We had the good fortune of connecting with Valerie Herskowitz and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Valerie, what was your thought process behind starting your own business?
I started my own business in 2013 in order to have an activity to keep my then 22-year-old son with autism purposefully occupied. I really didn’t look at it as an eventual bricks and mortar endeavor as I started it out of my home, but things grew in terms of participants, employees, and business so that in 2016, we ended up opening our own store and manufacturing facility
What should our readers know about your business?
It seems that my professional and personal life have never been separate entities. I started my professional career as a speech pathologist but ended up using my skills for my son who got diagnosed with autism in 1993 after I had been practicing for 15 years. At that point my life became Autism 24 seven and I opened up a therapy center to work with this population. In 2008, I decided to try something different after 30 years as a clinical SLP, and became an autism consultant and adjunct professor. I also decided to become a pastry chef and certified chocolatier. In 2013, when my adult son with autism graduated high school, I used both those skill sets to open our chocolate business which eventually focused on training and employing individuals with autism and other developmentail,disabilities. Over seven years we opened up our own bricks and mortar store and training facility and up until the pandemic, we had five employees and 20 students in our training program. It has been a very challenging job to keep a chocolate company solvent as well as a training program, but until the pandemic we were doing well. So now comes our most challenging time and though we presently cannot do our training program in person, we have continued it online with many of our students. My son and I continue to work daily in the kitchen at our facility as do other employees at different times of the day. But we look forward to getting back to the point where we can all be together and continue our past endeavors
Any places to eat or things to do that you can share with our readers? If they have a friend visiting town, what are some spots they could take them to?
Nowhere now of course. But I’m really not the expert on going out anyway. Because of my multitude of responsibilities, running a business, a non-profit, teaching at the University, taking care of my son and rest of my family, I really don’t get out much normally.
Who else deserves some credit and recognition?
There is no one person that I can give a shout out to because this was truly a team endeavor. I started it in the beginning as an activity for my son, but soon met such wonderful people along the way who inspired me to want to help others who are in similar situations as to my son. It didn’t take long for this one person operation to expand into a team of dedicated professionals that include my shop manager and lead instructor, Fatema Hussain, our other chocolatiers and shipping employees, Cristian Panter and Michael Pagan, and last but not least, my husband, Garth Dolderer, who has supported this experience in so many ways I’ve lost count