Entrepreneur launches chocolate business

March 23, 2021
Alumna shares her love of chocolate through delicious, lovingly crafted desserts

Charlotte Denoyer, ’15, spells love C-H-O-C-O-L-A-T-E. In the weeks leading up to Valentine’s Day, the chocolatier spent every night and weekend in the kitchen preparing chocolate cup molds, adding delicious fillings, and packing the beautifully decorated desserts into boxes holding 15 cups each.

“I had a desire to follow in the footsteps of my restaurateur father,” Denoyer explained. “From the time I was a little girl, I loved baking with my mom. My sister, Carrie, and I wanted to make healthier versions of the treats we all grew up with and love.” 

So in 2019, the sisters co-founded Cupped Desserts, their chocolate cup business. They sampled many chocolate varieties before choosing a fair-trade, sustainably produced, dark chocolate from the Dominican Republic.

Charlotte, the company’s chocolatier and business manager, spent hours watching videos and reading books to learn the art of turning bulk chocolate into molded chocolate cups brimming with scrumptious fillings. Carrie uses her background in graphic design to focus on direct-to-consumer marketing, including logo design, website development, and social media. Together the sisters conceptualize ideas for flavors and problem solve.

“Ever since participating in a Sophomore Scholars in Residence program on micro-finance at University of Richmond, I’ve been in love with the idea of entrepreneurship,” said Charlotte, who majored in leadership studies and business administration. “If there’s a job to be done in our company, Carrie and I want to be the first to do it.” 

And they have been. From designing a tray and box to hold the desserts, to ordering chocolate-processing equipment from Italy, to leasing a commercial kitchen in Manhattan’s Upper East Side, they methodically set up the business. By summer 2020, Charlotte, a literacy specialist at a charter school in New York City by day, started making the company’s signature chocolate cup desserts by night.

“The room temperature has to be between 60 and 70 degrees to make chocolate molds,” she said. “On some summer days when the outdoor temperature hit 100 degrees, Carrie and I would wait until 11 p.m. for the kitchen to cool off enough. Then we would work until 5 a.m. In the winter when the nights are cold, we can start much earlier.”

A self-described chocolate addict, Charlotte said she has drawn on her Jepson School of Leadership Studies and E. Claiborne Robins School of Business education in creating and running her business.   

“At Jepson, I participated in intercollegiate debates as a member of the Ethics Bowl team,” she said. “I took in information, processed it, collaborated with others, and developed solutions. I learned to listen while others were speaking. These are all important skills for the co-founder of a small business.

“During a Robins School entrepreneurship class, I started a company where I made and sold fudge to my classmates. That was great practice for running a chocolate business.”   

Now that Cupped Desserts has launched, she is thinking of ways to grow its retail business while adding wholesale partners, the entrepreneurial alumna said. The sisters are considering acquiring their own production and retail space. Meanwhile, they continue creating new delicacies to add to the company’s existing line-up of chocolate cups packed with mouthwatering fillings like chocolate raspberry, chocolate strawberry, and cookies and cream.

“I have become a chocolate snob,” Charlotte said. “Now I indulge my cravings in healthier ways—by eating high-quality chocolate.”

Her favorite chocolate cup?

“The vegan peanut butter cup, definitely!”