Sweet Startup

Three college grads’ bright idea: design your own chocolate bar.

From left, Chocomize founders Fabian Kaempfer, Nick LaCava, and Eric Heinbockel.
Courtesy of Fabian Kaempfer.

The light went on when Nick LaCava left a bag of chocolate and penny candy in the back of his car in June 2009 and it all melted. After popping the mess in the fridge, LaCava and his friend Eric Heinbockel—LaCava was staying at Heinbockel’s parents’ house in Moorestown—tasted it, and said, “Eureka.” With a third friend, German exchange student Fabian Kaempfer (the three met in 2008 as undergraduates at Columbia University), they had been looking to start a company that would let consumers design their own cereal.

Turned out that had been done. Not so with customizing your own chocolate bar, at least not in the U.S. The result is Chocomize, based in Cherry Hill, in business since late 2009. Customers coming to chocomize.com can choose bars made from dark, milk, or white Callebaut chocolate from Belgium and add up to five pressed-in (by hand) toppings from a list of more than 100, “from fruits and nuts to 23-karat gold flakes and crystallized rose petals,” says Heinbockel. Plain 3.5-ounce bars cost just under $4 each, with toppings priced from 40 cents to $3.25 each.

The company got a boost in March from a brief piece in Costco Connection magazine and a blast into orbit from a mere mention in O, the Oprah Magazine, in June. The partners had to call on college friends to help them turn out a mountain of orders. Now up to speed, with five full-time employees, Chocomize is, says Heinbockel, already profitable.

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