Erika Reich completed her studies at IBS in 2002. She is the co-owner of Noir Chocolate Bar in Hegedű utca, Budapest.
What did you do after IBS?
Right after school I went to work for the marketing department of channel TV2 as an event organizer and coordinator. Parallel with this, I ran smaller programs at Fix TV. With my partner, we were travelling a lot, to Spain, Italy, France, to Portugal, I also have relatives there. During these trips we were often sitting in little coffee shops, chocolate bars, cafes, and I just loved these. In Hungary at the time there were nothing like these, so I was wondering if it was feasible to open something like them, and little by little, I fell in l love, and got obsessed with this idea. I was sure that in Hungary and especially in Budapest this would work. So, it became a dream for me that I wanted to carry out. I began thinking, and I went back to IBS and I consulted with the rector, Mr. István Tamás who helped me a lot, with ideas, advise, considering this as a business option. It seemed a bit ambitious plan to open the first chocolate bar in Hungary. What we really learnt from our teachers at IBS is that the first thing is to believe in your dream and to really be persistent and want to carry it out. You need to believe in your own dreams and the rest will come.
Well, probably you need something more than just believing in your dreams. How could you raise the money to begin your business?
Well, as I said, the first thing was that I believed in my dream. I received a lot of help from IBS in consulting, in setting up a business plan, I also asked my sister if she was willing to participate and also run the business when I am not in Budapest. My sister, at the time, was working for a multi-national company at a totally different field but, but she was happy to be my business partner. Mr. István Tamás often supports starting businesses, helped us as well. He was not only a business consultant but also supported us financially. We remain grateful for his help.
What is really special about Noir Chocolate Bar?
We use exclusively the best, highest quality chocolate. The place has a very special, warm, and sweet atmosphere. We also offer a large variety of high quality chocolate drinks. Already the first week brought us a full house. To be honest, we ourselves were not prepared for this many people. We have never really advertised ourselves, people learnt about us by word of mouth, and still, we have a very strong group of regular customers. I must confess though that we have this core of regular customers only in the season. Chocolate is a seasonal product, hot chocolate, chocolate fondue all these are strongly connected to winter. We are really doing well from September until next April, but we are still open in the summer except for August. Our next big plan to extend the Chocolate Bar with a terrace that would be a big step to overcome seasonal difficulties. I moved back to Hungary 4 months ago, and this will be our next big step.
Where did you live before?
I lived in Iran with my Persian Husband. In Iran, I made chocolate as well, where it was even more popular than in Europe. I could not open a chocolate bar but I prepared manufactured, hand-made chocolate. Teheran is a big market so it was relatively easy to do business with something, which is high quality, unique, and a foreigner brings it in and prepares it. I missed Budapest very much, so I came home and we will see what future brings. My husband and his family are very modern, contemporary. He used to work in Budapest. Actually, we got acquainted in this Chocolate Bar, he had his office near here and he frequently came in. I lived in Teheran for 6 years and it was wonderful, it is a rich and colourful world. It is also a wonderful country, I loved to live there but I am basicly a girl from Budapest… The Chocolate Bar was expecting me back with all its charm and emotional ties. We have our tenth anniversary on December 6 when we will project the film Chocolate. I would like to extend and develop the business, so I am going to open a chocolate manufacture, I have just found the right place and I am trying to find the right people to work with. We will not only prepare nicely packed chocolates but will also have presentations, and offer trainings.
Where did you learn all these?
As I have not studied cooking or catering, I had to learn all these in special trainings and courses mostly abroad, in Belgium, in Canada among them. I have also read a lot of books written by master chefs of chocolate. And of course, practice, practice, practice in real life.