“Not your average box of chocolates.” For California native Sheena Minoc, these words are more than a catchphrase — they’re a promise.
As the founder of Bay Bonbon, Sheena is anything but conventional. From her home kitchen in Oakland, she regularly whips up a buffet of creative chocolates: think Magic Matcha, Strawberries & Cream, Masala Chai Caramel and even a “Bad & Boozy” collection featuring rum-infused chocolate, bourbon caramel and mezcal ganache.
Read on to discover how Sheena used lessons learned in the Berkeley Digital Marketing Boot Camp to design a true-to-brand website, build an engaged customer base — and sell out her first product line in just one week.
What inspired the idea behind Bay Bonbon?
When the pandemic hit, I was managing the corporate department of a high-end catering company and, because of the lockdowns, gatherings were banned. I had lots of quiet time to think about what I wanted to do, and how I could change up my career a bit.
One of my good work friends and I had a tradition of spending the day before Thanksgiving together making treats for people — pumpkin pies, pastries and all different kinds of desserts. Last year, we decided to make chocolates. When we gifted them to friends and family, they were obsessed! They told us, “You have to sell these.”
How did you define Bay Bonbon’s brand identity?
From the beginning, I knew I didn’t want Bay Bonbon to be like traditional chocolate houses. Their products all feel very similar. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, but what they do doesn’t really speak to anybody that I know. I’m from an urban area where people are a little more progressive and forward-thinking. I didn’t want the brand message to be: “Men, buy chocolates for your women.” I wanted Bay Bonbon to feel sensual and sexy.
When building our website, I took inspiration from Savage X Fenty and fashion shows. I shot the photography myself, because I wanted to have a warm flow and achieve a different look for every collection.
Other chocolate companies are very fancy and feel unattainable. Their products would be served in high-end restaurants. My chocolate is of that same quality or higher, but Bay Bonbon feels younger and hipper — not old-school and out of reach.
How has the Berkeley Digital Marketing Boot Camp helped you grow Bay Bonbon?
Before the boot camp, I had experience wearing different marketing hats in past jobs but I wasn’t completely comfortable with Facebook Ads, Google Ads and things like that. Those tools still seemed like a mystery to me. The boot camp helped me gain a lot of confidence with all of that and more.
When launching Bay Bonbon, I used my newfound marketing skills to put together a website and Instagram account. I also incorporated lessons from the boot camp about audience engagement — regularly asking questions on social media and really getting customers involved. The results were better than I could have imagined. We had 300 units in our first batch and sold out in a little less than a week!
Sustainability and traceability are both emphasized on your site. How does Bay Bonbon embody these values?
I’m really particular about ingredients, and make sure that everything is sustainable. If ingredients can come from within 50 miles of my kitchen, that’s where I’m getting them. There are a lot of issues within the chocolate industry regarding child labor and slavery. I make sure to purchase traceable chocolate, and always know which farms my ingredients come from — even if it’s a family farm in West Africa.
What has been the biggest reward of running Bay Bonbon?
Connecting with customers has been the biggest reward! I don’t have a huge Instagram audience yet, but I do have a ton of really engaged followers. People are posting photos, tagging me and saying awesome things. I love interacting with them.
Initially, I thought the Bay Bonbon customer base would be very local. But thanks to our social channels and ads, 50% of our traffic comes from outside of California! I’ve shipped to New York, Kentucky, Alabama — places I didn’t even think would come up. Just today, someone messaged me on Instagram saying they got chocolates delivered in Louisville. That was really exciting. It’s amazing to see complete strangers enjoying these products I made with so much love and excitement.
How have you enjoyed being an entrepreneur?
I love it. I’ve always wanted to create something new — something that’s full of art. At Bay Bonbon, I hand-paint each chocolate and make a statement with my ingredients. My past employers have been super supportive. They tell me, “It’s about time. You’ve always had that entrepreneurial spirit.”
Ready to find your own recipe for success? Explore programs in digital marketing, coding, data analytics, UX/UI, cybersecurity, fintech and tech project management through Berkeley Boot Camps.