Norman Love has long had an affection for the food business, going back to his first teenage job: selling soft pretzels out of a stand in suburban Philadelphia.
His family moved to South Florida when he was a teenager. Love worked for a bakery and an old-time ice cream shop/diner, Swensen’s, among other places. At one bakery in Miami, he worked for free in the mornings, just to learn from the pastry chef. Then he went to his paid gig at the place later in the day. “I always loved to work,” says Love. “I’ve always been self-motivated and been willing to sacrifice to get better.”
That mantra lives on at Norman Love Confections. The business started out as a small shop in Fort Myers, where Love made ultra-premium artisan chocolates by hand, selling them wholesale. He launched the business as a way to spend more time with family, giving up a position with the Ritz-Carlton, where, as a corporate pastry chef, he helped open hotels worldwide.
A tipping point came early at the new business: USA Today named it one of the 10 best in the country, which quickly fueled a retail expansion. Today the business is a Southwest Florida institution, from cooking classes to support of hundreds of charities to partnerships with local businesses for customer gifts. The company also seeks to develop a distribution/fulfillment center in the Midwest, to boost its e-commerce business.
• End zone: Love’s work ethic is the means to everything that happens in the business. “I work everyday to be excellent,” says Love, a Junior Achievement of Southwest Florida Business Hall of Fame Laureate. “Results are what comes in the future.”
• Delegate delicately: Like many entrepreneurs, Love has learned how to step back and let others do work he used to do. Now 57, he relishes what that lesson can do for a growing business. “You have to give your staff the ability to be part of what you do,” says Love. “Not just perform a function.”
• Quality control: While not a regret, Love says his detailed approach to product development has slowed the company’s progression. “I can be too methodical and too product-focused,” he says. “I probably didn’t grow as fast as I could have.”
• Look ahead: There are several people in leadership positions at Norman Love Confections who will be the next generation of company executives, including Love’s son Ryan Love, 29. “He has a lot of strong ideas about how to grow the company,” says Love. “He’s pushing the old man.”
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