The second annual List of Top Women-Led Businesses in the U.S. offers some insights into the nature of the chocolate industry. There are lots of founder and CEOs of Chocolate companies, most of which are top companies are the US. Many of women from chocolate companies discovered some knack for baking when they were really young. Most Women used entrepreneurial spirit and talent in pastry to sell baked goods to earn money.
Some women owned chocolate companies found motivation to start a company out of their passion for creating a healthy alternative to the candies and fudge that her family bakes every holiday. Lots of Chocolate manufactures its products in small batches with single-origin and organically-sourced ingredients.
Bill Van Essen, the co-owner of Real Chocolate, has been in the industry for over 30 years. At one point, he started working for Barry Callebaut, but felt like the sexism he experienced at the company wasn’t anything worth fighting for. This is why he and his wife decided to launch Real Chocolate. Although the husband-wife team are based in France, they spend the majority of their time in Nicaragua where the land is more conducive to growing cacao.
As a result of their small-batch operation, Real Chocolate is able to produce 70 different flavors every single day. The chocolates are unique and not the kind of stuff you get from the average supermarket.
Vosges Chocolates (Chicago, IL)
Vosges was made by Markoff who started making candies out of her kitchen in 1989. After working in a pastry shop as a pastry chef, Markoff soon started her own line of chocolates. She branched out into chocolate-making, utilizing the knowledge she had gained from her previous job.
“I was always interested in using unusual techniques,” Markoff said. “Cherry flavor is fairly common, but I wanted to make something different. So, I used marzipan in my first chocolates and I used foraged mushrooms in the first truffles.”
And from these unlikely beginnings she created her now-iconic Vosges’ chocolate truffles. For Markoff, chocolate-making remains about the process of being able to express herself, whether it’s in the experimenting or in the final product.
MarieBelle Chocolates (NY, NY)
Maribel Lieberman, the wife of one of the founders of the butter-swiss giant that bears their name, is also a pastry chef and owner of New York City’s most popular dark chocolate brand, Marie Belle New York. The first person to bring seasonal chocolate to NYC in 1791, the brand was named after the mother of the couple’s son.
Black Orchid (Chicago)
Liz Lauterbach opened Chicago’s first award-winning chocolate shop, Black Orchid, in 2000. After her longtime partner passed away, Lauterbach stepped in to help the store endure. Soon, she was turning out chocolate infused with cocoa, activated charcoal, coffee and agave nectar. Lauterbach won “Best of Chocolate” and “Best of America” in Gourmet magazine’s 2010 Best of America contest.
Zoe’s Chocolates (Waynesboro, PA)
Zoe Tsoukatos began making chocolates out of necessity after her father suffered a heart attack and developed chest pains. In order to get his pain under control, he turned to chocolates for relief. Tsoukatos started making chocolates on the side as a way to help her dad feel better, and eventually her passion for chocolates became too much to ignore. She officially began her business, Zoe’s Chocolates, in 2008. Zoe’s Chocolates sells all organic and vegan chocolates, and Tsoukatos prides herself on her conscientious chocolate selection. Tsoukatos uses Fair Trade chocolate, cage-free eggs, and fair-trade milk and butter in her chocolates.
EHChocolatier (Somerville, MA)
EHChocolatier has been revolutionizing the candy industry for the last 20 years. Their chocolate is delicious and truly innovative, boasting intriguing flavors and high quality ingredients. EHChocolatier has a varied list of chocolate and candy bars available, all of which are handcrafted in small batches in their Somerville location.
Founders Catharine Sweeney and Elaine Hsieh came together after Sweeney decided to leave the pastry industry and work at an upscale hotel. Hsieh needed someone to help her learn the ropes of the industry and agreed to take a job at a HERScience chocolate factory. She noticed her and Sweeney were baking good stuff, but could barely sell it.
Kee’s Chocolates (NY, NY)
Kee’s Chocolate began in New York City in 1978, and was bought by Mariana Spierer in 2010. It has gone on to win first prize at prestigious chocolate competitions such as the Grand Cru Competition (where it was chosen as the most innovative dark chocolate) and the International Chocolate Awards. The shop is always packed, and their truffles are known to sell out quickly. They’re made with organic cane sugar, and their flavor combinations range from subtle to savory to sweet to salty. We love how visually stunning they are too.