Truffles: Is it true that you began plotting your entry into the chocolate business as a 3-year-old?
Sam: Yeah, it’s pretty funny – I’ve always loved chocolate. When I was 3, I really wanted to have my own candy store; I even had a name for it - Sweeney’s Sweets Shop. It was a family joke that I had this childhood dream. Little did I know that my career path would bring me to Sweet Designs.
Truffles: So, how did it happen?
Sam: When I was in the ninth grade, we got an email at my school that Sweet Designs was looking for seasonal help, so I applied and got an interview, but I wasn’t chosen. I have to admit, perhaps my interviewing skills weren’t the best. Fortunately, Ines came back a few weeks later and gave me a second look. So, I came in and I’ve never really left.
Truffles: What’s it like working at Sweet Designs?
Sam: Every day is different. Every day is its own little journey. I wish I could write a book about this place. It is so much more than a chocolatier. I count the owner as a mother and the co-workers as family. I’ve been a part of this company for 10 years.
Truffles: What’s the best part of working here?
Sam: I love working at a place where our customers come in smiling. I have folks who want to add sweetness to their life. It's like having a little “superpower” to hand out sweetness to people rather than handing them bills, like a doctor’s bill or a cardboard box from Home Depot. I’m handing them chocolate, something they see as a delicacy and so do I. In that little exchange, you have a smile on your face and so does the customer. It’s special.
Truffles: How do you learn about all the chocolates?
Sam: The good news is you have to try them all. Ines encourages us to do that so we can do a good job helping our customers better understand what we offer.
Truffles: Your favorite Sweet Designs treat?
Sam: It's pecan caramel marshmallow. It’s actually something that we only offer periodically.
Truffles: When you aren’t working at Sweet Designs, what are you up to?
Sam: I love to travel. When I’m in Cleveland, it’s family time and it’s Sweet Designs time, but most of the rest of my time is spent traveling.
Truffles: How did you get interested in travel?
Sam: One of my favorite TV shows growing up was The Wild Thornberry's. It was about a red-headed family that lived in a van and went on safaris. The woman was a biologist and her husband was a photographer and I just loved it. I also watched a lot of Discovery nature shows with my mom and she would say, “I could see you doing that.”
Truffles: So where has your love of nature and animals taken you?
Sam: Lots of places. I have an aunt who lives in Alaska and she invited me to visit so that was one of my first trips and it’s one of my favorite places. I’ve also had the chance as part of my college experience to go to school in Australia for six months and then I stayed on to work in a wildlife shelter. My experiences in Australia really confirmed my love of nature and travel. I knew I was on the right path when I realized how happy I was feeding a kangaroo at 4 am.
Truffles: Where else have your travels and jobs taken you?
Sam: My resume is something else. I’ve been really fortunate to travel to so many interesting places – Asia, Costa Rica, London, Canada, and Colombia among others. I’ve also had a job in Turks and Caicos Islands. But I always come back to Sweet Designs.
Truffles: What keeps you coming back to Sweet Designs?
Sam: It’s all the things I’ve mentioned – Ines, the great group of people she has working with her and the fabulous customers. It’s also Ines’ life lessons that have stayed with me. One of my favorites is her saying: “Don’t fall in lust, fall in love.” It’s a phrase I’ve frequently shared with my friends. Ines helps guide me with life decisions, but never tells me what to do. She loves chocolate, but what she loves even more is giving people what they want. She also really enjoys helping young employees learn how to work and to have success in their lives.