- July 21, 2021
- July 21, 2021
"The advisors at the Illinois SBDC at Harper College really helped me to build up my confidence."
- Andrea Pedersen, Owner
Nutritional Decadence, Palatine, IL
Many people want to eat healthier foods, but it’s so hard to give up the decadent foods that we all love. Andrea Pedersen saw this trend as an opportunity to sell the unique chocolate syrup she had developed and start her own food business, Nutritional Decadence. After further refining her product to improve the mouthfeel and taste profile, creating a brand for her syrup, and a chance encounter with the President of Jewel Osco supermarkets, everything was ready to go. In 2020, Andrea launched Cocolasses® on Amazon and through her own e-commerce website.
Why did you choose to start Nutritional Decadence and launch Cocolasses®?
I was diagnosed with a health condition when I was in my late twenties, and it really changed how I view food. To address my condition, I tried taking various vitamins and lots of medications, but nothing really seemed to help. During this time, I learned a lot about how the body uses and reacts to the food we eat. I finally reached the point where I realized that I needed to make food my medicine.
The experience inspired me to try and help people live a healthier lifestyle by eating nutrient-rich foods, which are foods that contain a higher level of nutrition with fewer calories. The message that I try to send is that it isn’t about deprivation. You don’t have to give things up by eliminating certain categories of food like sugars or fats. But you do need to learn to choose your food based on its nutritional attributes. There are actually healthy sugars. Foods like honey and maple syrup contain antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals that have good nutrition. Highly processed foods are generally unhealthy because the processing has eliminated all of its nutrition.
I started Nutritional Decadence to develop these nutrient-rich foods that enable people to live a healthier lifestyle without giving up the types of food they love.
Tell us a little about your business and what makes it unique.
Cocolasses® is a nutrient-rich, dark cocoa syrup. You can use it as a topping for things like ice cream, fruit, or oatmeal. Or it can be used as a flavoring in something like milk. It’s different than typical chocolate syrups, like Hershey’s, though. It’s much healthier because it’s made with blackstrap molasses, which is stocked with vitamins and minerals. Plus, blackstrap molasses contains a compound that actually helps cells process food better. Cocolasses® is also made with real cocoa, which has numerous health benefits. By using more nutritious ingredients, I’ve been able to create a chocolate syrup that’s actually good for you to eat.
What was the problem you were facing when you decided to contact the Illinois SBDC at Harper College?
I learned about the Illinois SBDC at Harper College through word of mouth. I was taking a course for entrepreneurs and the instructor mentioned that the Illinois SBDC at Harper was a great resource for small business owners. There happened to be another student in the class who had previously worked with the Harper team, and he said they were fabulous. In addition, the course taught me that entrepreneurs really need to learn three languages, namely, manufacturing, finance, and marketing. This becomes really important when you meet with people like bankers because you can speak their language. I thought meeting with the Illinois SBDC at Harper College would be a good way for me to become more familiar with these topics and how they applied to my business.
How did the Illinois SBDC at Harper College help with the problems you were having?
The advisors at Harper College’s SBDC really helped me to build up my confidence. I was always questioning myself. Was I doing this right? Is this even the right thing to do? Each of the advisors I’ve met with has educated me about different aspects of my business. Jennie helped me to realize that you don’t just do a website and then it’s done. It’s something you actually need to keep working on and adjust over time. In the beginning, I wasn’t very comfortable with social media. But Cheri helped me to develop the courage to do Instagram by explaining that it wasn’t just about posting images. I could use the platform to help people learn about the nutrition in the foods they eat. And Marge has helped me to develop a business mindset and how to speak the language of business. She has been great at helping me identify the next steps I need to take in order to move things forward. Talking with people who have business experience and had done the things I was trying to do, gave me the reassurance I needed. Plus, since they weren’t part of my family or close circle of friends, I knew they were able to provide advice objectively, and not just tell me what I wanted to hear.
Would you recommend small business owners use the services of the Illinois SBDC at Harper College?
I would definitely recommend the Illinois SBDC to other entrepreneurs. The staff of advisors at Harper College has helped me to learn so many things about running a business. Things that I didn’t even know that I needed to know! They have also helped connect me to other people who can assist me with my business. I meet with several of the advisors almost weekly. They have basically become a part of my team, assisting me on an ongoing basis to manage my business. The center is a tremendous resource for entrepreneurs at any stage of launching or growing a business.