Lincoln’s Lulubee Artisanal Chocolates owes its growth to the passion of its owner, Gaylene Steinbach, and its outreach to other local businesses. Steinbach first caught the chocolate-making bug from her mother, and her passion grew from living in different countries and learning about local flavors.
A former dental hygienist, Steinbach found that many of her skills transferred over — highly-detailed work and science — plus, chocolate making allows her to tap into her creative side.
Over the next few years Lulubee Artisanal Chocolates will focus on increasing community outreach and partnering with other local small businesses.
“I want to increase the number of offerings we have and to grow within our community, reaching out to the community and other small local businesses to form connections,” Steinbach said.
Bonbons are the shop’s specialty. Lulubee also makes chocolate bars, turtles, caramels, toffee, and it recently expanded into flavored caramels. Steinbach hopes to expand into different kinds of chocolate bars, some of them made by the company and others imported from around the world.
Supporting Local Businesses
When possible, Lulubee uses ingredients from local suppliers. For example, pecans come from Twin Springs Pecans. The shop also uses products from nearby wineries as ingredients.
“One area where we have strong desire and a presence is working with other businesses,” Steinbach said.
Lulubee has put logos on chocolates for companies like A Novel Idea Bookstore, Capitol View Winery & Vineyards, Farmers Mutual, Lovestruck Events, and Spectrum. It makes custom chocolate pieces for Bavvy and Talent+, and it is working with other companies to provide customized gift sets companies can give to their partners and employees.
“My intention is to create a really beautiful tasting experience,” Steinbach said. “I want to explore other avenues of chocolate that I can expand my lineup.”
The company’s best form of promotion is social media.
“Almost everything we’ve done up to this point has been very organic through social media,” Steinbach said. “[Social media] is such an ever-changing world it has been a full-time job to learn how to navigate that.”
Dental Hygienist to Chocolatier
After graduating from UNMC College of Dentistry, Steinbach worked as a dental hygienist, and taught at the College of Dentistry for many years, before deciding to be a stay-at-home mom.
“[That] turned out to be a blessing because it was at that point that my husband’s job took him overseas for long periods of time,” she said.
Steinbach had a chance to experiment with different foods in the regions where they lived and to learn about flavors that are familiar to other cultures.
“My passion for flavors was developed so much from our time overseas,” she said.
While Steinbach was growing up, her mother had made chocolates and gifted them to family and friends at Christmas. When Steinbach and her family returned from living in the Philippines, her mother sent her a gift of chocolates.
“That piqued my interest and started me off on this journey,” she said. “I didn’t know how this person had gotten so much flavor into that little morsel and how they had become so beautiful. I could not get enough information about making chocolates. I read everything I could, attended workshops and classes, and experimented in my basement.”
After her family and friends encouraged her to open her own business, Steinbach started Lulubee in kitchen space she rented from Destinations Coffee House. She cooked out of that kitchen for five years and achieved her dream of opening a brick-and-mortar store in November 2020. The shop now has nine employees.
“I feel there are so many crossovers from [dental hygiene] to what I do now,” Steinbach said. “It’s a very fine detailed job. Everything we do is hand-crafted from hand-painting our designs to hand-creating the ganache that’s inside — all of those hand touches that were part of my job before.
“Also, there’s so much science involved with creating recipes and understanding the process of tempering chocolate. Chocolate takes it one more step in that it mixes not only the science aspect but also allows me a creative side.”
Steinbach gives a big chunk of the credit for her success to her support group.
“There’s no way in the world I could have done any of this on my own,” she said. “I have so many people around me who are lifting me up and helping guide me through the challenges of owning a small business for the first time in my life. They’re helping me navigate the worlds of advertising, marketing, outreach, and finance. I feel that connections are very important.
“I bring to the table my ability to be compassionate and connect with other people, but there are so many parts of owning a business that I do not possess. I’ve been fortunate to have people to lean on within my family, within my friend group, and within other small businesses that I can reach out to for advice and support.”
Steinbach and her husband, Joe, have two daughters who inspired the name of her store — Lauren, whose nickname is Lulu, and Bailey, whose nickname is Bee.
“I still want to learn everything I can,” Steinbach said. “There’s so much to learn, so many flavors to try out and experiment with. So many of the flavors I chose were based on my personal living experience — memories from childhood and memories from travel. I love this medium as an art because there’s so much creativity. The possibilities with chocolate and with flavors are endless, and that’s just exciting to me.”