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Norman Love Confections names new CEO; founder to stay with firm

While founder Norman Love aims to slow down, the company he founded nearly 25 years ago has big-growth goals in mind. "This company has been chomping at the bit to grow," says Love.


  • By Mark Gordon
  • | 1:30 p.m. May 20, 2024
  • | 2 Free Articles Remaining!
Lisa Fisher was recently named CEO of Norman Love Confections, alongside founder Norman Love.
Lisa Fisher was recently named CEO of Norman Love Confections, alongside founder Norman Love.
Photo by Stefania Pifferi
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Lisa Fisher knows what it's like to work for small food brands on the hunt for more market share. She was vice president and senior vice president at Chobani, for example — a company that started in 2005 in an abandoned upstate New York yogurt factory and has since grown into a global industry powerhouse with 20% market share.

At companies like Chobani Fisher honed two catchphrases: We have a right to win and we punch above our weight. Fisher wore out those sayings, in meetings, one-on-ones and to anyone else who would listen. 

“I wanted the team to know that you can do this,” Fisher says. “I wanted to send a message that they can play on the big stage with the big boys.” 

The phrases, and repetition, she says, helped foster a growth mindset that eventually came to fruition. Fisher plans to bring that underdog fighting spirit to her latest role: CEO of Fort Myers-based Norman Love Confections. The company, with colorful, artisan-driven chocolate treats at its core, has six retail locations, including five in the Naples-Fort Myers area and one in east Manatee County, outside Lakewood Ranch. It also has e-commerce and corporate gifting units. It has about 140 employees. 

Founder Norman Love will remain with the company in an active leadership role but will no longer be hyper-focused on the day-to-day. “It’s just time,” says Love. “I will turn 65 this year and my plan has always been to eventually slow down.”

Love’s career to this point has been anything but slow. He founded the company in 2001, after a 13-year stint as corporate executive pastry chef for Ritz-Carlton. The glitz of that gig had lots of grind: Love spent up to 42 weeks a year on the road, helping open hotels worldwide.

He launched Norman Love Confections at home, and later moved into a 700-square-foot room in a medical office building east of Interstate 75 in Fort Myers. Friends who owned the building charged him $200 a month in rent, including utilities. The business, Love has said in previous interviews, was supposed to be something that allowed him to slow down and spend more time with his wife, Mary, and their two young children.

Norman Love founded Norman Love Confections in 2001. 
Photo by Stefania Pifferi

Then business began to take off, including the company’s first chocolate salon on Daniels Parkway and Lindbergh Boulevard.

Nearly 25 years later, Norman Love, with Fisher in place since January, is ready to slow down. His role at the company will now include doing business development and checking in on operations, in addition to being a guidepost for Fisher. “I still have my name on the building,” Love says with a smile, adding his title now is co-owner. 

The process to get to Fisher was lengthy. First Love interviewed executive search firms for six months, trying to find one that understood the brand and its place in the market correctly. The next challenge was to find candidates with the right experience and enthusiasm for the brand and job. The search firm brought them multiple good ones, says Love, including many chief marketing officers looking for their first CEO job. “The level of interest we had was very flattering, to be honest,” says Love. 

While many candidates were scattered all over the country, Fisher was in Fort Myers. She lived there while commuting to her senior-level executive jobs, including Chobani and as chief commercial officer for Illinois-based contract food manufacturer Hearthside Food Solutions. She also worked for Kraft-Heinz earlier in her career. It was actually a friend of Fisher’s the search firm spoke to first. That friend recommended Fisher. And when Fisher met with Love, the pair clicked. Not only over business philosophy and complementing skill sets but even in the personal: Fisher grew up in Pittsburgh and Love is a passionate Pittsburgh Penguins hockey fan. 

Norman Love Confections has six retail locations.
Courtesy image

On the business side, both Fisher and Love are aligned with one particular goal: Grow the company’s revenue streams — retail, corporate gifting, e-commerce and business to business — but do it in a sustainable, manageable way, where expansion doesn’t outpace customer service. (The company doesn’t disclose annual revenue figures.) “This company has been chomping at the bit to grow,” says Love, noting the hurricanes and pandemic were major obstacles the past four years. “(But) we’ve always been about the product and not just growing to make more money.”

Growth includes hiring more leadership personnel in e-commerce and other units, in addition to opening new locations, such as one coming soon on Florida’s east coast in Delray Beach. Fisher says the plan is to get more retail traction in Florida before going out of state. “I’ve always been a big supporter of growing sustainable and not growing too big,” Fisher says. 

Fisher adds that one lesson she has learned from her past experiences is to find two or three spots to focus on, and not “just throw spaghetti at the wall and see what sticks.” 

Love, meanwhile, plans to stick to slowing down. “I really like our future plans,” he says. “I’m excited about tomorrow for this company. This is a great time to be in this business.”

 

author

Mark Gordon

Mark Gordon is the managing editor of the Business Observer. He has worked for the Business Observer since 2005. He previously worked for newspapers and magazines in upstate New York, suburban Philadelphia and Jacksonville.

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