History of Chocolate Pizza Company
The History of the Chocolate Pizza Company
I am, Ryan Novak, owner of Chocolate Pizza Company, Inc.
As a toddler, my mom used to take me into a small chocolate shop in my hometown of Marcellus, New York. I am told that even from my stroller I was pretty good at finding the chocolate sample tray so I guess you can say that I have been a fan of the gourmet treat all my life. When I was 9 years old my mom was killed by a man high on drugs who ran a stop sign. The tragedy devastated my life but also sparked a drive in me to make my mom proud. I work everyday to do just that.
When I was 15 years-old, I walked into Chocolate Pizza Company and got my first part-time job as a dishwasher. I worked hard but loved the business and recognized that this tiny, small-town chocolate shop had the potential to be so much more. I dreamed of one day owning the business and making it a national brand. My chance would come six years later when the founder retired and offered me the opportunity to buy the company. Despite being only 21 years-old and still a senior at Syracuse University, I jumped at the challenge.
Since taking over in 2010, we have totally transformed Chocolate Pizza Company and grown it into something very special.
When I bought the company, there were basically two types of Chocolate Pizza - with nuts and without nuts. Today, we offer over 50 incredible varieties of Chocolate Pizza and more than 100 gourmet chocolate specialty items including customized choices for every holiday and occasion. I made significant investments in specialized equipment that allowed us to produce high volumes of products so we could serve an expanding audience. For example, in the 6 years before I became owner, the company dipped 9,000 chocolate covered cookies. Today, we can do that amount in a day. To get an idea of how big we have grown, we will nearly use more chocolate this year than the company did in the decade before I took over - nearly 200,000 pounds.
We also transformed the business model, creating two distinct catagories of products - gourmet chocolate gifts and impulse sales - and the result has been explosive growth in both segments. When I became owner, Chocolate Pizza Company did not have one wholesale account. Today, our products can be found at over 5,000 retail locations nationwide including premier retailers like Hallmark, CVS, Kinney Drugs, Von Maur, Field & Stream, Sheetz and many more. In 2010, the company operated out of cramped 2,000 square feet of leased floor space in a multi-use building. In 2015, we opened our own brand new 10,000 square foot production and retail facility that is a gem in this community and has set the company up for growth for the next 20 years. Finally, when I bought the company, it had no intellectual property rights while today the company owns federally registered trademarks on both Chocolate Pizza® and Peanut Butter Wings®.
You can find us online too. Originally, the company had a simple website with a few pictures and no way to make an online purchase. The first thing I did after becoming owner was to create a fully interactive website that showcases our product line and has an active blog. We also stepped out into social media, developing a massive online following. Our Facebook page has 24,000 Likes and our Twitter account has more than 1,200 followers. We frequently run contests and introduce new products to our social media friends.
I finished my bachelor’s degree at Syracuse University where I majored in Entrepreneurship and Emerging Enterprises and played football as a place kicker. SU was a great experience and has supported my efforts to grow Chocolate Pizza Company. I was honored to be added to the Whitman School of Management's Wall of Fame and to be invited numerous times as a keynote speaker for SU's Veterans Boot Camp. In 2012, I was named to the "40 Under Forty" list as one of the Syracuse area's top young professionals and in 2014 Entrepreneur magazine published an article I wrote titled, "Because Life Isn't Easy".
Chocolate Pizza Company was featured nationally on Food Network's hit show, Unwrapped, as well as on ABC News and many regional media outlets. In 2016, Chocolate Pizza Company was selected "Business of the Year", by Centerstate CEO, a business development organization covering 12 counties in Central New York. We enjoy the national spotlight but always celebrate our hometown roots. Locally, we support numerous community activities, charities and special events as well as sponsor a Marcellus youth baseball team and the "4 Horsemen" leadership awards for the varsity football program. Giving back is a core value of Chocolate Pizza Company.
Our chocolate is exceptional, our creativity limitless but it is our people - the Chocolate Pizza team - that makes the magic happen. We are fortunate to have outstanding professionals who drive our success and create a friendly, family-like environment. We welcome many young people who, like me not long ago, are looking to get a start in the working world and bring us boundless energy and impressive commitment. Together, we meet challenges and create chocolate specialties that are unique, delicious and impressive.
While the business today looks nothing like the little chocolate shop I acquired in 2010, Chocolate Pizza Company is just getting started. We are one of the fastest growing gourmet chocolate manufacturers in America and look forward to exciting times ahead. Thank you for being part of our journey!
During a break in filming for a national TV program, owner and CEO, Ryan Novak, has a little fun with his team.