Making It: Melding Chocolate and Community at Sweet Designs
MAKER: Ines Rehner, master chocolatier and owner of Sweet Designs
BUSINESS: Sweet Designs Chocolatier
THE EARLY YEARS: Ines Rehner's candy journey began in the former Yugoslavia. She recalls finding hidden chocolates in her father's car. "Every time I found it, the chocolate disappeared," joked Rehner. When she immigrated to the United States in 1987 that lifelong love of chocolate stayed with her as she began working in a candy store. She always thought she could make the chocolates taste better. A $40 melting tank purchase at an auction got her started experimenting with her own blend. "Chocolate was secondary. Having a business was the first priority. I wanted to be self-employed," Rehner said. In 1995, Sweet Designs opened its doors.
BUILDING A COMMUNITY: "I realized that once I started the business it became about other people, and it became about community, and giving back to community," she said. Rehner makes a point to employ people in need. "I hire a lot of times more so because of their story. I hire a lot of times when I don't need to employ anyone. This is where I feel I make a difference,"Rehner said.
OUT OF THIS WORLD CHOCOLATE: Sweet Designs chocolate is shipped all over the world, but it has also been to space. In 1997, a customer offered Rehner's chocolate to NASA astronaut Roger Crouch. "They loved it so much they asked if they could take it with them on the mission," Rehner said. The chocolate went into orbit in 1997 on the space shuttle Columbia. "It was definitely one of the biggest days of my life. Now I can truly say our chocolate is out of this world."