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Napa native turns pandemic lockdown into tasty business

Napa native turns pandemic lockdown into tasty business

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The COVID-19 pandemic made an entrepreneur out of Napa Native Jakob Madsen, who turned his passion for chocolate into a business, making and selling colorful handmade confections.

The 21-year-old was and still is studying to be a financial analyst or a marketing executive, but it’s looking more and more like Jakob Chocolates may be a permanent thing, he said.

Jakob has been making chocolate since he was about 10 years old when he discovered a fascination with candy making. Add to that his desire to not allow the art of artisan chocolate making to fade into history, and you have the motivation for Jakob Chocolates.

“I had the benefit of having my dad know how to make different kinds of confections, and he’d show me how to make the gourmet, handmade versions of stuff and it kind of stuck,” Madsen said.

“And then, i didn’t do anything with it for a while. Went to school, and when COVID happened and all my internships were cancelled, I revisited my old hobby. I figure, in 50 years, there might not be anyone around who knows how to make those special candies.”

What Madsen says sets him apart is mostly that his chocolate creations are not just shades of brown, or even white, but a whole palate of hues.

“They’re all hand made, and I use all premium ingredients, which everyone says, but also, all my chocolate is one of a kind, because each piece is hand-painted,” he said. “A lot of love and passion is put into each one. I never settle. I make sure every product I put out is the best product it can be.”

Chocolate, Madsen explains, is constructed of two parts — the raw chocolate and the cocoa butter, which is a cream color, and to which you can add an oil-based color, “so you can paint with it. it’s really fun. That’s what I love about the chocolate I make.”

Madsen said he’s always been a big fan of color and tries “to make that come through in the chocolate I make.”

So besides the candies with colors you might expect, Jakob Chocolates are also “royal red, deep blue, a really pretty yellow gold, and greens, pink, orange and white. I try to mix a lot of colors so it sort of pops off the page when you see a picture.”

Shapes are another thing Madsen switches up, he said.

“I also have a lot of different shapes,” he said. “My average box has 10 or 12 different shapes to it. It provides a unique experience, with shapes like a hexagon, cocoa-pod, honeybee, teardrop, a top hat, and that’s my favorite one.”

There are round ones, log-shaped ones, square ones and some whose shape are too unusual to describe, Madsen said.

“I try to match the chocolate to the color,” he said. “like the honey truffle looks like a honeybee. But I try to make most of it abstract, but I try to be uniform, so the caramels are all blue and red. There’s a QR code in each box for interactive ways to see what’s what in the box which is really fun.”

Madsen said the best part of crafting candy creations is being able to get into a “zone.”

“It’s getting to sit down and make chocolate,” he said. “I find it really relaxing — to sit down, listen to music and make my chocolate.”

It’s not all sugar and spice though. There have been some challenges that have arisen since he started working on candies for fun and profit, which launched with his website in January, he said.

“The most challenging thing comes down to the cost,” he said. “Not just charging the right amount but also balancing my spending. My mom has been really helpful on this, helping me figure out getting deals on buying stuff and making a profit. It’s something they don’t tell you in school... and I’m lucky to have my mom to help with that.”

Business has been “going great” since Madsen launched Jakob Chocolate’s website, www.jakobchocolates.com, on Jan. 11, 2021, he said.

“I have some wholesale places — some stores around the Valley, like Annette’s Chocolates in downtown Napa, Brewed Coffee, Gary’s Market in St. Helena, and also a Calistoga winery called Romeo Vineyards & Cellars,” as well as sales from his website: jakobchocolates.com.

At least one of Madsen’s customers said his work is exceedingly tasty.

“I first saw (about Jakob Chocolates on social media about start-ups in the Napa Valley), and within days, he was up here and creating beautiful truffles with colors to match the label,” said Romeo Vineyards General Manager Emma Blatcher. “The whole package was just spot on... I’m beyond delighted.”

Meanwhile, Madsen finds it less like work than play.

“It’s fun. It started as a hobby and grew into a COVID project and it’s turning into something I see myself doing all the time,” he said. “My mom and grandma always said if you do what you love, you’ll never work a day in your life, and it’s looking like that.”

PHOTOS: NAPAN JAKOB MADSEN HAS MADE A BUSINESS OUT OF MAKING CHOCOLATE.

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You can reach business editor Jennifer Huffman at 256-2218 or jhuffman@napanews.com

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