When you think of a typical chocolate entrepreneur, you might not immediately think of a scientist being the brains behind the operation. However, that’s what you’ll find if you take a closer look at Sinless Treats.
Sinless Treats, the brainchild of Beata Lerman, a scientist turned chocolatier, is a Houston-based chocolate company born during the pandemic.
Lerman’s story is about passion, persistence, and living life fulfilled, something we happen to be ardent about here at Zone of Genius.
Read on to learn more about her background and how she created something from nothing out of her desire to make a difference.
A Crisis Turned Into an Opportunity
Beata Lerman is a classically trained immunologist who previously worked in cancer clinical trials.
When COVID-19 hit, she and her colleagues were tasked with attempting to solve that problem — a kind of “all hands on deck” situation that left her and many others feeling burned out and stressed.
With a husband and young child at home, Lerman turned to cooking and baking to alleviate some of the pressures of her working life.
Her husband mentioned that she looked stressed and offered to support her if she wanted to find something else to do career-wise.
“Like hundreds of other scientists at the time, I exited the field that I had spent 23 years being a part of,”she recalls.
Once an Inventor, Always an Inventor
When she wasn’t busy being a scientist, Lerman enjoyed doing underwater photography.
So naturally, everyone expected that she would open an underwater photography studio. “But I didn’t feel right about that,” she says. Instead, she turned her interest in the kitchen into a force for change.
“I started getting into making chocolate as an outlet,” she says. “Surprisingly to me, my chocolate was good.”
After much trial and error and consuming every bit of knowledge she could about chocolate making, Lerman had invented a new kind of chocolate.
With her daughter as a taster, she perfected a recipe with no sugar, additives, preservatives, or other harmful ingredients — the kind she saw in a chocolate bar her daughter had brought home from school one day.
As a scientist, Beata Lerman invented a new molecule used as a therapeutic cancer treatment.
“I stayed an inventor. I’m a CEO, but I think of things that weren’t there before,” says Lerman of her experience creating a new chocolate recipe.
Skills Are Transferable
Just as Lerman spent hours in a lab in trial-and-error phases, she has had to stay persistent in pursuing her dreams.
Lerman could choose to give up and walk away when faced with challenges, or she could continue working on it until it was a success. In other words, she’s had to “get comfortable with being uncomfortable,” she says.
That is to say, the skills she applied to scientific research all apply to an entrepreneur. Things never go as smoothly as you might like, whether behind a microscope or starting a business.
So she’s had to learn how to navigate entrepreneurship’s ins and outs while discerning the bad advice.
In part, it has meant sticking to a budget, just as she did as a scientist, where she had a strict budget for man-hours, equipment, and other expenditures. The same has proved true as she has gotten her business up and running.
The key, she says, is understanding that the first year or two will present plenty of challenges.
As long as you stay committed to learning something new and working on your business every day, then each day will be easier than the last.
The Chocolate Epiphany
While perfecting her chocolate recipe, Lerman knew she needed to come up with something amazing enough that her daughter would be willing to trade her Hershey’s bar for it.
While her first attempt at molded chocolate wasn’t a winner, she persisted in trying to create a healthier, tastier option.
“As a scientist, I read everything there was to know about chocolate. I realized chocolate has a crystal structure that comes from the cocoa butter arranging itself in a specific manner,” explains Lerman, who was practicing a ketogenic lifestyle at the time.
She also learned that chocolate is a fermented food with incredible mental, heart, and neural health benefits if made without fillers, additives, sugars, and preservatives.
“I figured, why not invent something just for me that we could have at home?”
Building a Brand
Over time, Sinless Treats evolved, and Beata Lerman found she needed to invest in her own machinery.
In addition, she needed to bring on a team that could assist with sales, marketing, and other responsibilities.
With the help of market researchers, she created a chocolate collection that’s both luxurious and healthy. Yet, it was priced in a consumer-friendly way that doesn’t make it cost-prohibitive for the average buyer.
One of her key hires is someone with 22 years of experience working with chocolate. “She was mistreated and underpaid in another factory,” says Lerman. “I offered to pay her quite a bit more, plus benefits. I very quickly realized how much of an asset she is.”
Having that team in place has taught her valuable lessons:
- The company is the team. The team has to be organic, and it has to be able to work together and communicate.
- Having these team members in place frees you up as an entrepreneur to focus on other aspects of your business.
- A lot of people are unreliable. You will be introduced to people by your friends or family who might not meet your needs and expectations.
- Certain expenditures will have to be chalked up as losses. For example, Lerman worked with various marketers or partners who didn’t deliver on their promises.
- You can’t blame yourself when things don’t go perfectly. You must embrace failure, let go of bad decisions, learn from these experiences, cut your losses, and move on. This will protect your energy and prevent you from dwelling on mistakes.
How To Build Boundaries in Your Business
While the grind of entrepreneurship may never be over, Lerman believes that it should get easier at some point. And you should decide to focus on the priorities that matter most to you.
She says there is much more to life than work, not only for herself but for her employees. For instance, if someone needs to take a day off to care for their kids, she says, “absolutely.”
“Work will always be here,” she adds. “The world will not end if we don’t get it done today.”
The key is to build boundaries in your business. Here’s what Lerman recommends:
- Communicate expectations with clients. Lerman says: “Your business, your game, and rules. Make your boundaries; outline them; communicate them. Nobody is going to get mad at you — I promise you that.” So if Lerman wants to build in three trips a year to go scuba diving and spend time exposing her daughter to the world of marine life, that’s exactly what she will do.
- Remember, business is not your life. It’s a part of it. It will take as much as you will give it.
- Rest is medicine for entrepreneurs. If you don’t take the rest you need, it will ultimately catch up with you in the form of burnout, health issues, dissatisfaction, and other problems.
- Know that setting boundaries will give you the energy to move mountains. Give yourself the work-life balance you need, and your business will be even stronger.
When asked whether she would consider selling her company at some point if the price were right, Lerman says she would not.
Her company’s mission is to change health worldwide.
She’s working with individuals and governments to solve the diabetes epidemic worldwide. “If I sell [the company], my mission may die with it,” she fears.
And she’s even got a second company making health supplements from microgreens to further that mission.
For now, she’s content to continue working on her mission and living life in the most fulfilled way possible. And she’s happy to navigate any roadblocks that may pop up along the way.
That’s the nature of entrepreneurship — something that Lerman learned early on when she embarked on her chocolate-making adventure.
“It wasn’t always smooth, but neither was the time in the lab or the industry,” she notes. “You just have to not give up and turn lemons into lemonade.”
About Beata Lerman
Beata Lerman is the CEO of Sinless Treats and the Chief Scientific Officer of RevoGreen. She’s a creative problem solver widely specialized across a spectrum of life science disciplines.
As a scientist with 19 years of experience, Lerman switched from being a classically trained immunologist who previously worked in cancer clinical trials to a chocolatier. There, she realized that being a scientist was much like being an entrepreneur. Her sweets are sugar-free yet tasty!
To learn more about Lerman and her healthy chocolates (or to pick up a box for yourself or someone you love!), head over to SinlessDesserts.com.