From Clothing Designer To San Diego’s Most Colorful Chocolate DesignerEat + Drink Introducing Michelle Lomelin of Sweet Petite Confections
The chocolates are tasty, wildly creative, beautiful — and filled with with a good story, too.
We sat down with Michelle Lomelin of Sweet Petite Confections to hear how her background in clothing design led her down the path of becoming one of San Diego’s most artistic chocolatiers.
Between colors, prints, packaging and flavor profiles, and traditional fashion design processes like a merchandising calendar and inspiration boards, her process is certainly one-of-a-kind.
Your background as a clothing designer and the ways in which it has transferred into the making of your chocolates is fascinating — can you give us a brief history of how this all happened?
When I started making chocolate I just did what I knew. I created inspirations boards, color stories, merchandising calendars, marketing calendars, spec sheets, cost sheets, etc.
It never occurred to me that chocolate may not be done that way. I was at least 2 years into my business before I noticed that chocolate wasn’t done the way I do it — but in doing so, I have managed to create my own niche.
What was it like when you first started discovering how to make chocolate?
Chocolate is a temperamental medium. It is a lot like dealing with a toddler. You have to be patient and yielding. So during the first year I spent a lot of time just trying to get what was in my head into a physical form that tasted good.
It is very important to me that the chocolate is not only beautiful, but that it also tastes amazing.
How do your colors, prints, packaging and flavor profiles change depending on each season and holiday?
This is done the same way it is done when designing clothing, but with a bit more flexibility. I look at what is trending, what movies/plays/events are happening, etc.
I have a pretty good eye for color so sometimes I just feel strongly about a certain color combination and use it.
I can’t really explain our different flavor profiles. I’m drawn to interesting and different, and I like to experiment — so I will take typical flavors of the season and put my own spin on them.
When we first saw your chocolates, we were blown away (they’re so beautiful). What reactions do you typically see from first-time customers?
“They’re so beautiful I don’t want to eat them!” is what we hear a lot. My answer is always the same, “Take a picture and let them fulfill their tiny little destinies. Eat them! They are just as wonderful on the inside.”
We noticed you use inspiration boards — can you take us through the process of creating one?
Like most of design, each collection is always a little different. Years ago I would collect pictures of things that inspired me and put an inspiration board together from them.
Now I have Pinterest! I create private boards and start to collect ideas for an entire chocolate season according to individual collections. Or sometimes an entire collection can be inspired by a single photo or painting.
I’m not above pulling out my camera anywhere to capture a shot of something I find inspiring!
You mention on your website that your company has been made from your own creative drive — what parts of that journey have been unexpected or surprising?
I have a quote on the wall of the shop by Ralph Waldo Emerson: “Insist on yourself. Never imitate. Your own gift you can present every moment with the cumulative force of a whole life’s cultivation.”
I thought for a long time about what would capture the essence of what I am and do and that summed it up neatly.
I come from such a solid place and tend to approach my business, and life, really, with a view of openness. I’m happy to take what comes and see what I can make of it. This way of viewing the world has made for less surprises and allowed me to “go with the flow” in a beautiful way.
You do chocolate pairings, chocolate making classes, and private events — what are some of those like?
We are trying to bring joy in a creative way. The approach to our events comes from this philosophy. We want our customers to have an amazing experience.
If we have done our job right, our customers feel that they have learned something new, gotten to experience something unique and different and had a great time doing so.
What future plans are in store for your business?
The next step for the future includes a full café and expanded retail area. After that, let’s just see where it leads us…
Thank you, Michelle, for the wise words, the inspiration, and the chocolate (of course).