From corporate America to whipping up chocolates with therapeutic ingredients, Pam and David Griffin are uber-busy enjoying their dream business. With 50-plus years of combined corporate experience, the Griffins stepped out on faith and jumped off the corporate rollercoaster, and ended up in their kitchen creating award-winning chocolates.
Located in Framingham, Massachusetts, Chocolate Therapy was birthed in 2011 after the couple decided to leave their corporate jobs and do something for themselves. Pam took her 17 years in retail working for Starbucks Coffee Company and combined it with David’s 20 years in engineering/manufacturing. Together, the Chicago natives set out to create something special.
Their days are now filled with creating handcrafted artisanal truffles and confections infused with therapeutic ingredients and innovative flavors. “Initially, when we left corporate America, he looked at things that he could do on his own. When he discovered chocolate, I became interested. He did research. We took classes,” says Pam.
With a chocolatier on hand and ten employees, the Griffins have managed to come up with winning combinations such as olive oil and dark chocolate, cinnamon, bay leaf and cayenne and blueberry, basil and lemon.
“The thing about chocolates is it's sustainable. We wanted to find something sustainable and something that can be manufactured. Then, the equipment had to be affordable, and it had to be a product where you can make money. We were lucky to have been mentored by friends in the chocolate business as well. We have an incredibly talented chocolatier, Rick Gemme, a graduate of the Culinary Institute of America, and a great staff that has continued to remain with us since the start of the business,” says David.
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Pam adds, “We experimented in the kitchen for a while. The kitchen was a mess. David was taking classes, and Chocolate Therapy was up and running in 3-4 months.”
Surviving the Pandemic
Surviving the pandemic is still a challenge for many businesses. However, most people enjoy chocolate, so the pandemic was a gamechanger and increased Chocolate Therapy’s sales, but not before some obstacles.
Like a large number of small businesses, the husband-and-wife duo also received grants and PPE loans during the pandemic. Closed for four months, the couple shifted gears and began holding virtual chocolate making classes and tastings, which consisted of learning how chocolate is made.
Their clients had the opportunity to taste the chocolate at each step of the process, get a behind-the-scenes look at how truffles are made, and even sample the handcrafted truffles with flavors ranging from sweet to savory to spicy. The virtual tastings prove to be a huge success and are available to corporations, social groups and clubs, business celebrations and virtual events.
Some of their clients include Verizon, Citibank, IBM, Yahoo, Herbal Life, Accenture, Facebook, Intuit, MIT and others. Their chocolate is also sold in local and national locations, including The Boxer Hotel, Boston Intercontinental Hotel, TJX brand stores, Winston Flowers and more.
“The pandemic made it work for us. Basically, our online business exploded! We had an opportunity to do these chocolate tastings. The interesting part for us is it was a good thing for our business because it's chocolate. People love chocolate. People were ordering for themselves, loved ones, family and friends.
“We became discovered through Black Lives Matter, and to more people seeking out woman-owned and small businesses to support. We had that comforting product that people wanted. We did virtual classes, virtual tastings and shipped chocolate. That's how we became pivotal during the pandemic,” says Pam.
Blessings come in various ways. ABC’s “Good Morning America” Robin Roberts visited the Chocolate Therapy store on National Chocolate Day (October 28, 2021), and that catapulted sales even further through the roof. Months later, they are still receiving mega orders from the media exposure on the show.
Their storefront is still operational and customers can visit in person for a wider selection of chocolates or just pull up to the curb to pick up their beloved chocolates or place their order online. Due to their appearance on GMA, a limited selection of chocolates are available online.
Marriage and Working Together
Balancing marriage and a business can be a handful. Even after being married for 35 years, working with a spouse can prove to be challenging. “Owning a small business is never a smooth road. There are always wins and losses. It is important to have a vision, business plan and capital. One of the main things is patience and the will to keep going. It takes time to build any brand. In addition, working round the clock with your spouse has its own set of challenges,” says David.
“It's hard. It's very challenging. You both think you know what's best. Men are from Mars and women are from Venus. So there are differences. We have been married 35 years, have two amazing kids. One of our kids works with us. Our daughter is helping us out, and she's a virtual assistant, and she's helping us get through a lot of the social media,” says Pam.
“What inspires us to be great is our customers, our family, everyone we make this chocolate for. We continue to make great products and do well in the business,” Pam says. David adds, “There seems to be an entrepreneurial spirit. It's just something about owning your own business.”
Entrepreneurs often work extremely hard to obtain their piece of the pie. Some work their entire life to create a name for themselves or leave a legacy behind for the next generation to enjoy. Although the Griffins' two children aren't currently interested in pursuing chocolate or carrying on the family business, they realize they are touching the kids they employ in many ways and making chocolate lovers across the country happy.
“For me, it's so many ways to speak of that. When I think of the kids (15-,16-,17-year-olds), it's just good. I know they enjoy working here; the connection with the people I've made. I feel really good about that,” Pam says.
David concludes, saying, “I feel people will know it came from blood, sweat and tears and TLC, and I don't think I'm done with that. We have created something that I can say is special. Now that we've had national exposure, we are finding out it is special. We have evolved with changing times. I think this is what legacies are made of.”
One of Chocolate Therapy’s best sellers for the holidays is the Limited Edition GMA Truffle. According to Pam, “they are still selling like wildflowers.”
Chocolate Therapy also offers egg nog, peppermint truffles, caramels, chocolate therapy barks or truffle bars, key lime pie white chocolate truffles, spicy pistachio truffles, pom bom truffles, blueberry lemon basil dark chocolate truffles and many other flavors.