How Socola built a successful chocolate company in modern San Francisco.

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.”

By Leena Trivedi-Grenier, 03-05-2019