Throughout the summer, Soapbox will profile each of the eight finalists in the Artworks Big Pitch competition, presented by U.S. Bank, which offers artists, makers, designers and creative entrepreneurs a chance to claim up to $20,000 in cash prizes, as well as pro-bono professional services. The competition concludes August 27 at the American Sign Museum with the eight finalists each giving five-minute presentations to a panel of judges. You can read Soapbox’s article on the Big Pitch here.
For some people, chocolate is an indulgence. For others, it’s a comfort. For plenty of us, it is a craving. For Shalini Latour, owner of Chocolats Latour
, chocolate is a meditation.
“I’ve been a pastry chef for over 20 years, been in the wedding cake business, worked in New York and in Cincinnati, until around four years ago I started playing with chocolates,” Latour says. “Compared to baking, the room needs to be really cool with chocolate, the whole process is in some ways quieter, requires a lot of precision and it’s very meditative, which I really like.”
Latour has had quite the journey to arrive at this particular meditation. Her mother is Belgian, and Latour spent time growing up in Brussels, Montreal and Paris before moving to the Catskills in New York. 15 years ago, she moved to Cincinnati and has remained here ever since.
Since founding Chocolats Latour four years ago, she has utilized many of the resources Cincinnati offers small businesses, and learned quite a bit along the way. Three years ago, she was a Bad Girl Ventures
finalist, receiving a small business loan that allowed her to purchase equipment. This past summer, she took part in Artworks’ CO.STARTERS
program (formerly Springboard) and now is taking part in the Big Pitch
“Going through the process with our mentors for the Big Pitch has already been so helpful,” Latour says. “Sometimes, when running a business, you get so caught up doing the work that you don’t have a chance to step back and look at where you are going. My mentors have been great at helping me think about that and how I want to get there.”
Latour’s chocolates have been making waves around Cincinnati and showing up at more and more locations. When she first started, Latour would sell chocolate exclusively at Findlay Market
on Saturdays. Now, she still sells at Findlay, but you can also find her goods at Coffee Emporium
, Jungle Jim’s
and Whole Foods, to name a few. She’s also partnered with the Cincinnati Symphony
to offer special chocolates for Lumenocity
at Washington Park
“Chocolats Latour has done so well that I don’t really do cakes at all anymore,” Latour says. “I use all fairly traded chocolate; it’s important to me that the people who pick the cocoa beans all the way down the line are treated fairly, and I think people have responded to that. I also work with unusual flavors, and I think that’s something I’ve become known for.”
Her chocolates including everything from lavender, lemon and sea salt to turmeric, curry, mango, raisins and even tomatoes. Some of her most popular options are slightly less adventurous bars like sea salt and almond, but common among all of them is the use of simple, natural and local ingredients.
Despite being sold at a handful of locations in Cincinnati, Latour is still legally limited to sell her products only in Ohio because she works from her home in Northside
. One of the goals for her if she wins the Big Pitch is to move into a commercial kitchen.
“My hope is to move some of my production to a commercial kitchen, probably just my chocolate bars at first, so that I can sell those in a wider area,” Latour says.
Latour is grateful for all of the help Artworks has provided her along the way.
“I love that they have programs that really help creative people into the business side of things,” she says. “For a lot of us creative types, the business side isn’t our strong point. Artworks does a great job at understanding that what I do is the creative part but also helping to make it sustainable. But I also don’t feel like I have to let go of my creativity in any way, and I get to enjoy just making the chocolates, creating the designs and enjoying the work that I do, whichever way I choose to grow my company. They understand that and want to support me in that, and it’s great that Cincinnati has programs like these.”
Check out these other Artworks Big Pitch finalists: