I have an idea for a very niche/boutique slightly naughty chocolate product to be sold online, but I am not sure how to approach it. The product will require moulding/shaping chocolate into a non-standard shape, where the look will be most important. I also see it as a small scale business, with medium potential.
I am a software engineer, which also means that I can make the website,shop etc. myself when the time comes (if needed at all). I also have several ideas on where I can advertise the product directly to people for free. I have a graphic designer friend who is interested and I think he will be more than happy to do the branding and possibly some packaging design.
The problem is that I haven't the faintest clue on how to test my idea. I mean, I suspect that I will need to find a chocolatier to partner with or at least to initially consult me and make a prototype to my satisfaction. However how should I go about finding one? My main concern is that since I have no resources in this area, if I go and tell someone with such about my very specific idea he might as well take it and do it himself. Suggestions and tips on what to do are highly appreciated!
You are going to have to address the issue of "someone might take it and do it himself". Keep in mind, any competitor could do that after you launch. If all the rest you bring to the business isn't enough to overcome this now, it won't be later either. So my suggestion is have your ducks in a row with everything else about the business before seeking a chocolatier partner. Line up multiple potential partners before talking to any of them, then reveal your idea to them all in a short period of time. Make a choice quickly and be ready in every other way to go to market. Even if a potential partner tries to cut you out, you will be miles ahead of them.
You're going into a product business where I wouldn't suggest being the producer or the seller. Look into getting someone else to sell it for you, either someone selling chocolate or someone selling, well, sex toys. You don't want to be throwing together yet another web site and spending 5 years trying to drive traffic to it. Focus on the sales channels and the marketing.
Spending half your time developing, just because you're a developer isn't the way to go. You're the business owner, you should focus on driving the business as a whole. A lot of software engineer (well, all of them) underestimate the effort to be CEO.
Well in order to make this happen I suspect you are right in needing to find someone suited to provide you with the resources you will need. If you are indeed worried about someone stealing the idea I would suggest drawing up a Non Compete of Non-Disclosure agreement to be signed by whoever you are talking to. I suspect that the chocolatier may charge you for producing the prototype you mentioned. Keep in mind though that producing the prototype is one small aspect of what this project will take. You will need somewhere to manufacture the chocolates you plan on making, so negotiating some type of equity or profit sharing deal may be necessary.
I am not sure as to what stage you may be at in your idea development process and I know that "self promotion" is frowned upon on this site but I do have a contact that manufactures chocolate located in New Jersey if you are interested. I apologize to those of you who hate this kind of promotion but I am just looking to help Ivan out.
When you have something like this in mind, where you have an idea without prior experience in that field, try a google search and get the necessary information.
Then go to social media sites see if there are any groups related to this. See the discussion boards and then try to find a guy whom you think is ok for you and then talk to him about the things which may help your product and then when you think that particular person is trustworthy share it with him.