I recently sat down with Jennifer and Michael Sauvageau, owners of Noteworthy Chocolate, a unique business in Bethel that offers customized, laser engraved, delicious chocolate. They're located on the second floor above Molten Java at Dolan Plaza.
Brad: So, when did you found Noteworthy Chocolates?
Michael: We were officially launched just over two years ago.
Brad: What was the genesis behind that? It's a very unique business.
Jennifer: Well Michael went to a trade show and didn't find anything really interesting that we wanted. We were looking for our next thing to do, a new business to start, and didn't see anything interesting but every single booth gave away chocolate. So, on the way home, he was thinking about chocolate, and then another person, a friend of ours, was telling us about this cool new laser that had come out and he just put one plus one and it equaled laser engraved chocolate. And he got the idea, he came home and said "What do you think? Do you think we could do this?" I said I don't know. It sounds pretty cool. Laser engraving on chocolate. How about we go down to the Danbury hacker space and see if it will work, because they had just gotten a laser.
So we took some chocolate and went in there and they said Yeah let's try it. Sure, sounds like fun.
Michael: So basically we incubated from February to July. That's when we also ran a Kickstarter out of there, a Kickstarter campaign because we had a great idea but we didn't really have enough funds to do it. And because of what we'd done previously we had a pretty big emotional bank account from people around the country that we had worked with previously so that we could sort of draw on that. We already had fans of the things that we have done in the past. So we were able to draw on that pool. We ran a Kickstarter out of the Hackerspace. We ran it for 30 days and raised twenty eight thousand dollars and then used that money to move in here and get the laser and renovate what we needed to do and get our New York commercial license and get going. So we got actually certified in October 2016. We launched our website in November, a couple days before Thanksgiving 2016, and we've been going ever since.
Brad: So you opened up here two years ago. What have been some of the funner things about it?
Michael: Willy Wonka.
Jennifer: Willy Wonka, yes! One of the most fun projects that we've done was we did a fundraiser for the Johnson School. So last year they did Willy Wonka as their school play. And we made special medallions with Wonky Coin Medallions and parents sold them. We had a fundraiser and inside five boxes were golden tickets and so anyone who got a golden ticket then got to get a tour of the facility and the laser lab and they also got to pour chocolate and create their own set of medallions to bring home with them. So everyone got their own medallion – all the winners and it was a lot of fun. That was a great project.
Michael: We raised over thirteen hundred dollars for the school. So we were excited about that. And it was great exposure for us but it was just so fun is what it was. It was a neat thing to be able to do.
Jennifer: Everyone was excited. The teachers, kids, every parent. It was it was a really fun project. And it was a great way to raise some money for the school.
Michael: Other than that, other fun projects? We got to do some big projects for Morgan Stanley Company this winter. And those were cool because they're interesting. You go with your different elements to them.
Jennifer: We created a custom design just for them to engrave in the chocolate. Every single letter was individually addressed to their clients. So they used it for their holiday gifting and it was a design that we created just for them. And the message written just for them and their clients. They got an incredibly great response.
Brad: That's great. So any printable but strange requests?
Michael: Oh, we've had a couple of naughty chocolate requests, shall we say, "adult" chocolates. But nothing too odd. A lot of business and logos and messages and tokens of appreciation -- that's a lot of it.
Brad: So how is Bethel as a place for what I understand you have visions of this becoming a national enterprise? How is that as your world headquarters?
Jennifer: We love being in this town. We live in Bethel and our kids go to school in Bethel, and we love being right here on Greenwood Ave in our upstairs tower looking over all the town.
Brad: It is a great space.
Michael: I really do feel like we have one of the best views of the town here.
Jennifer: And you know people in Bethel have been really supportive of us -- people and businesses.
Brad: So what brought you to Bethel?
Michael: I grew up Danbury. So, I've known about Bethel, obviously, growing up and such, and then when we were doing the toys we were out traveling around the country a lot.
