Marisa Nuñez, Marisa Hair, Long Island City, NY

Jessica Spaulding

Harlem Chocolate Factory

New York, New York

“There are so many people in Ascendus I feel so supported by.” –Jessica Spaulding

“It may have been the most difficult time of my life. That is how Harlem Chocolate Factory really started,” shared Jessica Spaulding, owner of Harlem Chocolate Factory.  “I was on an air bed, with my two year old and five month old. I went to the welfare office, and they looked at me and told me I didn’t qualify.”

That’s when Jessica came to Ascendus with an idea. She wanted to tell the stories of Harlem, her home, through chocolate. As a child, Jessica loved making candy. The trade shows she attended growing up exposed her to flavors from all over the world. After researching the chocolate industry and finding only two African-American owned chocolate companies in the U.S., Jessica decided that the African American perspective was missing.

“It was so hard for me to do the loan application. The amount of reassurance Matt, my Loan Consultant, gave me was so significant. He fought for every nickel for me. It felt like I was genuinely cared about.”

Jessica received a $3,000 loan from Ascendus and with it launched Harlem Chocolate Factory. She used her loan to purchase all her initial equipment and chocolate supplies. Shortly after, she entered the New York Startup Business Competition, and won, receiving a $15,000 award to grow her business.

Jessica also participated in Ascendus’s mentorship program Brewing The American Dream, designed specifically for food and beverage entrepreneurs. “Someone from the sales team mentored me through the process. It was great, and from there we were invited to do a media gift box for 250 boxes. We couldn’t turn it down.”

Last winter, Jessica was paired with a team of three young professional consultants who worked with her over the course of ten weeks on negotiating a storefront space. The team helped her to organize her bookkeeping, understanding input costs and negotiating a lease on a storefront in her hometown of Harlem. Now, Jessica is looking to open up her own store in spring of 2017.

“There are so many people in Ascendus I feel so supported by. To have contact with people who are supportive is really profound to the business owner. I’m on my way, with Ascendus’s help, to my own production facility.”

To hear more of Jessica’s story in her own words, and to learn more about her business, watch our recent video profile.

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