by Yilin Liang
Photo Courtesy of Amarelle Hanyecz
Chocolate. It’s a word synonymous with Valentine’s Day and dessert, but for Gunn alumna Amarelle Hanyecz, chocolate is a passion. Hanyecz, currently a sophomore at the University of Southern California (USC), started her own chocolate business, Chic Choc by Amarelle, in May 2010. She decided to start her own business while taking an entrepreneurship class during her freshman year. In a project, she interviewed successful entrepreneur and chocolatier Joseph Schmidt, founder of Joseph Schmidt Confections in San Francisco. Schmidt encouraged Hanyecz to explore a business involving chocolate.
“I’ve always been really interested in food,” Hanyecz said. “I have a strong baking history, but I never thought to make chocolate. [Schmidt] really inspired me to explore more with chocolate as a material. He’s famous in the confections industry and has been an influential mentor ever since.” Her idea further expanded during her involvement in Greek life at USC. According to USC tradition, the sororities and fraternities have semi-formal dinners each Monday night. During this time, new members of the houses deliver presents to houses of the opposite sex. “For Greek deliveries, most people either send really low-quality candy or if they want to show that they really care, they drive to Beverley Hills and buy a box of Sprinkles to send,” Hanyecz said. “There’s really a limited number of options and people try to get creative.” Hanyecz wanted to create a product that was high quality, but also easy to give. “I knew that if I had a good enough product, non-Greek USC students, teachers and staff would buy it as well,” she said.
Hanyecz makes all of her chocolate by hand. She buys chocolate in brick form, melts it down, tempers it and molds it into the shapes she wants. Chic Choc by Amarelle offers chocolate flavors including Dark Chocolate Orange, Sea Salted Caramel, White Chocolate Mint and Peanut Butter & Jam. In order to find the time necessary to make chocolate, Hanyecz schedules her classes so that she has full days off. She then uses this time to make her product, schedule meetings and deliver chocolate to her customers. She also travels once or twice to the Bay Area each month in order to make large batches of chocolate. She then flies back to USC with the chocolate and is able to sell her product there. Currently, most of her customers have learned about her business through social networking sites such as Facebook or through word of mouth. Hanyecz also offers customers the option of having their chocolate hand-delivered to them if they are located within a 2-mile radius of USC.
For Hanyecz, one of the biggest obstacles towards starting her own business was learning how to make her own chocolate. She had to learn how to properly hand temper, or crystallize, her own chocolate. “Making chocolate is a tricky process,” Hanyecz said. “If the chocolate isn’t properly tempered, it won’t harden or have the right shine.”
Despite the obstacles she may have had, Hanyecz hopes to expand her business in the future. From now until her college graduation, she hopes for her business to become more official by gaining FDA approval so she can sell her chocolate in stores. “I’d love to be able to graduate and fully employ myself,” she said. “I don’t want to take loans or another job. I want to see where I can take my business.”
Hanyecz recommends that other students start their own businesses at a young age. “I think it’s one of the best ideas to start as a student,” she said. “You don’t pay for rent or food and you’re not out in the world on your own. Most people also have extra time that they’re not allocating efficiently. I thought I would face a lot of trouble with my age, but people were really impressed when they heard that I had a vision and everyone jumps at the chance to help me.”