From their beginning, Janine Finn and Rebecca Radovich had the right ingredients for a successful dessert enterprise, mixing Finn’s solid business experience with Radovich’s creative food and catering expertise. Starting small with an online cake business in 2006, the business partners quickly decided to sell their confections out of a storefront in downtown Savannah.
“We talked about opening a business. Janine saw a place in Asheville she liked, and desserts were my favorite part of catering,” says Radovich. “When she told me about the place, it sounded almost exactly like what we wanted to do.” They added cocktails, beer and wine to their dessert menu, bringing the idea for a sophisticated new concept – the chocolate bar – to Savannah.
Finn and Radovich soon realized they needed help making it happen.
They went to the UGA SBDC Southern Coastal office, where they worked with consultant Connie Edwards on their business plan, financials and a loan proposal for their space.
The partners did not have the capital to buy a building for their dessert bar and kitchen, so Edwards advised them to rent the space until they were in a position to buy it.
Since then, Finn and Radovich have had to expand their kitchen twice. Their latest expansion into an existing bakery space allowed for their newest business line, Lulucakes Boutique Bakery.
Sales at Lulu’s Chocolate Bar are rising faster than fresh dough in a warm oven, growing an average 25 percent per year through 2012 and rising even higher in 2013. Lulu’s employees have grown from the two owners to 20.
In February 2014, Lulu’s Chocolate Bar was named one of “Nine amazing American chocolate cafes, bars and lounges” by USA Today. And Lulu’s delicacies have been voted Best Desserts in Savannah every year since 2008.
“Janine and Rebecca have continued to contact us over the years as they need help,” says Edwards. They recently attended the SBDC GrowSmart™ program, which offers small business owners a wealth of information on things they can do to improve their businesses and long-range planning.
“We went to the GrowSmart™ program because we were on the brink of making major decisions about adding the kitchen and expanding into wedding cakes and dessert buffets,” says Finn. “The timing was perfect for us to attend the program. The SBDC held our hands through the program, and we feel really good moving to this next level.”
“Over the years, I’ve been the dessert and creative side of the business,” explains Radovich. “The GrowSmart™ class helped me feel more a part of the business side of it. It helped me understand more about how our business runs and know that I have more to contribute to it.”
Edwards will continue to work with the partners as they grow. She believes Lulu’s will continue to prosper because of the partners’ ability to recognize market opportunities and their willingness to take risks and keep learning.
“And note that their business’s legal name is Lulu’s Chocolate Empire,” she says. “When they use a name like that, they’re looking ahead.”