Andy & Robin Ciordia and Bill & Karen Dietz
Chuck Sawicki, Allen Friedman
After 30 years as a pastry chef, Bill Dietz was ready for a new career path. Recruiting his wife, Karen, their daughter Robin Ciordia and her husband, Andy, to join him, in 2008 Dietz began selling chocolate truffles at farmer's markets. Their business, The Secret Chocolatier, quickly expanded and began wholesaling to retail locations.
The Secret Chocolatier’s artisanal chocolates developed such a following that customers began clamoring for the partners to open their own retail storefront. For help developing a business plan to transition into retailing, in 2010 Andy and Robin visited SCORE.
SCORE mentors Chuck Sawicki and Allen Friedman helped the partners assess the market, the competition, their opportunities, and their strengths and weaknesses, then hone their business plan. “[They were] very clear on how a business plan is meant to be a living document, growing and adjusting itself as you grow--not something to sit on a shelf,” says Andy. “When the market shifts, so do your plans.”
The “reality check” SCORE provided was invaluable, Robin agrees. “There were a lot of things to think about, so it was helpful to have a third party with business experience looking at the big picture.”
On SCORE’s advice, Andy assembled an informal advisory board of trusted businesspeople. “I run my ideas and stages of business plans by them, giving me great insight into what makes a business operate,” he says.
The Secret Chocolatier, which opened its first retail location in 2011 and a second in 2013, has enjoyed 30 percent annual growth since working with SCORE. “A lot of our growth is due to SCORE’s support and pushing us to continue moving forward, rather than just maintaining where we are,” says Robin.
Future goals include hiring more employees and opening a separate production space. As the company expands, the owners continue to rely on SCORE’s guidance for everything from sales to operations. “Even though we are celebrating our third year of retail, I still look to Chuck and SCORE for thoughts on how to continue our successes,” says Andy. “They genuinely want us to achieve great things.”
Mass Mutual is not associated with, and does not endorse, the business featured.