With encouragement from friends and family, one local chocolatier’s small business has taken off within the Geist area.
Jessica Marks, owner of Sodapop’s Sweet Shop, runs her business out of her home at 12717 White Rabbit Dr. in Indianapolis. Marks specializes in custom-made, small-batch chocolate treats. Since opening about a year ago, the chocolatier has created an inclusive menu for all to enjoy.
Marks, 33, and her family have lived at their current residence and business location for six years. During that time, the family has made it a priority to be engaged with the community in efforts like supporting other small businesses and Marks’ involvement with local mom support groups.
Marks grew up around the wedding industry because her mother was a wedding planner. She found herself in the same industry but realized that being home with her family was a priority.
“I grew up around the wedding industry before going on to work in it myself,” Marks said. “After having my daughter, I realized I needed to change my career path so that I could be home more with my family. Now, I work full time as a title specialist for Cox Automotive, one of the biggest car auctions in the country. In my free time, I build my business with the help of my family.”
Marks’ husband, Brian, helps with the business, choosing and sourcing ingredients for treats in development. He was also central in Jessica’s decision to name the business “Sodapop’s Sweet Shop.”
“The name comes from my husband,” Marks said. “He’s always called me ‘Sodapop’ as a term of endearment. When it came time to name my business, it just seemed like an obvious choice.”
Marks was inspired to start her chocolate business because of encouragement from friends and family. After proving her chocolate and treat-making abilities as gifts for special occasions, it made sense that Marks would start her own business.
“It actually started with fudge,” Marks said. “My friends pushed me to start selling my sweets. (Fudge) was something I made for the holidays for my friends, and when I started my own business, I thought there were so many cookie companies out there but so few chocolate and fudge companies. I thought that this would be something more unique and stand out a little more.
“But it was my husband and daughter that helped me believe I could be a real success.”
Marks said in the past year, she received a handful of orders each month. However, when the holiday season arrived toward the end of the year, business “picked up a lot,” with Christmastime being the busiest time.
“I usually only have a few orders each month, but around a holiday like Halloween, Christmas, Valentine’s or a special time, like back-to-school or teacher appreciation days, my business picks up a lot,” Marks said. “At Halloween, I had nine (orders). For Christmas, I had 15 orders.”
Although Sodapop’s Sweet Shop is a one-woman operation, Marks said she regularly receives help from family members and has the support of friends.
“My husband is a huge help, whether it’s picking up ingredients or helping me figure out the business side of things,” Marks said. “My daughter is my best taste tester. My extended family helps with marketing, such as photography, promotional materials and brainstorming ideas on how to grow.
“My friends were some of my first and, now most loyal, customers. They are always helping me come up with new products and taste testing my ideas.”
Marks said some of her most popular items are the cookies and cream fudge and character-shaped treats such as goblins and ghouls at Halloween time.
“The cookies and cream fudge is addictive,” said Sara Chieko Barton, a regular customer. “It’s seriously so good, so hard to resist.”
Although the cookies and cream fudge is a popular choice for customers, when it comes to favorite treats within the family, each member has their own vice.
“My family all have favorite treats,” Marks said. “For my husband, it’s the orange creamsicle fudge or the salted caramel candies. For my daughter, it’s the chocolate-covered strawberry fudge. My mom likes my dairy-free, coconut-free raspberry dark chocolate. For my dad, it’s my chocolate-covered pretzels. For me, it’s got to be my mint chocolate hearts.”
Something Marks takes special pride in is her creation of Lee’s Line: a vegan, nut-free and allergy-friendly line of dark chocolates named after her mother, Lee Johnson.
“One of the things that I’m most proud of is Lee’s Line,” Marks said. “My mother has a large variety of food sensitivities. Due to this, she’s had to give up many foods she enjoys, especially chocolate. When I started making chocolate, I wanted to develop something she could eat. It took six months of trial and error, but I finally found the right recipe and have been pleased to offer Lee’s Line ever since.”
Honoring family members is a common theme for Sodapop’s Sweet Shop. For Valentine’s Day, Marks is offering a special 25 percent discount for all salted caramel sweets in honor of her husband’s favorite treats.
Marks said she has a goal in the new year to create a postpartum line of treats in homage of a close friend’s approaching due date.
“I’m hoping to develop a postpartum line of sweets,” Marks said. “It will be something for new moms to enjoy and to help support breastfeeding. My best friend is going to have a baby soon, and I want to be able to provide comfort to her and others like her in any way I can.”
For more or to place an order, visit facebook.com/sodapopssweetshop.
A brief history of chocolate making
The history of chocolate can be traced back more than 3,000 years to the Maya, Toltec and Aztec people who prepared a beverage from the fruit of the cocoa bean.
The Maya considered chocolate to be the food of the gods, held the cacao tree to be sacred and buried dignitaries with bowls of chocolate.
In 1847, British chocolatier J.S. Fry and Sons created the first chocolate bar molded from a paste made of sugar, chocolate liquor and cocoa butter. Swiss chocolatier Daniel Peter is generally credited for adding dried milk powder to chocolate to create milk chocolate in 1876 – a technique still used today.