Jennifer Lukas-Bourgeois – When entrepreneurship tastes like chocolate

March 05, 2021

Lekkco interview on Enterprise League

Of all the entrepreneurs out there, those making delicious food are definitely our favourite. Because good food makes everything better and brings joy. And when this food tastes of rich Belgian chocolate – we’re done! We can’t resist! 

So feel free to accuse us of being biased Europeans for putting Lekkco Belgian Dark Chocolate Spread co-founder, Jennifer Lukas-Bourgeois, on our top 100 trailblazing female entrepreneurs list. 

Until Lekkco was introduced to the US market, Americans had been completely deprived of the pleasures of feeling Belgian chocolate melting in their mouths. Hence, you can say that Jennifer is the reason why Americans can now indulge in mouth-watering chocolate without flying to Europe.

How it came to be? Find out below.

Feeling under-appreciated as an employee, a nonexistent work-life balance, financial struggles, getting out of bad relationships – these are the most common triggers that push women to become entrepreneurs. Tell us about your trigger?

Coming from a family that owned a small business, even as a young girl I always wanted to be an entrepreneur. I have always had that drive and spirit. I worked in corporate America for 18 years where I gained the skillset to eventually lead to and allowed me to become an entrepreneur. 

The trigger for me to become an entrepreneur was the lack of work-life balance at my previous job in corporate America and the pressure to “be on” 24/7. It was a struggle as I wanted to have a successful career while also being available and present to my young kids.

As an entrepreneur and with 18 years of corporate America experience, I knew I could make both work – have a successful and passionate career but also prioritizing my family. At the foundation of the company, is a product we truly love – Lekkco Belgian Dark Chocolate Spread. It is a marriage for me personally and professionally where my skillsets, passion for good food, and blending of our family’s heritage of Belgium and the U.S. all come together.

Jennifer Lukas quote

How did you come up with your business idea?

Lekkco Belgian Dark Chocolate Spread was born from the love of great food. My family would travel to Europe quite often as my in-laws live there and I was shocked that chocolate was served at every meal. It was so delicious, and we would always bring chocolate spreads back to the U.S. since it was not available here. 

The idea originated on the back terrace of my in-laws in the South of France in 2014. My husband and I asked ourselves, “What if we launched our own brand and own product of chocolate spread to the U.S market?” So, I used my CPG background to do research to see if the idea made sense. And, three years later in 2017 we sold our very first jar of Lekkco Belgian Dark Chocolate Spread. 

Have you had support from someone, even if just encouragement? Who was that and how did it help you?

Absolutely, my husband has been my greatest supporter. We have always been equal partners in our marriage, and I think that is what makes this so unique – we equally encourage each other and he is a co-founder of the company. I also had so many friends and family members encouraging us, cheering us on and helping us. Professionally, my network of strong mentors was able to gut check or poke holes in ideas. We are very, very lucky to have such a great support system.

Female entrepreneurs are often underestimated and overlooked. Have you ever felt at a disadvantage?

As a female entrepreneur, I have not felt a disadvantage. I’ve seen a beautiful rise in supporting female entrepreneurs and small businesses. However, during my time in corporate America, I absolutely felt at a disadvantage. I felt that females in my workplace overall had higher expectations and lower pay than our male counterparts. I felt that this was especially true for working moms in my workplace where they seemed to be working three times as hard managing their careers, household, and families. This was one of the driving forces to also start my own company – to create a place of equality.  

Some say it’s hard work, others say it’s talent and resourcefulness that play a crucial role for success in entrepreneurship? Which traits have been instrumental for your success so far? And why?

Hard work, talent and resourceful are all critical pieces of entrepreneurial success, but another big piece for me has been the team you surround yourself with. When starting a business, you come with your idea and set of skills, but you need to match any vacancies with experts in those areas. We’ve done this at Lekkco where we have a fantastic management team that has each brought a unique skillset to the table. We are a small but mighty team, and you won’t find anyone that hustles harder than the Lekkco team! 

Patience and flexibly are also critical traits to success. You can write the perfect business plan but inevitably, situations pop-up that you did not plan for and you need to be patient and flexible to address those or adjust the plan.

What excites you the most about being an entrepreneur?

Going from ideation to execution where we bring to life the concept, the brand, sales, distribution, and marketing plan as well as building something from scratch has always excited me the most as an entrepreneur. 

Being an entrepreneur is like building a house – start with your foundation which is a solid business idea and team. Then, you start building the framework, walls, interior, etc. until you finish the house.

Share with us some of the worst business advice you’ve ever received?

The worst business advice I have received is simply, “This will never work; you should give up.” But I recognize that as fear. Being an entrepreneur is not the “safe” option – it is uncertain and can be unpredictable. Some people are just not cut out for that journey or would not take that risk.

You’ve got a high stake investment opportunity. Pitch your business in 150 words.

Addressing the white space in the spreadable category, Lekkco brings an all-natural, healthier alternative to chocolate spreads with its core four flavors that address a diverse consumer demographic while building the category.

What’s the best piece of advice you’d give to inspire aspiring entrepreneurs?

Do your homework on your product/industry. Make sure it is a viable product/service idea. Ask yourself what makes you a point of differentiation? Bring your skillset to the table and build your team with experts in their area. Have a business plan, allow for flexibility and pivot as needed. This is a marathon, not a sprint.

Be prepared, it is a beautiful rollercoaster of a journey. Have patience, flexibility, and keep your eye on the horizon and end goal. Never stop hustling!

What are your goals for the upcoming year?

As we enter 2021, you have to look at what we know and what we don’t know. The world has become different since March 2020. People’s lives have changed, been re-prioritized and consumer behaviors are different. One thing for certain is that people need to eat and want to feel good. We believe chocolate makes people happier. We will continue to deliver our delicious chocolate spreads across the U.S. and drive our messaging of a healthier product while spreading the Lekkco love.

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