, I enjoy interacting with customers, so I knew I wanted the kitchen space to be open.”