France Sullivan’s love for chocolate began from a dream.
When Sullivan was only 16 years old, she began to create chocolate Easter eggs from scratch to pursue her hope of attending law school in her home country Brazil.
More than 30 years later, Sullivan is going back to her roots to bring her successful Brazilian gourmet chocolate business to the United States.
Sullivan, now 48 years old, was born in São Paulo, Brazil.
Since she was a teenager, Sullivan remembers wanting to make her dreams come true, but they depended on financial circumstances her parents didn’t have the ability to provide.
The dreams started small — wanting to purchase a bicycle — but grew bigger, turning into hopes of attending private high school and then law school.
“I had a dream to study in another city but my parents did not have the money to send me there,” she says. “It was so expensive. If my parents could not pay for it, I thought I could work to help pay.”
Although she never had made chocolate from scratch before, the first time Sullivan decided to make chocolate Easter eggs it was a huge success. She produced about 200 pounds of eggs with the help of her parents and her older sister.
After successfully providing funding for her private schooling, Sullivan continued to sell chocolate through decorative baskets in college with the help of her parents. She was the first person in her family to attend college.
Upon graduating law school, Sullivan went on to open her own law office.
Although the work was rewarding, she quickly realized something was missing in her happiness — chocolate.
In 2000, Sullivan opened her first shop, a flower shop paired with chocolates.
After becoming one of the most successful stores in the state, Sullivan discovered her second love — Brigadeiros.
A Brigadeiro is a traditional Brazilian dessert typically made of condensed milk, butter and cocoa powder. The mixture is rolled and then covered in sprinkles or other toppings. Although simple, the chocolate dessert is delicious, and similar to chocolate truffles in the U.S.
Brigadeiro is the most famous handcrafted sweet in Brazil. It is found at all types of celebrations, including weddings, birthday parties and gift boxes for commemorative dates.
Sullivan opened her second store called Griff do Brigadeiro in 2010.
However, after saving enough money, she sold her brand and business consultancy in 2015 for $100,000.
In 2020, Sullivan’s oldest daughter, who was 17 at the time, was accepted into a private college of medicine in Recife, Brazil.
Although an incredible accomplishment, her daughter’s monthly bills totaled more than $3,000 — including classes and living expenses.
Sullivan knew she had to do something to help her daughter reach for her dreams.
“That year, given the political and economic situation in Brazil, it was impossible for me to make my daughter’s dream come true,” she says. “So I decided to come to the United States to work and pay for my daughter’s college.”
Sullivan arrived in March 2020 in Atlanta — one of the biggest challenges of her life.
“I arrived here with just a suitcase of clothes and a suitcase with all the utensils for my Brigadeiro business,” Sullivan says. “I had one sole objective: to help my family in Brazil and pay for my daughter’s medical school.”
While living with her friend from law school, Sullivan began to sell Brigadeiros in the U.S.
Although ironic, the first time she sold the chocolate in the new country was just in time for Easter. She sold more than 140 chocolate eggs with the help of her friend.
To make more money, Sullivan temporarily stopped selling chocolate to work more than 12 hours, seven days a week, in a waxing studio.
She lived a year in Atlanta before moving to Orlando after meeting her future husband, Douglas Sullivan, through mutual friends.
The couple was married less than a year later, in February 2021.
“My husband is the most handsome and friendly American man — the most amazing and encouraging man I have ever met in my life,” France Sullivan says. “He is the best sales negotiator I have ever seen, and he has taught me the way of doing business here in the country. I am so grateful for him.”
France Sullivan says she was on her way to work at Rio Body Wax when she accidentally got lost in Baldwin Park. It was love at first sight.
The Sullivans moved in June 2022 to Baldwin Park from Melbourne.
In her free time, France Sullivan is now restarting her Brigadeiro business from her new home.
“What I did in Brazil, I now want to do the same thing here,” she says. “It’s so delicious, easy and beautiful.”
France Sullivan says the women mainly educate their daughters in Brazil. Her mother worked three jobs to help send her to the schools she wanted.
Chocolate has now become an important staple in France Sullivan’s family.
She has taught her parents to make chocolate, and her mother, who is 73, still does so in Brazil to pay for the family’s insurance.
In Brazil, France Sullivan is well-known. She has her own YouTube channel — Prosperidade Financeira — through which she sells nutritional shakes. After starting at Herbalife, she migrated to the Brazilian company Hinode with more than 750,000 consultants. In addition to being the No. 1 in sales in Brazil for the company, she traveled across the country showing people how to earn money from home and teaching courses on financial prosperity.
“France is such a positive person,” Douglas Sullivan says. “She will always find a way. She doesn’t let things like money, stress bother her; she just drives through it. She has the hardest determination of anyone I’ve ever met.”
France Sullivan says she is seeing all her dreams come true but wants to do the same for others.
“My biggest mission is to help women who cannot work full-time for some reason and therefore are left out of job opportunities,” she says. “At The Brigadeiro Factory, they will be able to choose how many hours they can work a day and will be very well reimbursed for their effort and dedication.”
Although operations are just now starting on the Yep! website, France Sullivan’s goal is to find entrepreneurs to open the first physical store and start a franchise. In addition, she hopes to turn the business into a popular drive-thru destination.
“She’s experienced so much in her life already,” Douglas Sullivan says. “She wanted to be educated, and she was going to find a way. When her dad said no the family could not afford it, she said, ‘I will,’ and she did it. Most people would turn around and give up, but she found a way.
“What’s extraordinary about this chocolate business is it has so much dear to heart for her, because it brought her to where she is today,” he says. “It’s kind of gone full-circle, and now she’s back here doing chocolate again, because she knows what that did for her then. Now, she’s exploring what it can do for her in America.”