Today we’d like to introduce you to Victoria Kichuk.
Victoria, let’s start with your story. We’d love to hear how you got started and how the journey has been so far.
My first experiences leading tours came as an undergrad at Emmanuel College here in Boston. There, I became involved with the admissions office and giving tours to prospective students and their families. My academic advisor was the one who recommended I become an admissions ambassador because he could see my love for my school and thought that would be an asset in giving tours. Chocolate was my absolute first love in life–as a matter of fact, I was born on National Chocolate Chip Day.
In 2011, when food tours first started becoming popular, I started leading tours, mostly centered on chocolate, the Boston, another great love of mine. Beyond just leading tours, I also taught classes on tasting and appreciating chocolate. When I wasn’t working on those events, I was reading books on the subject, writing articles about it, working as a consultant for international chocolate companies, traveling to other places and seeking out local chocolatiers and chocolate-makers and making connections so I could learn from them–basically building a chocolate network.
A little over a year ago, a number of things culminated in the opportunity to launch my own company, and Cocoa Beantown was born.
Great, so let’s dig a little deeper into the story – has it been an easy path overall and if not, what were the challenges you’ve had to overcome?
I was so extraordinarily lucky with the people I had in my life that were able to pitch in and help get Cocoa Beantown off the ground.
A Webby Award winner put together our website, a photographer who also happens to be an Emmy Award winner did a lot of the photos on the site, and a very talented graphic designer who works for Sony Playstation did our logo–and these are all people who are very close to me!
Acknowledging that, there were, of course, things that don’t go as smoothly as you hope.
The paperwork aspect of launching and running a busy is not fun for anyone I’ve ever spoken to–whether it is permits, insurance, accounting, etc. And things always seem to take longer than you anticipate!
Alright – so let’s talk business. Tell us about Cocoa Beantown – what should we know?
Cocoa Beantown is the place for chocoholics! We have a number of chocolate-y offerings, including neighborhood tours of Boston, tasting parties and classes, corporate team building events, educational lectures and presentations and even more! All of our public and private events are available all year round because we think chocoholics are better than the post office–heat, sleet, rain wind, chocoholics will make it through for chocolate!
Unlike a lot of food tour companies, we don’t have minimums, so if you book a tour with us unless exceptionally bad weather happens on the occasion of the tour, it’s going to run.
I really want to be reliable for folks as I know for myself, if I was looking forward to a chocolate tour, and found out the night before it got canceled, I would be really disappointed! I actually led a tour last December with a freshly broken toe and in light snow, because I feel so strongly that it is important not to cancel on guests. The folks who were on that tour were in town from elsewhere already, and they had so much fun and respected my dedication so much, they gave the company glowing reviews!
That’s also part of where our name comes from–everyone knows Boston is Beantown, and that cocoa beans are what make chocolate, but Cocoa Beantown is also a reference to the chocolate history of Boston, and what is any city without the people who live, work, and visit here?
We place a really, really high value on those individual experiences, and bonding people through chocolate. I think the most treasured compliment I’ve ever received from a tour guest was when someone said I made a group of strangers feel like life-long friends by the end of their 2.5-hour tour. That means something to me. To create bonded joy for groups of people is a valuable thing in a day and age where so much of our experiences are becoming more and more digital and solitary.
Bringing people together will always be a focus of what we do through our tours and tasting events.
Is there a characteristic or quality that you feel is essential to success?
Passion and enthusiasm are two things I have found, in both life and business, that cannot be taught or artificially acquired. There are plenty of people who get into business with their sole focus being to make money and forget about the human aspect of what they do, and this is often reflected in how they treat their employees and their customers. I love chocolate, I love Boston, I love both the locals and people who come here from all over to visit here.
I consider it an honor and a privilege to act as an ambassador of sorts and get to show people who are sometimes from far parts of the world around our beautiful city! Getting to combine my love of Boston with my love of chocolate is almost too good to be true. As someone who has worked as a freelance writer, research and due diligence has always been an important part of my processes whenever I undertake a project or endeavor.
Relating the stories and contexts of people and places are very much a part of the city experience and a big part of what folks who come to Boston from other areas are looking for. Telling everyone about the journey chocolate goes through before it gets in their hands is likewise a big part of our tours and tasting classes. These are meaningful stories, and I’m glad to have a hand in passing them along.
- Public tours $50 per person
- Private tours starting at $65 per person
- Tasting classes (both public events and private corporate events) starting at $40 per person
- Website: http://www.cocoabeantown.com
- Phone: 617-855-8567
- Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
- Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/cocoabeantown/
- Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/CocoaBeantown/
- Twitter: https://twitter.com/CocoaBeantown
Erica Meyer, Taylor Vahey, Victoria, Elaine Foley