At 28 years-old, Chocolate Pizza Company owner, Ryan Novak, may be one of those high-energy millennials carving out success in the competitive landscape of business but this twenty-something entrepreneur is firmly grounded in old fashioned values. His throwback perspective comes from starting with a mop in his hands when he was 15 years-old. Ryan got his first job at Chocolate Pizza Company as a dishwasher and laborer but the teen was happy to have a job and learned everything he could about the business.
Balancing school, sports and work was a struggle but overcoming adversity was nothing new to the teenager. Ryan’s mom was killed when he was just 9 years-old by a man high on drugs who ran a stop sign. It devastated the young boy but it also set an internal drive to make her proud by never giving up on yourself or your dreams. Nearly two decades later, Ryan still applies that motivation daily in his work and his life.
Ryan knew that the small-town chocolate shop had big potential and he dreamed of one day owning the company. He asked the founder to teach him about how to work with chocolate and how to run a business. Ryan attended college at Syracuse University where he majored in entrepreneurship and that education reinforced his confidence that Chocolate Pizza Company could become a national brand. In 2010, between his junior and senior years at college, the opportunity to buy the company surfaced and Ryan jumped at it. At age 21, he found himself a full-time student and a full-time business owner.
The company’s signature products are Chocolate Pizza® and Peanut Butter Wings®. Chocolate Pizza is gourmet chocolate blended with a homemade English toffee, poured into pizza pans, topped with candies or nuts and served in a custom pizza box. When Ryan took over the business there were two types of Chocolate Pizza – with nuts or without – today there are over 50 varieties. Peanut Butter Wings are the other runaway best-seller and for good reason. Crisp, rippled potato chips are covered in creamy peanut butter and drenched in rich milk or dark chocolate. Together, this “Pizza & Wings” concept headlines an array of over 100 gourmet chocolate specialties that are popular gifts for business and personal occasions.
To make the process more efficient, Ryan invested in specialized equipment like computerized melting vats, enrobing machines, cooling tunnels, flow wrappers and more. He built a new 10,000 square-foot production and retail facility in his hometown of Marcellus, New York and hired a team from the local area. He pitched his unique chocolate treats to industry giants like Hallmark, Sheetz, Von Maur, CVS and more – putting his products in front of thousands of new customers. He spread the word about Chocolate Pizza Company with features nationally on Food Network, NBC, ABC and internationally on Food Network Canada and Discovery Channel India. Ryan built a website and has impressive followings on social media platforms like Facebook and Instagram. He has quadrupled sales, trademarked his core products and his chocolate has been enjoyed by A-list celebrities, Hall of Fame athletes, music legends, top political and business leaders and chocolate fans on 6 continents.
There have been plenty of mistakes to go with the success. To be an entrepreneur requires dealing with setbacks and missteps but adapting, adjusting and moving forward are in the DNA of true entrepreneurs. He’s the first one in and the last one out because there is no substitute for leading by example. Perhaps more than at any time in the past, this is a generation of creative minds and restless spirits that desire to steer their own ship at an early age. And they are doing it well. In 2016, Chocolate Pizza Company was recognized as, Business of the Year, by Centerstate CEO, the premier business association covering 12 counties in Central New York.
Ryan believes success comes with an obligation to give back. He knows the importance of that first job so he hires local high schoolers in the summer. Ryan is a frequent speaker at conferences for veterans and young entrepreneurs and he sponsors a little league baseball team in the community.
Success is a journey and while Ryan has taken a small-town chocolate shop to the national stage he still enjoys each day. He’s come a long way from the boy who lost his mom but along the path he learned to count blessings, not tears. He makes it a habit to watch sunsets from the front of his building – taking time to appreciate life and the journey he’s on – knowing success is sweeter when it is earned every day.
To learn more about Ryan Novak and Chocolate Pizza Company, visit https://www.chocolatepizza.com.
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