Woman Owned Wednesday: Estelle Tracy
Estelle and I first met at a Wellstruck Roundtable event that was hosted by Sarah Zero. It was 2018, I was pregnant with my second child, and I was so happy to connect with a table full of women who were also navigating the rollercoaster that is motherhood and business ownership. Estelle had amazing insight and advice to offer that day, and in the years since has become one of my greatest online cheerleaders. In addition to being a wonderful human, Estelle also runs a really interesting and unique business; 37 Chocolates provides chocolate tastings and experiences both online and in-person to people around the world. The next time you're in the market for a fabulous chocolate bar, be sure to consult Estelle. She doesn't disappoint!
Estelle Tracy: 37 Chocolates
1. What is the name of your company and what do you do?
I’m the founder of 37 Chocolates and a chocolate sommelier. I host chocolate tastings, both online internationally and in-person in Chester County.
2. How long have you been in business?
I hosted my first event in February 2017 so it’s now been 6 years since I’ve been running a chocolate tasting business.
3. How did you decide to launch your own business?
It was an accident. In 2015, I reviewed 37 chocolate bars in honor of my 37th birthday that Halloween. I’d narrowed my focus to single origin, bean-to-bar chocolate because I wanted to understand the impact of a cacao origin on chocolate bar’s flavor.
The following January, I launched 37chocolates.com as a place to dive deeper into the world of craft chocolate. A friend of mine introduced me to a journalist who put me on the cover of the local newspaper because my chocolate blog was read “by thousands.” I joke it must have been a slow news cycle because the blog was only 1 month-old when it was featured.
The article caught the attention of a librarian who invited me to host a chocolate tasting at the library. I didn’t know it then, but I was going to be paid for the gig. Once I received my first check, I knew I’d pursue that line of work.
4. What challenges did you face in the process of launching your business?
The biggest challenge is managing to convey the value of my work. We’re very few chocolate sommeliers out there and people aren’t sure what our job entails. Spoiler: it’s so much more than tasting chocolate.
The other hurdle is that people are emotionally attached to chocolate. They know what they like and I have to respect that when introducing them to pricier, unique options. It wasn’t until I started co-hosting wine & chocolate pairings that the business showed first signs of success.
5. Did you feel as though there were resources available to you, specifically as a woman business owner?
Yes. I learned a lot from women business groups on Facebook. I learned about Marie Forleo’s B-School program and joined the program in 2016, before really starting the chocolate business. I could tell the market wasn’t ready for what I wanted to create so I invested the time to learn about online marketing so the business would stand on a solid foundation.
6. Do you have a mentor?
I don’t have a mentor in the classical sense, but I learn a lot from my colleague Sophia Rea, founder of Projet Chocolat in Nashville. Sophia’s been at this for longer than I have and she inspired me to own the term “chocolate sommelier.” Our customer bases are very different and we have different strengths, so we have a very symbiotic relationship.
7. Books you recommend?
Everyone should read “Essentialism” from Greg McKeown before their business takes off. The principles of the book apply to many aspects of life and help me make peace with putting some aspects of the business on the back burner.
I’m currently reading “Atomic Habits” by James Clear and now see what the hype is about.
For women, I highly recommend “The Confidence Code” by Katty Kay and Claire Shipman.
8. What do you love most about running your own business?
I love having agency over the direction of the business, especially when times are rough. Pivoting to online tastings during the pandemic effectively saved my business. It was my decision and I got to savor the fruits of that labor.
9. What is your least favorite aspect of running your own business?
Running a business requires a lot of energy. You need to balance the periods of intense work with long periods of rest or you burn out. I’m fortunate to be able to slow down and recharge in the summer so I can start the chocolate season strong.
10. What is your best piece of advice for other women who are thinking about launching a business?
First, be patient, especially if you’re blazing a new trail. Find ways to enjoy the process and see it as a source of fun. There are days where things don’t go as planned, I tell myself “wow, how fortunate I am to live through every aspect of this experience.” Running a business can be fun if you decide it to be.