William Dean Brown, founder and chief chocolate officer at William Dean Chocolates Largo, Fla., began exploring his artistic talents at an early age. In elementary school, his artistic passion was so great that teachers had to remove all paper from his desk as he would constantly draw. At one point, he was caught sketching on hand towels from the restroom and sent to the principals office to be reprimanded. He stopped drawing at this point, and it would be years before he found a new medium.
Although trained as an educator, William became involved in the dot.com world. He co-founded a software company and later joined an emerging technology company. After the dot.com bubble burst, he reinvented himself by moving to Tampa Bay, Fla. He joined a large, mature company and worked his way into upper management.
After watching an episode on "The Food Network," he made truffles for his employees as a staff support activity. He later saw the work of "artisan" chocolatiers and knew he had found the perfect medium to express his creativity.
As William learned to airbrush and paint chocolates, the artistic passion from his youth returned. Artisan chocolates offered a multi-dimensional palette: the opportunity to create a beautiful, outward appearance for the shell with amazing flavor combinations hidden within.
Although he’s officially been in the chocolate business only two years, having opened William Dean Chocolate in 2008, Brown has captured the eye and acclaim from many, including a slew of gold medals from the most recent International Salon competitions in Las Vegas, Chicago and Boston. (www.williamdeanchocolates.com)
What did you think you would be when you grew up?
I think the people that know me are still waiting for me to grow up. As a child I was always fascinated by statistics. I tracked everything…how my Hot Wheel cars performed, sports statistics etc. It was no wonder that prior to becoming a chocolatier I had found myself in a role managing a department of metrics/analytics. It has helped me in chocolate as so much of what we do is science.
Name one or some of your favorite movies.
I’m a bit of an idealist and so my favorite is probably “It’s a Wonderful Life” with Jimmy Stewart as well as “The Shawshank Redemption.” I also think “Seabiscuit” is a great movie and it always makes me think of my father.
Describe your perfect dream vacation.
I was fortunate enough to go to France this year and study at Valrhona, which was amazing and I would love to do again. I would also love to do a tour of Europe.
What book are you currently reading?
The book I’m currently reading is “Wicked: The Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the West.” I thought it would be nice to read something quick and easy that doesn’t have anything to do with business or chocolate.
Aside from a family member, whom would you most want to be stranded with on a deserted island? Chelsea Handler…I think she is the funniest person in years and laughter might be good medicine.
What's your pet peeve?
I think it would have to be poor customer service. It costs nothing to give great customer service, but to repair the damage of poor customer service can be very expensive
I'd give anything to meet:
That’s a tough one. I didn’t have to give anything to meet my mom and dad and I can’t really think of anyone I don’t already know that could top them.
The best piece of advice that I've gotten:
I love this quote….”When somebody shows you who they are…believe them”. It works for any situation, business or personal and takes away the burden of trying to change people.
What excites you most about your job?
Every day I get to come in and see a picture on the wall of my dad, my grandfather and me (the company is named after them…as am I) and it reminds me that I’m truly living a dream and they are on the journey with me. I don’t know what the future holds for William Dean Chocolates ,but I love that I’ve found a place where I can be creative, work with people and everyone leaves happy (chocolate is a bit magical).