Some say life is like a box of chocolates, but for St. Thomas alumna Mary Leonard, business is a box of chocolates.
Leonard, owner of Chocolat Celeste, started her small business in 2001 after deciding to change careers.
“Prior to this, I worked for MCI Telecommunications as a marketing manager, after there was a change in their leadership … so I thought it was the time, and dove in and started making my plans for the business,” Leonard said.
Leonard completed a fast-track lean enterprise class, and received mini master’s degrees in business and marketing from St. Thomas.
Leonard said each course was beneficial to her business, but that she learns best from experience.
“I learn by seeing things and doing things; I’m not much of a book learner or reader,” Leonard said. “I find that what I’m doing is an expression of the creativity I see around me.”
Since its start 12 years ago, Chocolat Celeste has grown, receiving acknowledgments from Conde Nast Publications and Travel and Leisure magazine.
Senior Ryan Cobb said Leonard’s success is no surprise.
“I feel like the business school does a great job preparing us. Every one of our classes is taught by somebody who has work experience, so it doesn’t really surprise me, but I think it’s awesome to hear,” Cobb said.
Leonard said the St. Thomas network helped her business flourish. Alumni Association Program Director Jan Becker agreed.
“We actually have one of the strongest networking alumni groups in the greater Twin Cities area, so if you go to a larger school, you’re not going to have as close of a tie,” Becker said.
While Leonard’s fresh chocolates and unique designs set her company apart from others, persistence and hard work are what make her a true entrepreneur.
“Never, never, never give up,” Leonard said.
Eden Checkol can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.