Jennifer Dumond

Name: Jennifer Dumond

Age: 47

Title: Owner

Company: Kennebec Hand Dipped Chocolates Inc.

About: The company, founded in 1996, makes gourmet chocolates and candies and selection of other treats.

Website: kennebecchocolates.com

What’s your biggest challenge right now?

Making chocolate fast enough. Every holiday season, it’s the same. Demand does fluctuate with the economy, but when people are depressed they buy chocolate, and when they are happy they buy chocolate, so it’s a pretty good business to be in. During the crash (the Great Recession, which lasted from late 2007 to the middle of 2009), businesses put an end to presents. People chose to stop sending out gifts instead of cutting jobs. In the last couple of years they have started to come back, and this year we started out with a bang. We’ll know next week how we’re doing. We do a lot of big corporate orders, and a lot of people come in (now) for stocking stuffers and holiday presents.

Actually, people can come in before Thanksgiving and get their holiday chocolates. Like wine, when good chocolate ages it tastes better. So come in early, come in often.

What’s the best advice anyone has give you?

At the end of your life, what really matters is your family.

Ron Fedele was kind of my mentor in this business. I worked for him when I was in high school in his chocolate store (Fedele’s Chocolates) in Pembroke, Massachusetts. He’s always been that way — he had two little kids, who spent time at the store with him. He worked like a dog, but if he had a family emergency, he took care of it.

He told me this way back when, but we also figured it out. With the employees or with us, if there is a family emergency, family is always first.

How do you foster creativity in yourself or your staff?

I try and let people, if they have the knack for something, like if they do baskets really well, be free and enjoy it. For me, I love watching the Food Network, I can get ideas and figure out how we can make it ours. And Pinterest (an online platform for sharing and saving images and ideas) is awesome.

What’s your biggest fear?

I don’t really fear much. A snowstorm the week before Valentine’s Day, maybe. As you get older, you don’t fear as much because you have gotten through just about anything.

We’re very cyclical. Winter is very busy for us and summer lags down. Summer was difficult because there was little business. But after 20 years in business, we have figured it out. I’ve started doing wedding cakes, so that has helped a lot.

My husband is a pastor (Andy Dumond, CityReach Church, Augusta) and we have a deep faith in God. We have gotten through so much and we have learned to trust in God and try not to worry so much.

How do you see the state of workforce readiness?

Working here is not a technical job. There are a lot of young people who are task-minded, and we stress attention to detail. There are some young people who do that very well, but I think it’s more of an internal thing. Not everyone does that very well. We probably go through six employees to get a good one. My oldest employee is 77 and she can run rings around everyone. I have a couple in their 50s, one is 20 and one is mid-20s. (With younger employees) I’ve had to take away their phones. They could have them back at breaks or meal times, because they would lock themselves in the bathroom to be on the phone when they were supposed to be working. People feel naked without their phones — they always have to be talking with their friends on checking Facebook. It interferes with their ability to do their jobs.

We’ve also had employees show up drunk on more than one occasion.

What’s important is attention to detail, showing up on time, being ready to work and being polite to all people. A myriad of customers come in and you have to be polite. Good phone skills are good, too.

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