Shoma Hokanson
Shoma Hokanson
Shoma Hokanson loves chocolate. "Chocolate is my favorite dessert," she said. "When I heard about the New York Chocolate Show, I turned to my husband and I said, 'We have to go.'" That was 2004. She never got there. Instead, she created her own chocolate show. Hokanson is the woman behind the Twin Cities Chocolate Extravaganza, an event that brings together chocolate lovers and chocolatiers. It marks its fourth anniversary this November.

"I sometimes wonder I how I put the whole thing together," Hokanson confessed, admitting she combed the New York show's website, made meticulous notes and then formulated her own plan for a similar event here.

After a first career in sales, Hokanson returned to business school hoping to make a change. When a professor required her to write a business plan, she faltered. She didn't have a business dream. With some soul searching, however, Hokanson realized she'd been the social chair for every organization she'd ever joined. Thus, she crafted a business plan for an event-planning business. That plan got turned in, graded and shuffled to a drawer. Hokanson graduated and started interviewing for marketing positions, but wasn't finding anything attractive. "One day, a light bulb went off in my head," she said. "I thought, 'I'm going to implement my business plan. What have I got to lose?'" So far, the only thing she's lost is her free time.

It takes all year to pull off the two-day chocolate affair, in part because Hokanson does hold a full-time job. Shortly after she registered her event-planning business, she accepted a marketing position with a medical device company. That means her event planning has become an evening and weekend job. In the beginning, she'd envisioned a roster of weddings, parties and corporate gatherings, but now, Hokanson recognizes the only event she plans is the chocolate one, and she's satisfied with that, in part because it's been so successful. The event will have 50 percent more vendors this year, and Hokanson has had to move it to larger digs (the Minneapolis Convention Center) to accommodate what she hopes will be a correspondingly larger number of attendees.

Nothing can replace the high Hokanson felt the first year. "When the doors opened on the first day and we saw a line of people out the door, my partner and I were literally jumping up and down," she said. "It was so exciting. We said to each other, 'How did all these people find out about us?' Apparently our advertising worked."

"Chocolate appeals to everyone, to men and women alike, to adults and children," Hokanson said. "This has become something fun to work on. Yes, it's a challenge, but not everyone gets to do what they love. I get to do what I love to eat."