When You Think You’re Done, You Are Not.

A blog post.

A blog post?  I have been meaning to start one for a few years.  I have a book that I bought to ensure that I had something to speak to.  I have rolls of duct tape that I have been collecting to get started.  My husband noticed the collage of them on the top of the cabinets behind my desk, and he has started picking them up now and then.  The fact that he noticed them way up there, and then bought one with macaroni and cheese on it, is by far the a clear indication of the procrastination that is reality.  Not that I needed anyone to remind me.

I started a book once called “Everything I know I learned Selling Morphine and Chocolate”.  It remains in the 3 ledger books downstairs on the bookshelf.  The pages chronicle moving to Chicago, finishing my MBA at the University of Chicago and it describes launching the first extended release morphine pill in the US while working at Ligand.  It’s told in part from the perspective and personalities of the amazing team I had the honor of coaching at the time, it walks through the brainstorming and my thoughts as I prepared to start Translucent Chocolates.  The last entry is 14 pages and end’s with, “When you think that you’re done, you are not.”  I obviously can’t finish it as I don’t know everything, and I learned a lot from both of my parents – who have always stood by my side – as I closed the chocolate chapter.  It could just need a new title, possibly it’s something I need to complete.  Maybe it is still sitting there because, as it turns out, I am not done.

The blog.

This is the only time I’ll write about Translucent Chocolates, why I closed “that chapter”, from the past, as it happened.  Then maybe there will be closure, and I won’t be asked why I finally decided to once again “open up the pages” to relaunch the company.  With that said, if you’re reading this its likely you’ve seen that the Translucent Chocolates website is up, sort of.  If it sucks, it’s hard to navigate, or it doesn’t work- call me, 312-404-1812.  Truth be told I had it designed and working several months ago.  I thought that it was done, I’d just need to tweak it and maintain it.  I opened up WP to specify the viewpoint, as it wasn’t working well from my phone a few days earlier, to NO website.  Nothing.  I thought, really?  Yep, really.  So I decided that since I was going to have to maintain it, why not… why not just learn how to build one myself.   I have spent the last year re-learning, pretty much everything as nothing is the way it was even 5 years ago.  Imagine that.  Just when I think I’m done.  I am not.   A common theme in my world.  Maybe I am a perfectionist, quite possibly I over think details.  What the reason, it is, and its a convenient excuse for not starting the duct tape initiative yet, but I will on my next post.

A blog post, hmm.  The re-launch of Translucent Chocolates, it’s still fairly surreal to write about, but I couldn’t be more excited:

“Congrats Stash, I’m so glad you’re back – how can I order them?” as evidenced by the Facebook responses that were posted and the phone calls that followed when I added the TC page, that was about 9 months ago.  Starting Twitter and Pinterest elicited even more calls and requests.  For years time and again people have told me they think I should, again, run Translucent Chocolates.  A few close friends, continued to encourage me to “at least think about it”.   I’ve always kept in touch with my employees, who often taught me more than I taught them, they too had urged me to re-establish the brand offering.  Anita and Kevin said they would come work with me again, Anita took an Operations Management class, called to tell me about it and asked not if, but WHEN was I going to launch the company again.  I decided to see what my husband really thought, at that time it would be less than 6 months and he’s be retiring from the military.   If I was going to do it, this seemed like a good time.  Why not just make one big leap together?  It was he who reminded me that I had just the week before, received a call requesting personalized Translucent Chocolate wedding favors.  In fact, the calls for requests to partner for fundraisers, and dozens of messages for holiday orders on my cell phone had never stopped.  I seriously started to contemplate.  I asked myself what it was that I enjoyed, what strengths had I brought, and decided that I would only focus on the positive.  I  organizations that had I helped and supported,  the arts community- the gratification I still get knowing that I helped to shape several students future, by not only mentoring them but letting them freely express themselves, encouraging and supporting their ideas as they grew.  I remember many large orders where as the company grew several of us had to forge through, working until the early hours of the morning.  No one complained, as a matter of fact we laughed and they supported me.  Family and friends helped me at trade-shows, international film festivals and at Civic Events.  They helped me move everything twice as we  expanded and required more space.  In turn I always made sure that I did my best to be gracious, and appreciative.  And at the 2nd Friday Art Gallery Openings we celebrated the previous months accomplishments while I enjoyed hosting, supporting and featuring new artists from across the country, and often spinning some music on the turn tables myself while we all drank bottles of champagne.   I never regretted starting the company, and never tired of working with the Pantone colored chocolate coated array of seeds, nuts, fruits, espresso beans, caramels, orbs.  And I never tired of the daily smell of chocolate when I walked in the door each morning.  I loved the challenge of getting press articles and I truly loved the smiles that the products put on our clients faces.

I don’t think that most people knew that under all the great memories I felt defeated.  I’ve never really talked about how it felt as I quietly watched my competitors companies became more and more valuable, often times capitalizing on a concept I had started.  I had been so invested in the company, spent so much of my life for so many years building relationships, a reputation and a Brand – to have one sentence in a the settlement agreement between my ex-business partner and I, a document written in what I saw as black and white, be devastatingly all about colors.

It was Christmas Eve and I was exhausted, or at least I thought that’s how emotionally exhausted felt; I was ready to move on for everyone’s sake.  I signed an agreement that I would not publicly disclose the specifics of the separation arrangement and finished wrapping holiday gifts while my husband packed the car in anticipation of the four-family-Christmas-in 2 days-yearly adventure.  Below is an article from one Chicago paper to another.  It was written in response to an interview with an anonymous complaint that was printed in the other paper the previous day.   Even the press was questioning why there was any need for the complaint to be made publicly, clearly they were confused.

http://http://chicagoist.com/2006/04/03/too_much_chocolate_no_such_thing.php

They hoped we could be BBF’s again?  Surly they had to have written that in sarcasm I concluded upon reading the column.  In actuality, “confusion” was the exact word in the sentence that I had not read into when signing the agreement.  I assure you I will never understand either how the phrase “the two parties agree not to make confusingly similar mixes”, ultimately emotionally, mentally, and financially became the reason I closed Translucent Chocolates.  I left everything in the 3000 sq ft. space that I was in, I shut the door, and legally signed papers – this time that I would not touch chocolate for two years.  I was not to buy a chocolate cupcake, not to drink hot cocoa on cold Chicago evenings in front of the fireplace, yes, NO chocolate at all what-so-ever.   My take away from what transpired?  I’ll have 5 lawyers look at any settlement papers I ever have to sign again.  I also painstakingly came to understand  that you can win in court every time you are accused of making or selling “confusingly similar mixes”, however, prevailing in court (because you have to show up) is expensive, it’s draining, and there is nothing in place to make the other party stop.  Ultimately there came a point when the only healthy thing I could do, was to stop.

I thought that I was done, but I am not.

Translucent Chocolates has always been about choices, and expressing those choices through color, and amazing chocolate. So go ahead, indulge – put together the essential ingredients that evoke your imagination and make you happy!!

– AJH

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