Vosges Haut-Chocolat is an amazing example of what can happen when you pinpoint your passions, go with your gut and dare to pursue a dream — a journey that founder Katrina Markoff shared last week with attendees of the National Association of Women Business Owners Women’s Business Conference in Louisville, Ky.
The journey started in Ft. Wayne, Ind., where Markoff grew up with a mother of modest means and came to love cooking while baking cakes in an Easy-Bake Oven. It continued through college at Vanderbilt University, culinary school at Paris’ Le Cordon Bleu, work under world-famous chefs and travel around the globe.
Through it all, Markoff had a passion for cooking and developed a love of culture, which, combined, provided her with the inspiration to start Vosges — a company that makes artisanal chocolates that tell stories about cultures and flavors.
Markoff took some awesome leaps of faith, trusted her gut on her way to success and said she learned that “if you know something, you know it.” Don’t talk to everyone to get validation because if you talk to too many people, they will dilute your gut feelings and leave you unsure of yourself, Markoff explained. “Trust trust trust yourself!”
When I last saw Markoff at The New York Times Small Business Summit in June, she explained how she followed her gut to create a chocolate concept that was a departure from her work at Vosges. This time, she explained the creative process she uses to develop collections and varieties of chocolate.
- Fall in love. Markoff starts by falling in love with a song, culture, flavor or concept.
- Inspiration. She then takes the love and connects it to her medium — storytelling through chocolate.
- Action. Once she’s established her inspiration, she takes action to create the chocolate and write its story.
- Experience. Finally, she creates an experience for the customer to enjoy.
At the end of her talk in Louisville, Markoff gave attendees the experience of a guided chocolate tasting, slowly walking us through feeling, seeing, smelling — and finally tasting a piece of Vosges chocolate. It was like yoga class meets dessert.