3/8/2014

Chocolate Over Everything!

My name is Chirag Bansal. I’m 22 yrs. old, and I aspire to make a noticeable impact on as many lives as possible. As a first year Master’s Student, studying Economics and a recent graduate from the Rutgers School of Arts and Sciences, I now own and manage a business called Chocolate Box. Although I was initially pursuing a medical degree, I decided to take a chance on myself and spend a few years developing a business from the ground up, while finishing my masters. This decision completely changed my outlook on what I thought I was capable of doing, apart from what I could do going forward.


Before this, I want to mention, there was pressure from my parents to finish my medical degree right away. I heard a lot of, “You’re getting old.” “When do you plan on finishing your schooling?” “You’re not serious enough about your life.” While really, it was a response to figuring out what I wanted to do. This is not to say my parents are not proud of what I have accomplished on my current career path. They worry, just like all of our parents. They worry we will end up struggling as much as they did. I admire the struggle. We all go through that process in different ways. Some of us need more of it, whereas, some of us receive more of it than we can take. The bottom line is, never stop believing in yourself and stick to the decisions you make. Many times, we start something and leave it undone. But, that is not ok. The culmination of unfinished business, will never compare to what you throw your heart into. And, endurance is a big part of that.


Despite my education, I think having a good work ethic, being personable, and possessing the ability to convince others of your ideas, is a big part of why people can succeed faster than others. School can teach you the answers to the questions you have not yet asked, but it’s when you put yourself in a situation where you need that information, that you will truly remember and understand it. I am not referring to exams or the like, but rather, the time you sat down with a resource, to simply learn for the sake of being interested. However, your education is important. Whether that means being well-read on your own, or picking up the knowledge you need, elsewhere. I tell you this because, I am no scholar. I just read a lot about what interests me, my peers, and those I meet through my profession from reliable sources.


If you were ever confused by what life threw at you, where you are now, or where to go from here, I would spend a couple of days just being honest with yourself and finding what you want to do. This is what I did. And, I know it’s cliché, but what comes afterwards, is the most crucial step- believing in yourself like hell. At some point we all say, “I could do this. I could do that.” However, going out and actually doing what you say, is pretty god damn scary. It took a lot of convincing on my part to let my parents agree with my decisions, but I’m glad I put my foot down and decided this is a life I have to put together for myself, and not what my parents envisioned it to be for me. There is no greater feeling than seeing that believing in yourself paid off, and watching the hard work you put in, was worth it. Everyone is capable of making this decision, and I firmly believe that once you do, your motivation and outlook on life changes dramatically.


My faith, in my own ability and determination, lead me to a much more interesting story- one filled with Chocolate. Many people ask me why I decided to go into selling gourmet chocolate, instead of becoming a doctor, or how it plays into my goal to make an impact on the world. It's a good question, and I didn't really understand why until quite recently. The Chocolate Box story started a long time ago before my family or I even realized it. Around the time I was 11 yrs. old, my father owned a luggage store in Franklin Mills Mall, where I worked and sold luggage, backpacks, etc. On breaks, I would visit the video game store next door, or head over to the candy store. I usually bought half pound chocolate blocks, I was addicted to them. One day at lunch, a friend of mine asked to try the chocolate I was eating and before I knew it, everyone wanted a piece. I started bartering with the candy store owner on the weekends to get better pricing, with what little economic knowledge I had. Eventually, the school found out what I was doing and they told me to stop, not that I could understand why at the time. After spending an abundance of my time in the principal's office. In response, the chocolate that so many kids loved, stopped coming in, along with any extra cash I was making.


A decade later, I was faced with an opportunity to open a store of my own. While I was working to complete two majors and working at our luggage store, I embarked on a research project to enter the Gourmet Chocolate Industry starting my freshman year of college. I was craving both the knowledge of what made fine chocolate so different, and the taste, that really made me say “Wow! This is good; this is something I want everyone to try.” Eventually, I was able to convince most of the top 10 Chocolatiers to invest their brand with me. And now, because of the support of my parents, family, vendors, and friends, Chocolate Box is now a reality.


Chocolate Box is a large part of my life, even the name. On an average week, I put in about 70 hours at my store and this isn’t including any hours I spend planning events, meeting vendors, or doing research. I probably wouldn’t have been able to do that for the past 2 months if I didn’t like what I was doing. Chocolate is a social thing, like most food items, or at least for me. My fondest memories involve laughing uncontrollably with my family over dinner and more often than most, fighting over the last piece of chocolate with friends. I also hated eating any of my meals alone so much so that I would have lunch much later into the day to eat with a friend. That's why I made Chocolate Box into an experience, and not just a store. I want you, your family and friends, to come in and enjoy some of the best Chocolates, Coffee's, and Teas all in one place. But, most importantly, I want you to have a great time while you're with us.


Everything starts with the first step, because that's when your thoughts reach the ground.

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