Pushing Boundaries Drove this Engineering Alumna into Entrepreneurship

Author: Engineering Alumni Office

Posted on Aug 29, 2018

Category: Alumni Spotlight

Eva Choi

Eva Choi (BScGE’03) has always loved boundaries because she can push them and explore what might come next. That kind of bold thinking combined with the attention to detail and technical skills she learned as an engineer allowed her to switch from geological work to co-owning and managing her own company. But not in a field that you might expect from a geologist: it's in creating and selling high-end chocolates.

Eva and her husband Dallas Southcott (BA’95) started The Chocolate Lab Inc. in Calgary in 2015 and haven’t looked back. The company specializes in artisan bonbons and confections and has won eight international chocolate awards, expanded to two locations in the city and is now launching shipping to the U.S. It’s become a world leader in modern chocolate decorating techniques and execution.

Eva says that her husband’s creativity and experience with chocolate, graphics and media combined with her critical analysis and technical skills makes it possible for them to merge art and science to produce a product that’s highly sensual and a company that “pushes the boundaries to make magic.” “The Chocolate Lab plays on our love for both art and science. We’re continually tweaking our products in search of breakthroughs,” Eva declares. “Dallas and I have a wide range of experience from our previous careers. Our collective skill sets and vision allow us to be able to explore creative concepts and execute them at the highest level.”

The Chocolate Lab touts itself as a very different experience that brings the adventurous spirit of youth to luxury chocolate. They use the finest, freshest ingredients and push beyond the ordinary, providing a full-on sensory experience that also feeds the human spirit.

It seems to perfectly reflect Eva’s personal beliefs.

The Fredericton native started at UNB in Geology and then switched to Geological engineering “because every good Asian kid is steered toward practical and sensible outcomes.” She says she learned a great deal from faculty advisor Eldo Hildebrand. “I was young and had conflicting limiting beliefs in myself from my cultural upbringing and growing up in a place where my passions weren’t conventional.  I began to find confidence upon starting my career.” After graduating, she landed a job as a consultant in core logging in Alberta as a geologist on the rigs for exploration projects. She developed her skill set in data analysis in consulting, and became a geological modeller and eventually senior geologist in the oil and gas field. “I had the opportunity to work on many projects in the Athabasca Oil Sands; my love for science, process, numbers and analysis were nurtured in this career path.”

When she lost her job during an economic downturn, she and Dallas decided to use their technical expertise and creativity to launch their business. “Being busy parents also prepared us for it!” She explains that if you have passion, an optimistic attitude, a willingness to learn and the ability to execute, you can succeed.

“I’ve also been well-served by my deep relationship with statistics and predictive analysis. Running a business is about planning, timing and processes – the modelling and statistics skills I learned as an engineer come in handy to allow us to operate at the highest possible level. As an entrepreneur, you have to learn how to scale on the fly, but even with the inevitable pains of growth, it can be fun. Creating a socially and environmentally conscious product and company has been joy-filled.”

Given her career change, it’s no surprise that Eva is a big fan of lifelong learning. “There’s always something to learn from every job and every life experience.” She advises new UNB graduates to learn as much as possible from every job. “Especially during those first years after graduation, make the most of your time before you receive your professional designation: understand the conditions of your project and ask questions. Make mistakes and you will always learn from those experiences.” She also encourages young alumni to “interact with your colleagues and clients from a place of kindness and generosity, and don’t involve your ego.”

“I think I’ve been successful and enjoy what I do because I strive to provide an extraordinary experience for both staff and clients and I’m consistently striving to become the next best version of myself.  Being able to create a company is amazing. Entrepreneurship has been crazy, fun, and an extraordinary learning experience.”