Behind the exposed brick walls of the Destinations Coffee House in downtown Lincoln, NE is the chocolatey sanctuary of Gaylene Steinbach, the chocolatier mastermind behind Lulubee Artisinal Chocolates.
Gaylene's hand-crafted chocolates are carefully made from the finest ingredients and formed into mouth-watering sweets. From bonbons to bars and toffee to truffles, Gaylene does it all with a smile on her face.
Gaylene's journey with chocolate began 4 years ago with a box of chocolates from a friend who turned into a mentor. With an appetite to understand the complex process behind artisan chocolates, the interest bore a passion, and the passion turned into a business. Gaylene celebrated her first year of business as Lulubee Artisinal Chocolates with the support of friends and family.
"My daughters will hug me and tell me, “I’m so proud of you mom!” My husband always makes time to listen to me and encourages, supports and believes in me. My family has been amazing during this past year of new adventures. They believe in me and support me 100%."
For Gaylene, the support system she's developed with family in her home and chocolatiers around the country is essential to her success. Once a year, Gaylene and her country-wide posse of "chocolate nerds" that she's grown close to over the years, gather together to eat, teach, create and share ideas.
And after years of classes, workshops and experimentation, Gaylene celebrated her first year of business as Lulubee Artisinal Chocolates with the support of friends and family. But behind the beautifully decorated chocolates are all of the moving parts of what it means to run a business.
"I am also the dish-washer, delivery driver, packer, shipper, order taker, inventory control, book-keeper. . . . you name it, I do it! Being creative on a daily basis is the part that keeps me going, that excites me and energizes me, while the day-to-day activities are necessary in order to pay the bills."
But all of the not-so-glamorous sides of being a business owner make the time Gaylene gets to experiment in the kitchen even sweeter.
"I want to spend all day creating and experimenting, my “play” time, creating and experimenting. I get so excited about trying new recipes and thinking up new flavor combinations, I read recipes for fun, I wake up in the middle of the night excited about a new way to tweak a recipe."
In the midst of all of the hustling and bustling, the excitement never seems to waiver for Gaylene.
"Everyday I know that I am a more comfortable and confident person and chocolatier. I actually want to push myself to learn new techniques, to increase my knowledge, to challenge myself to step out of my comfort zone, to make mistakes. Whenever something does not go as I had planned, I look at it as a stepping-stone. I feel like these experiences just lead me to the next part of this journey."
Gaylene lights up the whole room with her infectious laugh, care-free spirit and warm personality. I had absolutely no idea how much work went into a creative job like chocolate making and my respect is through the roof.
The joy of this project is the fact that I am meeting the creative entrepreneurs who work masterfully and diligently at their craft. Knowing that the person behind these chocolates is even sweeter than what she creates makes the chocolates all the more special.
If your mouth is watering as much as mine was, don't worry! These chocolates are sold all around Lincoln (and Omaha!) and make the *perfect* gift. (AKA, Valentine's Day is coming up...) And yes. I have since bought three containers. It's an addiction.
The Coffee Roaster (50th and Old Cheney), Simply Bungalow (48th and Normal), Destinations Coffeehouse (North Bottoms Neighborhood), The Coffee House (12th and P), and The Mill (Haymarket and Union College). Provisions by The Grey Plume in Omaha.