And then when we had our second child, Alea, it was time to kind of get off the road traveling with a five year old and then an infant wasn't really what we wanted to do, and we wanted our kids to get to know their grandparents a little bit better. So they both lived up in up in New Hampshire. So we bought a place up there and lived there for a few years. Then the Yogibo Company asked me if I'd be interested in moving down here to open up the metro New York City area for them. And so that kind of got us here. I did that job for a couple of years and then recognized that although I make one hell of a great boss I don't necessarily make a great employee. So it was time to go be our own bosses again.
Brad: What would you like our readers to know about about what you do?
Jennifer: They can engrave their name or people that they love in chocolate.
Brad: Do a lot of local people do that? Do people come in for one off presents?
Michael: Yes. Absolutely. You know a lot of people, especially folks who are not as internet savvy, folks you know in the next generation above us, a lot of them are coming in. It's great because we do a lot of anniversary gifts for people who are seniors who don't really want more stuff in their house.
People still want and need to give them thoughtful gifts. And so this is a way to kind of do that. It's a nice thoughtful gift you're giving the sentiment that you want. You're giving something that they're going to enjoy, chocolate, and consume. And all of the packaging and everything else is recyclable. So you're not adding a whole lot of anything to their life. They're going to enjoy it. If they want to keep the note, we give a paper copy with it so they can keep that, scrapbook it, whatever, but then it's kind of a zero waste gift to be able to give. The other thing that I think people really appreciate is that because we use digital imagery we can make and theme a chocolate for any occasion. There's nothing we can't do to theme a chocolate for and that's really exciting. Because people have different things, different occasions, sometimes weird things going on in their world and you know because we work on small batches, one, we're able to do things that other companies just can't possibly do. And that's one of the things that people really appreciate about us.
Brad: So do you see your growth areas as things like special events, holidays, as well as business promotion?
Jennifer: Definitely. Wedding favors, place cards, or any kind of event, any kind of occasion where you need favors. Or edible favors, especially personalized, for your event date or event place names, whatever, a logo. So those have been incredibly popular. It's actually been one of the things driving our business, the smaller favors.
Michael: And then on the personal side of things Valentine's Day is always very big, you know, it has been big for us the last couple of years.
Brad: So tell me about that. What have people historically done around Valentine's Day with you.
Michael: Writing love letters in chocolate.
Michael: Oh yeah. I mean all the time and is really sweet for us because we were making them so we get these letters. Obviously we have to read them. So it's just sometimes so touching and what people say and the sentiments they share is really touching. And then also with our new medallion line you know people have been doing a lot of those. Like three medallions for their kids or for their grandparents or you know it's a really nice $20 gift they can give that's really just super personalized. And we offered those last year for the first time and they went crazy, like our Valentine's Day sale that we're just offering with those specific products.
Brad: So are there any local places where there's like an order kit for display or or do people have to find you here?
Jennifer: Mostly they come in because we'll help them design a chocolate that's perfect for what they need. Sometimes we'll just do it on the Web site right then and there with them. Or sometimes you know somebody wants something a little more custom like, say, a theme of some kind is really intense, like a starfish. We can do that. We can put a starfish and engrave it in chocolate with a message, to their sweetie, you know, or something like that.
Michael: You also can find us actually at the Bethel Chamber. There is some information there and some chocolate there.
Brad: What else can we let our readers know?
Michael: Our hours, and that we're offering a 15 percent discount on orders for Valentine's Day through Valentine's Day. They just need to use code 31515. They can order online or come in. I also want people to know that we have a really quick turnaround. Normally it's two business days, we say, but as we get closer to Valentine's Day people can often walk out in an hour with stuff. I can have a very quick turnaround time, so even if you're getting closer to a holiday for those last minute shoppers you can still get something nice.
Located at 213 Greenwood Avenue,
upstairs from Molten Java, in Bethel.
Monday through Friday, 9:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m.