Day in the life of
Chocolate Factory Owner – Bonnie Glass
I am the owner of Euphoria Chocolate Company in Eugene, Oregon. We have been delighting chocolate lovers in the Pacific Northwest since 1980.
When people hear that I run a chocolate company they immediately think of Willy Wonka. But manufacturing is still manufacturing, even when you make something as fun as chocolate. My job relies on efficient production schedules, maintaining raw materials, understanding my output capabilities and meeting customer needs. I have managers who oversee departments but as the owner, I need to be able to see the operation from a higher level. This allows me to help troubleshoot when we have equipment or supply issues. It is my job to anticipate issues and problem solve the ones we couldn’t avoid.
Manufacturing happens long before a holiday or before a new style of jeans is all the rage. A big part of our job is anticipating trends and changing customer needs. We need to make it so it is available when you want it. For Euphoria Chocolate that means we begin making chocolate three to six months before the holiday. For example, we have started planning for Fall and Christmas. At the moment, my attention focused on finalized production numbers and prices for Christmas 2021. These numbers determine how much chocolate, ingredients and packaging need to be ordered and received by late May. Production of chocolate Santas and all things Christmas starts in June. We are almost done making Fall items. Valentine’s Day production starts in December. We are always looking ahead.
My days start with an email check. Production’s shift starts at 6:30 am but I don’t get into the office until 9 am. Even though I am not in the office my day starts at 6:30 am too. Email allows me to check in with production but also admin and sales. No department exists in a bubble, they each support and affect one another, so communication is vital.
When I arrive at the office, I go to production to do a walk through and check in with the production manager. Manufacturing is all about planning and follow through. On Tuesdays, the production manager gives me a detailed weekly production plan. This plan is a guide for everyone. It is reviewed daily because we need to be ready to deal with any delays. Or have a plan to fill time if we are lucky enough to be ahead of schedule.
During the walk through I look over the product being made. Quality control and quality assurance is critical to our business. Every truffle or chocolate bar needs to meet the high standards our customers expect. We also have to comply with the standards and practices required by FSMA and overseen by the FDA.
Next, I check in with purchasing and warehouse. Supply issues have become a challenge. For example, our shipment of white chocolate has been delayed since late February. The latest estimated delivery will impact our planned holiday prep. Two of our bestselling Christmas offerings use white chocolate. So, we are left with no option but to rework the planned schedule to accommodate the new delivery date.
I also meet with sales to review orders for stores and wholesale customers. We rely on the production schedule to estimate when open and new orders will be filled.
Afternoons are spent completing admin tasks like reviewing cost of goods sold and marketing. Making delicious truffles and decadent chocolate confections is only half the story.
One of the biggest thrills of my job is the thrill of overcoming a challenge. I have to be creative while also thinking about the impacts of a proposed solution. In manufacturing, everything is connected so you have to creatively and critically. And you have to be fast. I also love having a real, tangible product you can hold, and in our case eat. Finally, because manufacturing is results-oriented there is a great deal of opportunity to move up based on merit.
I think one of the cons is that manufacturing is often seen as assembly lines where people do the same motion over and over. There are elements of this in some jobs. But many manufacturing jobs are dynamic work environments where real professional growth can happen.
When I was in high school no one suggested manufacturing as a career option. I wish someone had because it has been a truly fulfilling job that plays to my strengths and love of problem-solving.