Lucy Calamari, 35, channeled her late-night cravings for fudge into her own business, Lucky Lucy Chocolates.
The business has a stand at UM’s weekly Well Canes Market.
Now, Calamari can add to her resume – she is the winner of the 2014 UM Business Plan Competition. She took home the $10,000 grand prize in the alumni category.
Hosted by the School of Business, the competition took place April 3 and featured business plans from three categories: undergraduate students, graduate students and alumni.
“I was happy, I was proud,” Calamari said. “There’s something very rewarding about people appreciating your work and that they believe in my brand and they believe in my product.”
With the cash prize, Calamari plans on buying more supplies and another tent to expand her business to another farmer’s market. Her goal is to be self-sufficient in the next two years where she can hire others to sell her products so she can work on making new accounts in retail.
“They had high compliments for everything that I presented to them,” she said. “So that’s a good thumbs up for me. The award is just the symbol of them approving that I can do well in business. I really don’t want to let anybody down, and now I have more reasons to be successful.”
Calamari began her business as a hobby, selling chocolate to friends and classmates. Since then, she has been able to become the business owner she has always wanted to be.
“This is really what I want to do,” Calamari said. “I don’t see myself working for anybody else. The only job I enjoy is retail, but the world of retail sucks unless you’re in the top. Making my own product and watching people enjoy what I make, it’s very rewarding.”
Calamari has been selling her handcrafted chocolates at the Well Canes Market since the end of January. She decided to sell at this market because “it’s home,” Calamari said. She graduated from the School of Business in May 2013 with her bachelor’s degree.
Calamari knew that going back to school in her thirties would mean a lot of work. When UM offered a scholarship, though, she could not refuse the opportunity.
While she was attending Miami Dade College to earn her associate’s degree, Calamari always had her sights on UM because “it’s the best.”
She took the time to visit UM and ask what she needed to be accepted. The university provided her with a roadmap of courses she needed to take. She would need three more semesters of math, including earning a “B” in calculus to enter the Business School.
Upon her acceptance to UM, she set her sights on graduation. Her schedule then became busier. Aside from school, she continued to privately sell chocolates and care for her 10-year-old daughter.
Calamari, a single mother, believes graduating would not have been possible if not for support from her mother who took care of her daughter.
“It’s very rewarding to see that my daughter sees that her mother works hard and it pays off and so when I graduated, we all graduated,” Calamari said.
After graduating, Calamari decided she would either get a job that would allow her to spend time with her daughter or she would start her own business, a plan that came to pass with Lucky Lucy Chocolates.
Calamari primarily draws her flavor inspiration from the tropical, Florida environment. When she began making her sweets, she first set about working on the texture and the colors because she did not want boring, brown chocolate, she said.
Her flavors include dulce de leche, mango, chipotle, lemon mango, cafe con leche, Key Lime pie and pistachio.
“Aesthetics for me are a big deal, my chocolates have to be beautiful,” she said. “I mean it has to be South Florida flavors so it has to also be colorful because otherwise there’s no point. That’s my brand. That’s what separates me from other chocolatiers.”
Branding also meant coming up with a name. The idea for “Lucky Lucy” came from her email signature.
Calamari would send out emails, misspelling her name at the end and sending out the word “lucky” instead of “Lucy.” Eventually, the two words became linked in her mind, and she liked the sound of it.
Her next step in creating a business was visiting the Launchpad, an entrepreneurship initiative at UM designed to help students with their business plans and goals. Calamari worked together with William Silverman, director of the Launchpad.
“She had a really different perspective on the type of chocolates and truffles she was creating and comparing them to what’s already out there,” Silverman said. “It was something she found really spoke to a group of people here in South Florida in particular.”
Silverman said he believes her next step is to continue growing, since she knows the core of her business and how to operate it.
“I know where she started and I know where she is now,” he said. “She’s made tremendous progress. Obviously, it’s not due to our work, it’s due to her work. She’s the one who has put in the time and effort. She’s refined her product, she’s refined her brand and she’s refined her sales strategy.”
For more information, visit luckylucychocolates.com.