HOW SWEET IT IS: "The chocolate makes you smile; the box makes you laugh. I always tell people that it's the perfect gift for everyone for anyone who has it all or doesn't." Lisa Nalen, president and owner of Sweet Assets, shows off her unique Financial Crunch chocolate candy.
Sweet Assets, Financial Crunch: A Sweet Return on an Investment
The box and its contents are sure to please. A "Banker's Dozen" of chocolate "Financial Crunch" coins nestle within a green and gold-embossed box, which features a depiction of George Washington enjoying one of the tasty tidbits.
When the top is removed, the unmistakable aroma of full-flavored rich chocolate greets the consumer, as the 11 pieces of Financial Crunch tempt the tastebuds, and as Lisa Nalen, president and owner of Sweet Assets, says, provide "a sweet return on your investment.
"No matter how many assets you have in the bank, under the mattress, or how many off-shore accounts, sooner or later, we all feel a 'financial crunch.' Whether it's high taxes or tuition hikes eating at your income, now it's easy to take a bite out of the crunch and bank on this sweet dividend milk chocolate Financial Crunch. With every bite, your taste buds will profit!"
Ms. Nalen made this sweet offering available last January, and it is rapidly becoming a must for "investors" and consumers alike. It is sold across the country in selected stores, including Go For Baroque in Princeton and Ashton-Whyte in Pennington.
In fact, this is Sweet Assets second offering, notes Ms. Nalen. "I came up with the idea more than 20 years ago, and two friends and I started it in Detroit. At the time I was in a real financial crunch. I was in college, majoring in art history, and I had no money in the bank. I had always loved chocolate, and the idea just took off. Everyone can relate to some kind of financial crunch a tax bite, real estate taxes, etc.
"It became very popular and was even at the White House, along with President Reagan's famous jelly beans, and also People Magazine did a story on it."
After college, Ms. Nalen also worked in New York as story editor and assistant casting director for the David Susskind television show, as well as an actress, including roles in commercials, movies, and TV, notably on Easy Does It, aired on the Discovery channel. Because of these new commitments, production of Financial Crunch was suspended after five years.
Following her marriage, Ms. Nalen and her husband came to Princeton 12 years ago. The family now includes 3 children.
Financial Crunch was not forgotten, however. "People kept asking me about the chocolate," says Ms. Nalen. "Now with the kids in school, I was ready to do something, and the timing seemed right. I came up with the recipe with an amazing chocolatier in Philadelphia a family business that has been making chocolate for generations. I've tasted a lot of chocolate, and I wanted something special. When we came up with the recipe, we sampled it with other chocolate, and 60 different people all chose our recipe."
Designing the chocolate and the packaging, working to achieve just the right mold for the chocolate "coin" (which depicts George Washington, with a "bite" out of the lower right quadrant of the coin), as well as selecting high-end stores for its distribution took up much of her time, she adds.
"I spent a year studying demographics, traveling to possible stores, from California to New York to Florida. I'd wander through a town and store, and I could always tell if it would be a good place for the chocolate. Stores will order anywhere from one case (24 boxes) to five cases, depending on their size and the demand. We make it according to order. I always want it to be fresh.
"It has really been on-the-job training," she continues. "I have been learning from everyone I talk to. My first office was in the Princeton Public Library, and now I have advanced to a home office, but I will soon need to expand that."
"People are contacting me all the time now. For corporate orders (a minimum of one case), customers can call me directly. I am set up to send out big orders; otherwise, they should contact the stores. I have developed a personal relationship with the stores, which is one of the big pleasures of the work.
"I have really been thrilled by the comments of the customers and the store owners," she adds. "One of the biggest surprises was the Worth Avenue Store in Palm Beach. We had sold them one case, and then four days later, they called and ordered five cases. Another time, a decorator bought 25 boxes for his clients, and recently, someone called and wanted the chocolate for a building opening in Houston."
As Ms. Nalen points out, the chocolate makes a special gift for many occasions from holidays to Tax Day to birthdays to bar and bat mitzvahs.
"It is also a great hostess gift, and it's a special way to mark the moment buying a house, a boat, culminating the deal, etc. It is certainly a perfect gift for business clients."
Ms. Nalen is planning both to expand the line as well as to make the chocolate available in more stores, including in Washington, D.C.
"The biggest challenge, since I am one person, is getting everything done," she explains. "Keeping up with the orders, making sure everything is on time, and also being at three different bus stops at 3 in the afternoon. My family comes first, and this is working as long as we are all happy and having fun. Of course, the kids love it. I can't leave it around or they will eat it all. And, when I come back from the chocolatier and have the boxes, the car smells like chocolate I must say I am definitely the most popular car-pooler!"
Eventually, Ms. Nalen hopes to take on one or two employees and streamline the distribution, while always taking care that the chocolate is of the highest quality. "I enjoy the learning process, and of course, I love hearing people tell me how good it is and what fun it is. I love it when I see it in the stores. It's a unique product and a fun product, perfect for anyone with a sophisticated sense of humor."
Currently, she adds, the public has a chance to win a box by calling "Money Talks" radio show on 1350 Nassau Broadcasting, and registering for the Investment Fest.
Ms. Nalen can be reached at (609) 577-3502. The company website is: www. financialcrunch.com.