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Wendy Buckner

Chattanooga, TN

INDUSTRY: FOOD SERVICES
BUSINESS: THE HOT CHOCOLATIER
YEAR FOUNDED: 2008
PROGRAM: 2015 NEXT LEVEL CHATTANOOGA
“My business just kept growing and growing and I knew in the back of my head that I wasn’t going to be able to do this all myself.”
BUSINESS OVERVIEW
The Hot Chocolatier was founded in 2008 inside a suite at Chattanooga’s Small Business Development Center. The business makes chocolate-based sweets and sells directly to consumers. Today, the Hot Chocolatier employs seventeen people. In 2016, it was recognized for its growth and success as the Woman-Owned Business of the Year by the Urban League of Greater Chattanooga.

DELEGATING LEADERSHIP
When owner Wendy Buckner and her husband Brandon first started their chocolatier business, she remembers how much work it took to get off the ground. With no storefront to start out, Wendy was always on the hunt for farmer’s markets and fairs to advertise and build a clientbase. In the beginning, “it was a rough five years” for Wendy and her husband. “It was nothing for us to work an eighteen hour day doing markets and everything,” she remembers.

Given how much time Wendy put into her business, it has been difficult for Wendy to ease up on the reins: “It’s hard for me to step back and give responsibilities to people; it always has been.” While Brandon’s support has always been essential, finding quality employees and trusting them has really pushed The Hot Chocolatier past the startup phase: “I’ve handed responsibilities over and I’ve found a pastry chef who is just so talented that I’m super confident in her choices. I’ll let her create things now whereas before I would never let anybody do that.”

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