This is the sixth installment in an interview series with the 2021 Target Forward Founders cohort. Participating companies are sharing details about their innovative companies in their own words. All interviews have been conducted by the Target Forward Founders Program Management team.

Meet Harlem Chocolate Factory.

About the founders

CEO & Co-Founder Jessica Spaulding.

Jessica Spaulding grew up in an anti-sugar home, but there was one exception to this rule, CHOCOLATE, not just any chocolate, high-quality chocolate. Her mother knew the higher the quality of the chocolate, the lower the sugar and the better the flavor. They would attend every chocolate show and learn about chocolate from around the world but could never find anything that reflected her culture. So she tempered her first batch of chocolate at ten years old and dreamed of owning a chocolate factory. Although being a chocolatier wasn’t a supported career path, she never gave up on her dream. Merging her passion for chocolate with her love of Harlem is an experience she wants to share with everyone.

COO & Co-Founder, Asha Dixon

With over six years of experience, Asha Dixon has strategically executed events and bridged partnerships for corporations, private entities, and non-profits. Her love for entrepreneurship was shaped during her childhood by examples of her parents, who both own small businesses. This admiration further developed while attending Spelman College, where invaluable intellectual and social encounters equipped her with tools and confidence to excel regardless of the challenge. With her understanding of brand presentation in conjunction with relationship building, you can expect a high-level curated experience every time you interact with Harlem Chocolate Factory.

TT: What are you hoping to get out of the Target Forward Founders program?

Jessica & Asha: The Target Forward Founders program can provide a safe space with the proper guidance to build a thorough retail plan. In addition, being able to have access to various stakeholders in the retail process is a once-in-a-lifetime experience.

TT: What do you think your company is missing that the program can help with?

Jessica & Asha: Navigating retail is challenging; when you are attempting to navigate retail without support feels like a shot in the dark. I believe our company is in a state where we don’t know what we don’t know, so having a program go beyond the surface level descriptions of what to do can fill the holes we don’t know we have. Our most profound void is a network; building a network of like-minded entrepreneurs is invaluable.

TT: What makes you unique compared to your competitors in the marketplace?

Jessica: I’ve spent my life in the chocolate aisle and attending chocolate shows, never seeing anything that reflected me culturally. Harlem Chocolate Factory seeks to convey the various cultural experiences of Harlem through chocolate.


Meet Hot N Saucy.

About the founder.

CEO and Founder, Sam Davis-Allonce

Sam Allonce is a self- taught career changer chef that has worked in several James Beard and NY Times reviewed NYC restaurants. In 2018, she was named by Essence Magazine as a “Black Female Chef You Ought to Know”. In addition, she has been featured at the James Beard House and on Good Morning America, as well as a participating chef at NYCWFF and SOBEWFF. Her clientele includes Leslie Jones, BET, Roc Nation, Top Shop, Taste of Tennis and Grace Foods. Currently she owner of Hot N Saucy, a small batch hot sauce company which has been featured on Season 14 of Hot Ones.

TT: What are you expecting out of the Target Forward Founders program?

Sam: I am hoping that this program will introduce me to other entrepreneurs and business owners. Having access to others who may be in the same stage as me and my business.

TT: What do you think your company is missing that the program can help with?

Sam: Currently, I am the only employee of my company and with no advisory board or mentor, each decision is made solely by me. Having a network of others who are in similar situations will help me to fill in the gaps and recognize areas that I need help and growth in that I may not be able to recognize on my own.

TT: What makes you unique compared to your competitors in the marketplace?

Sam: Compared to my competitors my hot sauces are made with ingredients that are not being used in the marketplace. The unique ingredients and flavor combinations make my sauces one of a kind. In addition, the branding and story behind my sauces are nothing like any of the others on the market. There are very few if any black woman-owned hot sauces.

TT: What was the inspiration behind your brand?

Sam: The idea for Hot N Saucy came about long ago, but the brand born in 2020 during my pregnancy and Covid-19 lockdown. My pregnancy cravings had me wanting spicy foods but what I found was that most hot sauces were made with the same ingredients and were just hot. They didn’t have flavor or complexity. As a chef, I want to change that. I created a restaurant-worthy sauce that had depth and personality using unique ingredients, all-natural peppers, and was bold, bright, and flavorful.


To learn more about each brand or to shop their products, click on their logos below!