Léa Audet was not born an entrepreneur, but she liked chocolate. It is her desire to create delicious chocolate expressing her social values that pushed her into creating her own vegan and eco-friendly chocolate making space. Microcrédit Montréal believed in her project. This is her story…
Choco de Léa
Choco de Lea – Vegan chocolate… with a passion!
“I wish to get a Ph.D., but if it doesn’t work out, I want to be a chocolate maker!” Expressed in jest, she repeated it often as a child. As she started her master’s studies in sociology, she was still thorn between her desires to further her academic studies and devote her time to chocolate making. The latter won!
Food chemistry and vegan chocolate
Having finally decided on her career path, she found that there were but few courses given on chocolate making in Quebec. The ITHQ had some classes that pertained to it as part of a larger curriculum on pastry making. She decided to enroll. “Why not kill two birds with one stone and see where it takes me”.
At the Institute, a passion for vegan pastries is found, another for the chemistry underlying it all as well. “What is interesting is the food chemistry involved in replacing animal products in such pastries. I got very immersed at the molecular level, what does what, when and how”.
Diploma and skills in hand, Léa went on the hunt for a vegan bakery to work for. “There were none at that time. That is when I decided to create Choco de Léa and make chocolate with the bean to bar method. Doing it with local products, I felt that was the best way to respect individuals and the environment”. Bean to bar you ask? That is when the pastry maker is involved in all aspects of the process, from when the bean is harvested to the finished product we consume.
For two years, her kitchen was the testing grounds for her recipe and ideas. “It was a long process, but it was well worth it. I was able to dwell deeply into food chemistry and molecular gastronomy, and combine this knowledge with my sociology background and my social justice causes. That is why the products I make are a true reflection of who I am”.
Knocking on the good door
Spring 2020, Choco de Léa is on a swell run. The company is incorporated, sales are soaring, satisfied customers are a plenty and a brand new website now allows for online selling. A perfect time for capital injection for a business that is destined to grow like hers.
Alas, the pandemic hits her hard. To compound, she is not eligible for CERB. She still wants Choco de Léa to grow, but financial institutions are not willing to follow her in business ambitions.
“As a woman in the crafts industry, my impression was that I was taken less seriously than a man working on a mobile application”.
Upon the advice of a fellow entrepreneur in a similar situation, she approached Microcrédit Montréal to inquire about financing opportunities. “I thought it was only reserved for immigrants and would not be eligible for it. She told me to go for it anyway and let them push me away if I wasn’t”. She was not pushed away!
With the funding she received, her project took on a different scale as she was able to move into a bigger space. “It allowed me to increase my working capital and buy a lot more of my base ingredients in advance. I also bought a machine that helps to temper the chocolate which will greatly augment my production capacities”.
Léa is not just happy about her financing; she also very much appreciated the support and assistance she got throughout.
“What I really liked was that it was not just all about numbers. They took time to meet and make it a human process. They saw potential in me no matter my gender or skin colour. To be honest, it gave me renewed hope in society!”
Like Léa, do you wish to have access to loan and support from Microcrédit Montréal to carry out your business project?