July 27, 2010 by staff 

ChocomizeChocomize, (CNN) – The candy had melted in the back seat of the car, turning the black chocolate, marshmallows, granola and candy on a hot, sticky mess. But Nick LaCava was not having none of this “throw away” nonsense.

When he and his friends came home, Lacava, 23, threw the bag in the refrigerator. A few hours later he dared to eat.

“It was actually really delicious,” said LaCava. “That was the moment when the lightbulb went on the head.”

The three friends – Lacava, Eric Heinbockel and Kaempfer Fabian – had just graduated from Columbia University. Heinbockel, 24, had left his low-paying job on Wall Street to go home with his parents in New Jersey. Lacava, unable to find a good job in the financial world, was living with Heinbockels too. Kaempfer, 24, after watching a labor market just as bad in his native Germany, had returned to the United States for a visit.

They had been bouncing around ideas of his own company for months.

“We have all the chocolates and sweets, like Nick, but it is a kind of addicted to sweets. Has an amazing metabolism, so I can only sit eating candy all day,” Heinbockel said. He credits LaCava greedy as the inspiration for Chocomize.

It was a simple concept – a custom chocolate company where people could go online and create their own chocolate bars, the combination of ingredients such as nuts, fruits, sweet spices and dark milk or white chocolate. But the bright idea to go to the company of real life was not so simple, even for the three young ambitious business grads.

“Almost everyone seems to have a great idea that you think works for a business,” said LaCava. “The biggest challenge is really forcing you to take the risk and get your business started … you’re dealing with the imaginary and what can be quite intimidating.”

U.S. Small Business Administration was created to help entrepreneurs as men Chocomize. SBA’s main job is to encourage people to make that leap, “said Penny Pickett, associate administrator for business development.

First up, Heinbockel said, was the research, then write a business plan. The business plan includes everything from a competitoranlysis of your company to its management organization to its financial projections. It is a guide for you to follow, picket, he said, but it is something to show potential sponsors that you are serious.

“It’s a project where you are and where you want to go,” said Pickett. “You do not build a house without a design in place.”

Writing the business plan forces them to think in a lot of different aspects which could have been overlooked otherwise, Heinbockel said. Chocomize men went to Google, looking for prices in the rental, machinery, packaging, web site development and civil liability insurance. A survey was sent to all I could think, ask what they would be willing to spend on chocolate and the ingredients they would most like to be able to include. They even had response rate as the company name.

Kaempfer said the next step, getting financing was the most difficult in the beginning of Chocomize-up. According to the SBA, commercial banks are the largest lenders of debt capital to small businesses, but friends and family are also a tremendous resource for entrepreneurs.

The partners thought they had a general idea of what it would take to start the business, but things had not thought to add up quickly – as the tempered chocolate and 15,000 three machines instead of one.

Kaempfer So he sold his car and the trio found more funds through the family. Heinbockel grandparents put a significant portion of which man could retain ownership of 100 percent.

The men were moving at light speed, trying to open Chocomize for the holiday season of 2009. They settled on a name, which contains an office, hired in practice, which is a production and bought the necessary equipment. After his web site launched in mid-November, orders started rolling in. In March, the company had its first profitable month – a big step for a new business, said Pickett.

“We never thought the whole thing took off so quickly,” said Kaempfer. “I thought of all this – if I had stayed in college for my Masters, I would not have been more qualified than I am now. You have just made and have to start.”

LaCava agreed. He said he is working on a business he loves, with respected partners in a new industry that teaches them something every day because he had the audacity to believe they could.

“If ever you are forced to take the first step, then a good idea will always just be a good idea,” he said. “Being my own boss is great … every time we get some kind of success, I know that is because the hard work and we risk in starting the company and keep it running. Also, being able to eat chocolate and candy I want without having someone yell at me is pretty impressive. “

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