New Jersey is home to many ambitious and talented women who juggle family, career, and home. A select few of these women are also extremely busy building their own companies to help better manage the balance of work and family. At NJMOM, we want to highlight these extraordinary women who build businesses in New Jersey, and learn the secret to their success.
Owner of Choc O Pain & NJMOMpreneur: Clémence Danko
Clémence Danko is the owner of Choc O Pain, the French Bakery & Café that brings a taste of Paris to Hoboken and Jersey City. With fresh baguettes, croissants, pastries, and savory lunch items, only the highest-quality ingredients are used when these traditional French recipes are baked daily on-site. The idea for this community café was born when Clémence moved to the United States with her husband in 2009 and found herself missing her culture’s food that brought her such comfort and happiness. Today, she gets to share that happiness with Hudson County locals each day. Choc O Pain has earned its place as a valued business where neighbors can socialize and sip Café au Lait while the little ones enjoy Citronnade Maison Bio (Homemade Organic Lemonade) and a Tarte aux pommes (Apple Tart).
NJMOM had the opportunity to learn about Clémence’s diverse background in business and culinary arts, what it’s like living in and owning a business in Hoboken, and Choc O Pain’s exciting plans for future expansion.
NJMOM: What do you offer to your clients and how is it different than other professionals in your field?
Clémence: We offer authentic French baked goods (bread and pastries) of a very high quality which, I think, is what distinguishes us from competition – both in authenticity and quality.
NJMOM: What inspired you to come up with the idea for your business?
Clémence: After moving to the United States, I was missing some good bread and good croissants.
NJMOM: What is your favorite part about your business?
Clémence: The people are my favorite; without my staff, there is no business. I love the idea that Choc O Pain is truly made from every individual that composes it. And when we say people, we must include our customers, who make us live. We are truly a neighborhood place, and many customers are loyal and have become our friends. Some come every day, several times a day!
NJMOM: What is your background in your business expertise?
Clémence: I have absolutely no background in bakery management. I do have a Master’s in business and I had seven years of experience at a pharmaceutical company, in logistics and software management projects (SAP). When I arrived in the USA, though I went to school in Manhattan, I first went for a restaurant management class at ICE (Institute of Culinary Education) then at ICC (International Culinary Center), then FCI (French Culinary Center) for an amazing bread class. Those two programs were really instrumental in the realization of my project.
NJMOM: What are you most proud of in your career?
Clémence: I am proud of having created a business that delivers a great product to our community along with a nice atmosphere. People really make it their special place for a special moment every day or every weekend, and that is the best compliment! I am proud of believing that things are possible and trying to make them happen. Sometimes you make mistakes and sometimes you fail, of course, but you always learn and if you don’t try, you will never know if you could have succeeded.
NJMOM: What is something few people know about you?
Clémence: There is not much. I’m pretty open about who I am; I don’t hide much.
NJMOM: What can we expect from you in 2017?
Clémence: A busy year! We are about to open our new production facility in Jersey City Heights (a big project for us, that we started over three years ago!) and we have some news coming soon for a new location in uptown Hoboken. It never stops!
NJMOM: What is a charities and causes you are most passionate about?
Clémence: I really hate wasting food, so we give our leftovers from the bakery to The Hoboken Shelter, and to a great organization in Jersey City called York Street Project. Otherwise, I am very touched by children’s cancer, thanks to a customer who became a friend of mine, Rhakee. She is a great writer and she has such an energy for this cause that it is contagious, she enrolled me into it – far from what she does, of course, but I try to help a little when I can.
NJMOM: Who is your role model?
Clémence: I was very strongly inspired by an amazing baker in Paris, Christophe Vasseur (“du Pain et des Idées”), extremely passionate about his job, his products. He has brought the offering of baked goods in Paris to another level, just by the quality of the ingredients and the know-how, without the need to do anything fancy.
NJMOM: What is the best piece of advice your mom ever gave to you?
Be honest, to yourself and to the others.
NJMOM: Do you have a favorite quote you live by?
Clémence: “Don’t do to others what you wouldn’t like them to do to you.” I try to explain this to my kids almost every day to raise them as individuals that respect and are mindful of others.
NJMOM: What are your favorite things to do in New Jersey with your family?
Clémence: It’s not very original, I’m sure, but we love going for a day to the beach on the Jersey Shore in summer. There are such great food options in the Asbury Park area (food is important for us!) We love to go skiing or discovering new activities – not that we do that every weekend, but we like to do this from time to time.
NJMOM: What is the best part about being a mom for you?
Clémence: Oh god, there is so much. I love seeing my kids grow up, develop their own personality, and become good people, hopefully! They keep surprising me and it feels incredible.
NJMOM: What are your favorite businesses in New Jersey?
Clémence: Oh there is a lot too! I love the ice cream (gelato style) of Bucket and Bay at 150 Bay Street in Jersey City. They are truly the best! I love Pilsner Haus & Biergarten in uptown Hoboken for lunch on the weekend, because there is so much space you always find a spot on a table, kids can play around, and the food is delicious; I don’t drink beer so I can’t judge that!
NJMOM: Where do you reside and vacation in New Jersey?
Clémence: We live in Hoboken and we love this city so much, probably because it reminds us of Paris, where we can walk everywhere; you don’t need a car here. We love the proximity to New York, to the waterfront, and there are plenty of great restaurants and shops in this very active and dense city.
NJMOM: What advice might you have for a fellow NJMOMpreneur who is just starting out?
Clémence: Just do it, try, believe in yourself! Sometimes you fail, of course, but you always learn. If you don’t try, you will never know if you could have succeeded or failed!
NJMOM: Anything else you’d like to tell moms in New Jersey?
Clémence: Candidly, if I may – please be mindful what you feed your kids, choose wholesome food, avoid processed food, not too much sugar, and when you do indulge, choose good-quality products, like ours.