Branson’s Chocolates is Deena Branson’s first, and only business… and it is all hers.
Being a woman has not made it any more difficult or any easier in her opinion, but the business has not gone according to her plans.
That is for sure! Back in 2005, her original idea was to open a retail store where “Ashland Fudge Co.” was previously located and where she worked for 10 years. But life often laughs at our crudely drawn destiny map because it knows a better path is available.
Branson explains, “The whole deal was almost a sure thing. The lease was signed but timing, bank policy, and paperwork collapsed the retail store at that juncture. Unfortunately, I had already quit my job and was unemployed.” So, it was on to Plan B, but there was no B yet.
Luckily, Deena was able to negotiate to get all the production equipment and start her venture, but she did not have a storefront. How was she going to get the word out?
This was before social media and Facebook ads were even around. So, she became a traveling act looking for events to show off her wares. The Oregon Chocolate Festival was one of these in 2007. She also attended Jackson County Master Gardeners Spring Fair and ChocolateFest in Portland.
In fact, she attended a festival every other weekend for the first eight years that she was in business. That translates to working 7 days a week at 2 jobs for 8 years. The dedication was not a problem. Check out the website here for events, products and more!
Then, her break came. Chocolates wrapped with “It’s a Girl” wrapper as a birth announcement was her Willy Wonka golden ticket. A friend of hers brought them into work. The response from her employer was, “We have been looking for someone to do these.”
Within 30 minutes, she was in contact with the company. Within a week, she was at a branding meeting and then two weeks later, her product was in the Grange Co-op stores. She was already in Made in Oregon stores and Paddington Station, but the Co-op launched her into the next phase of her business.
“I just had to take the leap and focus on the chocolate morning, noon and evening!” It was in November of 2013 when her husband convinced her to look at a potential shop space. “I don’t think it’s going to work,” she said to him. But it did, and they signed the lease immediately and canceled their planned anniversary trip. With only 30 days to get everything up to code, they made the right decision.
By 2014, they opened the retail store in time for Valentine’s Day. Eight hundred square feet turned into 1600 square feet which turned into an even larger facility three years ago when they took over space next door. All in all, Deena understands now that plans, like chocolate, are temperamental and she was better off giving in instead of giving up.
What is truly unique about the Branson’s brand is Deena’s dedication to her dietary challenged customers. Everything in the store is gluten-free. She also has vegan and sugar-free options. But when you walk into the store, do not expect samples. You will have to buy to try or catch her at an off-site show.
But, not too far in the future, she will be offering a truffle-making class and some surprises at the upcoming Oregon Chocolate Festival in March.
1662 Siskiyou Blvd.
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