The journey of Edward Marc Chocolatier is one of teamwork, ingenuity, adaptability and, above all, family.
Towering over the corporate landscape are monolithic corporations—perceived sometimes as omnipresent, omnipotent and ominous.
There’s absolutely nothing wrong with getting big—that’s what a company is supposed to do; but resting on one’s laurels is ill-advised, as the small, lean startup with a disruptive model continues to break new ground and rattle the foundations.
L. Ron Hubbard wrote in his article of November 10, 1971, “ORGANIZATION AND SURVIVAL”:
“Well-organized activities survive. The survival of individuals in those organizations depends on the highly organized condition of the activity.
“A small group, extremely well organized, has excellent chances of survival.
“Even a large group, badly organized, hasn’t a prayer.”
And in an article of September 8, 1972:
“A small group can make it if they are very alert and very efficient.”
“When a group isn’t alert or efficient, it has to have more and more and more people to be inefficient with.”
What is the original blueprint for the small, organized team?
The family business.
Going ALL the way back to the hunting party, the farm, winemakers, blacksmiths, foundries, immigrant shop owners and dynasties, nothing is as tight-knit as a family.
One unique family has been in business for over a hundred years, from a small chocolate shop in Pittsburgh to a store in the Pentagon, into retail outlets all over the country, 84 employees, $24.4 million in revenue for 2015, and 914 percent expansion over the last three years.1
Edward Marc Chocolatier is owned and operated by co-CEOs Chris Edwards and Dana Edwards Manatos and members of their family, carrying forward the tradition of their great-grandparents, who sold chocolate-covered candied fruit on street corners in Greece at the turn of the twentieth century.
By 1914, after landing at Ellis Island and moving to Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, the family restarted their candy business on American soil.
For decades, with their children’s help, they sold handmade ice cream, milkshakes and chocolates under the name Keystone Candy. The 1940s saw the next generation of Edwards opening a chocolate production facility in a building previously used as a theater—a location still operating today. Yet another generation of Edwards took over in the late 1970s. Expanding to several stores, the company changed its name to Geoffrey Boehm while leading fundraising programs for churches, schools and civic organizations.2
The early 2000s saw the family taking an unexpected turn when all three siblings went to work for the State Department and the White House, handling the press and other related activities and traveling on Air Force One under the Bush administration.
By the latter part of the decade, the three went from politics back to chocolates, rebranding the company as Edward Marc Chocolatier (closer to Edwards) and specializing in boxed chocolates for corporate gifts.
Dana Edwards Manatos says working in politics helped them excel at Edward Marc. “A lot of the things that we did and learned at the White House, we apply every single day,” she said. “We operate at a very fast-paced environment, a very high-stress environment, and with zero tolerance for mistakes.”3
She also cites the family dynamic as a distinct part of their operating pattern. “I can tell my brothers exactly what I am thinking and feeling. It cuts through a lot of the bureaucracy. We’re all working toward the same goal and that is one of the most reassuring things of working with your family.”
The Edwards family, including brother Mark as COO, their father, Jeff, and their mother, Dona, who serves as president, went to work revamping family recipes and adding ingredients like nuts imported from the Middle East. Their concentration on quality landed them a deal with Saks Fifth Avenue to carry their chocolates in 42 stores.
One day, they were contacted by the United States Department of Defense and subsequently beat about 25 other chocolatiers, opening the most secure chocolate store in the country, located inside the Pentagon, which brought in $1 million in yearly revenue.
In 2015 the Edwards closed the Pentagon store to focus on expanding nationally. They developed a milk chocolate, caramel and pretzel confection, named them Snappers, and pitched them to Costco. Soon after their creation, Snappers were in Costco outlets and over 30,000 other stores nationwide, generating $5 million per month. Where the company would go through 250,000 pounds of chocolate every year, they now do that every two weeks, operating out of a 50,000-square-foot facility in their hometown.
To honor the family heritage, they’ve opened two Pittsburgh locations of The Milkshake Factory, an old-fashioned ice-cream parlor, distinctly hip and modern, yet not dissimilar to that operated by their great-grandparents a century ago.4
In an interview with Inc. Magazine, Dana Edwards Manatos commented that Edward Marc, while carrying on a rich, hundred-year-old family tradition, with exponential expansion and unmistakable brand identity, has taken on the characteristics of a startup—a stably expanding one at that.
A small group, a family, operating with precision, teamwork, organization and ambition, can truly make it big.
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