People ask me all the time, “Ryan, what’s your motivation for being an entrepreneur?”
What I love most about being an entrepreneur is that I wake up every morning and get to walk in Willy Wonka’s shoes. I lead a company whose products make people happy and become part of their holidays and celebrations. Chocolate brings a universal smile.
I own, Chocolate Pizza Company, located near Syracuse, New York – a very unique gourmet chocolate business famous for its trademarked Chocolate Pizza® and Peanut Butter Wings®. I started as a dishwasher when I was 15 years-old. At age 21, I became the owner of what was then a small-town chocolate shop. My vision was to make it a brand and today we’re taking orders from chocolate lovers on 6 continents. Nothing is impossible.
When I took over, Chocolate Pizza Company operated out of a leased space in the bottom of a building owned by a construction company. It was barely 2,000 square feet and that included the production area, retail shop and storage. The kitchen area was so tight you had to turn sideways to squeeze past the one cooling tunnel we had. There was no loading dock so we had to put a pallet on a service cart, push it up a ramp out the front door of the store and then lift it by hand onto the back of the truck. All this while stopping traffic on Main Street in our small town.
Today, we operate from our own 10,000 square foot production facility on over 6 acres of land. Our kitchen area alone is bigger than our entire space at the old location. We have a loading dock and fork truck that easily handles the semi-truck traffic and a proper shipping and warehouse area that processes tens of thousands of packages a year. What would have been impossible before is now routine.
Nothing is Impossible
There is a lot of motivation in watching your business grow. I have a saying by Walt Disney hanging in my conference room that says, “It is kind of fun to do the impossible.” When I went to buy Chocolate Pizza Company as a 21-year-old, every bank told me I had one of the best business plans they had ever seen but none would loan me money. I was told that I was too young to run a business. Most said I didn’t have the experience to survive in a market as competitive as gourmet chocolate. They said it was impossible. Today, those same experts line up at my door to do business with my company. Walt Disney was right.
There is a lot of motivation in working with great people every day. I have the best team I could imagine. From day one, this was a family business. My family supported me not just with their words but with their deeds. They left successful careers to lean into the stone with me and move my dream forward. They make this work and there is no Chocolate Pizza Company story without them. And to that family, I’ve added more good people who believe in what we’re building. I also make a point to welcome young people into our ranks because I started as a teenager and I know the value of having that first job. Companies are strong from the inside-out.
Motivation and Inspiration
But it isn’t the motivation to be an entrepreneur that ultimately drives me. It is the inspiration – and that comes from a far deeper place than even the many positive sources of motivation.
The truth is, I am keeping a promise. My mom died when I was 9 years-old. She was driving home from work when a man high on marijuana ran a stop sign and hit her. She was 7 months pregnant with who would have been my brother. Mom and baby died and on that August day I made a promise to make her proud. She wanted me to dream big and try hard so every day that I build Chocolate Pizza Company I am honoring her love for me. This journey I am on is more than creating triumph from tragedy. It is respecting the life she gave me and the hope she had for me. It is making a difference every day the best that I can for and with the ones I love.
That is my inspiration, that is what fuels this entrepreneur and why I am so excited about the direction Chocolate Pizza Company is headed.