We had the good fortune of connecting with Kathleen D’Agostino and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Kathleen, can you walk us through the thought-process of starting your business?
I have always been in creative fields from floral design to merchandising to interior decorating and had done freelance before, but I came to a point where I wanted to create on my own terms without boundaries placed by others and the freedom that goes along with that. It was never about making more money, it was about doing something that I had a passion for and hoped would be more fulfilling from a creative standpoint and offering something to the community that it was lacking. I was trained at a very young age while working at a small chocolate shop for several years during high school, in fact, when I began working there I would walk to work because I did not drive yet and it was close to my family’s house, I was fifteen. I had a dream then to have my own chocolatier but I did not revisit that until much later in life. I think that can easily happen to young people, your dreams get set aside when life comes at you quick, and you begin to feel like you’re just in survival mode, before you know it decades have passed. I felt like it was a risk I had to take or I might never do it, and I did not want to wonder what could have been if I had only tried.
Can you open up a bit about your work and career? We’re big fans and we’d love for our community to learn more about your work.
Being a chocolatier not only allows me to be working with my hands but through the creative process of developing new recipes and flavor profiles, I am able to support other local makers. I’ve used so many local products from teas, tinctures, honey, fruit, and brittle candy to CBD. I love being a part of my community, opening avenues for us to thrive as local makers, farmers, and business people. I use local resources as much as I can and feel strength in that aspect of building community. I believe in the saying “it takes a village” we are truly stronger together.
Chocolatá celebrates 5 years this fall, it has been the biggest learning experience of my lifetime, it is not easy to be a small business owner but it is fulfilling. I recently saw a quote from the artist Banksy, “if you get tired, learn to rest, not to quit” Taking time to rest, to truly step away from the daily routine when you are mentally at work 24/7 I believe is vital to staying healthy and running a healthy business. I also learned to ask for help, in any way you can hand off something that someone else is better at, do it, it isn’t always easy to let go but it is necessary for growth. One human can be great, but they can’t be 5 humans!
I started my brand by asking my friend who is a graphic designer & photographer to help me create a logo for Chocolatá, she knew me so well it was easy for her to capture a vibe that is part of who I am. Knowing my interest in astrology, spirituality, the divine Goddess, energy healing, and belief in following your intuition, I think she created a logo that has captured the magical essence of chocolate. Chocolate is incredible food, with healing properties as long as it is high quality and sourced from sustainable practices. At Chocolatá we like to think of our chocolate “fix” as a form of self-love. To love ourselves is vital nourishment to our bodies and souls.
Any places to eat or things to do that you can share with our readers? If they have a friend visiting town, what are some spots they could take them to?
Birmingham is called The Magic City, I believe it does have many unexpected experiences for someone not familiar with it or the South. We are especially known for our restaurants, we are so lucky to have so many of them in a city this size. One of my favorite Saturday brunches is downtown at El Barrio, and dinner at one of the coolest restaurants downtown is ShuShop, a Japanese inspired izakaya and ramen shop. For great cocktails after dinner go to Pilcrow Cocktail Cellar on historic Morris Ave. Drop into the Essential or Bandit, the owner Kristen Hall is an aesthetic Diva and a very fine pastry maker, it never disappoints. While downtown, The Civil Rights Museum is a must while visiting a place with such deep roots in the Civil Rights Movement located across the street from the Sixteenth Street Baptist Church. We have a beautiful Museum of art that is free. We have lots of breweries! Back Forty is located right next to Sloss Furnaces, a historic site and museum. The historic Lyric and the Alabama Theater are great for catching a live show or seasonal Saturday movies. Over the mountain from downtown the Botanical Gardens is a perfect way to spend a few hours, and they have a great gift shop. I’d also recommend Barber’s Motor Sports Museum, whether or not you’re a motorcycle or race car fan, it is an International Award-winning Museum and track where you can catch a race during certain times of the year. I could go on but will stop here… just enjoy exploring Birmingham, what I consider a great secret of the South.
Shoutout is all about shouting out others who you feel deserve additional recognition and exposure. Who would you like to shoutout?
My husband showed me through his own example of following his passion to start a small business making sausage, D’Agostino’s Sasuasage Empire, on top of his established career of 22 years as an architect, that you can do anything you set your mind to.
Facebook: Chocolata Artisanal Chocolatier
Graham Yelton Creative