Dietician, Belly Dancer, Chocolatier? New Southlake Business Owner Shares Her Story
Apr 14, 2015 10:55AM
● By Kevin
Photo courtesy of Easy Street Images.
Yeli Belly Chocolates, Southlake - 2015 [6 Images] Click Any Image To Expand
"I started selling [chocolates] in 2009, but it was really just a hobby – a sidejob at best," she said. "I was still working full time as a registered dietician. The hobby of making chocolate for friends and local sales just got to be too big. I had people requesting more weddings, corporate gifts, holidays ... I just had to make that decision as to whether I keep it as a hobby or go full board with it. I went full time in 2013 and last year we moved into a proper storefront."
The storefront is located at 2364 E. Northwest Pkwy., Southlake. She chose Southlake due to a partnership with Delicious Cakes, a custom wedding cake company. After meeting with the owners, both parties agreed Marshall could use the retail space to sell and showcase her chocolate masterpieces. The two businesses share the kitchen area.
Now, Marshall is looking to move to the Southlake, Grapevine, Keller area with her family.
"Aubrey was fine when I was a registered dietician, but I’m loving the area here and we decided it would be better for our family if we move down here," she said.
We were able to catch up with Marshall (or "Yeli" for short) in this business spotlight Q&A.
Southlake Style: What are your future plans with the business now that you're up and running down here?
Yeli: I really hope to expand the lines of chocolate and confections I offer. I really just started with making truffles (flavor-infused chocolates). I’ve expanded to do more novelty type items like chocolate-covered Oreos, candies, and expand those lines to more offerings both in candy and chocolates.
I foresee myself in the next couple of years either outgrowing the
space we’re in now or taking over the whole store. We’re already moving cakes
out of the way to put chocolate in the retail area now. I hired my first
employee now too, which is exciting. I look forward to hopefully by the end of
the year to hire someone to share the duties to make chocolate with me to allow
me to do the office/business work and develop new flavors and operate the
behind the scenes stuff in the kitchen too. I’m getting to the point where I’m
going to need someone to assist with all of that. Those are my goals for the
next 2-5 years.
SS: Can you talk a bit about you, your nickname, and your history with belly dancing?
Yeli: From my previous work, as a registed dietician (I have a masters in nutrition), I started my career doing research and development work – menu planning, new foods for companies, spending time in the kitchen working on new meals for different companies I worked with. There’s a lot of science associated with making chocolate. With my background, there was an easy connection made in making good chocolate.
I started taking belly dancing classes just for fun. I was looking for a new workout at the time. I found I was good at it, so it expanded to years of dancing for fun. I've been teaching classes, workshops for other dancers, I've been in a number of competitions, and done DVDs that are belly dance related.
When we were coming up with the name for my company, the first place that ever sold my chocolate was a studio that I was teaching at the time. Yeli is a name I use when I belly dance – it's more exotic than Sarahbeth – and it fits the culture. While I was teaching, the studio I was working with helped me come up with Yelibelly Chocolates. It has a fun ring to it, it stands out, it’s unique. A majority of people I run into, even my family, call me Yeli. It helped me build the tagline: "Flavors that make your belly dance."
Making chocolate was a lot of fun as a hobby but my husband and family said they saw the hobby becoming too big. They encouraged me to try this out full time and see what happens.
SS: Nutrition and chocolate - it's a bit contradictory, isn't it?
Yeli: I’m definitely a dietician that signs the "all foods can fit" mentality. I think everything is good in moderation. There isn’t a thing you can’t enjoy. If you enjoy a food, you can enjoy a food with diet and exercise (balance).
I didn’t just want
to make bars of chocolate. I wanted to make one that gave you an experience so
you were satisfied with one piece; so you don’t need to eat more (like eating a
whole bag of M&M’s). You feel satiated/content that you had this chocolate
experience and are satisfied with it. That’s also how I balance it as a dietician.
I expect people to enjoy a box one piece at a time, and not devour the whole thing
because you don’t feel satisfied by just one piece.
SS: What is your favorite holiday or event to prepare chocolates for?
Yeli: That’s a hard one! I always keep two regular collections in my store and change up the third collection often. The third collection is whatever holiday is coming up. My favorite is hard to say. I just love, in general, changing them up. For St. Patrick’s Day, I did a beer-infused collection. I took some local beers like Ugly Pug (Fort Worth) and infused that into the chocolate. My Mother’s Day collection will be a lot of floral infused (rose, lavender); something that says spring, feminine, floral ... for Mother’s Day. I love the change I can do throughout the year and it’s exciting to come up with new collections all the time. I always love finding new things to offer everybody too.
SS: Talk a bit more about the Grapevine Chocolate Festival. You won in 2010. Have you won any other awards?
Yeli: Chocolate related, no. That’s the only time I’ve been in a
competition though. 2010 was the first and last time I’ve been apart of it. I am participating in the 2015 festival. I’m hoping to develop a new flavor that will wow
them the way I did in 2010. I won with my habanero-infused truffle – it's a little
bit of a spicy chocolate. I won "unique" and "best overall truffle" that year.
Right now I’m in research and development in the kitchen over the next few weeks to see what the flavor
will be this year for the festival.
SS: Anything else you'd like to add?
Yeli: One thing that helps me stand out from other chocolatiers in the area are not just the flavor profiles but also how I decorate my chocolates. I'm constantly developing new décor to go on the truffles and chocolate-covered Oreos. I pride myself on wedding favors, special events, corporate gifts ... things like that. I have a lot of fun changing the décor on the chocolates to match what customers are looking for.
When you buy from month to
month, the decorations will always be different. I put a card in the box to
show what the chocolates are, but they may look completely different from one
production to the next. It makes it a lot more fun so it doesn’t always appear
to be the same chocolate each time and the flavor and look of it is different
when you’re trying my chocolates.