|Chef and culinary educator Viola Buitoni continues her Italian family’s Baci-making tradition as a demo at the 2014 Winter Fancy Food Show. Photos by Susie Wyshak.|
For couples like then-30-year old Baci candy inventor Luisa Spagnoli and young Giovanni Buitoni, it wasn't just their love of chocolate they had in common — it was their love. Legend has it that the two shared love notes fanning forbidden flames in the early 1900s. (Baci was invented in 1907).
And the two aren’t alone in their shared passion of both passion and sweets. In fact, couple-run candy businesses seem to be, almost, natural. But why? To get to the bottom of this delicious question, I peppered a few couples with thriving businesses and happy love lives.
Long-time artisan confectioner Michael Recchiuti and designer wife Jacky (pictured) declare a simple motivation running Recchiuti Confections together: The satisfaction of bringing a tiny bit of happiness into someone’s day, whether it’s a holiday, special occasion or simply fulfilling a craving. There’s the personal fulfillment too.
“Naturally, making money is the big bonus, but we essentially have the power to make a person’s day better through what we make with our hands!” Jacky says.
Happiness crops up again for the couple behind French Broad Chocolates, Jael Rattigan and her husband Dan (pictured). Jael Rattigan reflects, “It is amazing to stand side-by-side with your partner in life, and build a business that makes people so happy.”
The duo knows all about happiness, starting with their “boy and girl leave graduate school and buy an abandoned cacao farm in Costa Rica” story.
And while Indiana Jones may not have finagled trips to the tropics thanks to a chocolate-making wife, Carol Morse’s husband Luke has. This duo (pictured) has found ways to combine their passions. Because while technically Acalli Chocolate may just be her business, as she explains, “We've been able to combine travel for his archaeological field work and my bean sourcing.”
Some couples fall in love, then into business. Lecia Duke met Nick 15 years ago after establishing Quintessential Chocolates as a popular liquor-filled confectionery operation. She says, “He is in the business by osmosis...simply because he is with me.” (His love story with sweets began upon seeing some booth visitors happily share a liquor-filled chocolate — via a mad kiss).
Complementary Flavor Profiles
Most relationships (and small businesses) grow when complementary forces unite. At French Broad, Dan is the all-around Renaissance man: head innovator, cacao buyer, and he handles all equipment design, purchase and maintenance — including building much of their own equipment.
Jael — much like Jacky Recchiuti— is passionate about design, branding and marketing. Both have had a major role in the company’s image and brick-and-mortar spaces. (Could it be their similar initials?)
The spouse-as-advisor works well too.
Carol Morse says, “My husband is a huge help to me in handling website work, tasting my Acalli products and helping me problem-solve.” Kind of like being business partners, without the formalities.
Same with Lecia of Quintessential, whose partner / lover Nick uses trade shows as mini-romantic getaways by taking time off from his construction company.
Keeping the Love Solid
It turns out, life really is like a box of chocolates. Sometimes you need to break into it before knowing if you want it. John and Kira ran the eponymous business together for about five years before Kira left to follow her bliss, going back to school for an MA and PhD in education. She now teaches at the School of Education at Arcadia University and is a "high level" adviser to the company.
Adds John, “Good thing is that we are still happily married.”
As for the Rattigans and Recchiutis, they are committed to being in candy together, tapping into their respective skills with a shared passion for chocolate and customer happiness.
Jacky Recchiuti sees the business as “our child which we’ve nurtured and grown.” Like successful parents, they carve out time and space for their own passions. For Jacky, that’s ceramics and climbing. For Michael, that’s music.
“These breaks feed the creative needs of the business and allow both sides of the brain to function for you,” she says.
In sum, the question of candy-attracting couples seems to equate to passion for passion, plus a willingness to do the hard work combined with the pleasure of pleasing customers. The happiness customers reflect feeds the happiness these couples experience. The conclusion: It’s a natural.
To part, some final words of wisdom from French Broad Chocolates:
Have a clear vision of what is unique about what you offer the world.
- Do your best..
- Act with integrity.
- Live from your heart.
- Support each other!