After living abroad for several years and falling in love with the artisanal chocolates of Europe, Carmen Portillo returned stateside and began handcrafting chocolate truffles out of her home in 2007. Her truffles have been featured prominently in local media including Arkansas Business, Arkansas Times, Soiree, Rock City Eats, At Home in Arkansas and local television stations. Due to the growth and popularity of her Cocoa Belle products, in 2016 it was time to for Carmen, who is the state’s first Certified Professional Chocolatier, to move to a commercial manufacturing space.
Carmen secured an SBA 7(a) small loan from ACC to purchase equipment, inventory, and provide needed working capital. This funding enabled her to expand the business out of her home and into a new 1,000 square foot facility in Bryant, AR, that will serve as her manufacturing space and Cocoa Belle’s first retail space.
Carmen states “I don’t want my chocolates to simply be candy. I develop my own recipes and balance flavors that speak to the chocolate lover’s soul.” The SBA small loan through ACC has allowed Carmen to increase her production and grow her business.