For the Tsoukatos clan, the only bond thicker than blood is one made of sweet, sweet chocolate. So when father George lost his job as a chocolatier in the mid-aughts, his three adult children rallied around him, determined to get him back in the kitchen.
Their gamble was bold: Zoe and her older brother Pantelis, both living and working Washington, D.C. at the time, quit their day jobs and moved back home to Waynesboro, Pa to set up what would become Zoe's Chocolate, along with younger brother Petros, in 2007.
From the jump, Zoe's Chocolate rode a wave of success, amassing celebrity clients like Martha Stewart and Anthony Bourdain, and garnering key placement for its specialty chocolates in high-end hotels, boutiques and even in the Emmy's and Grammy's gifting suites. But fatigue, coupled with a refusal to innovate their product line, led to a string of losses that eventually lost the company its biggest distributor, Whole Foods, and . "I think we were also kind of burned out," says Pantelis. "We were just not chasing it as hard. We kind of lost that drive a little bit. Cuz that's the hardest, maintaining the top level. Not just one or two years of being great."
By the time The Profit's Marcus Lemonis arrived on the scene, Zoe's Chocolate was in desperate need of a rescue and reinvention. After agreeing to take on 40 percent of the business for $200,000 (an amount that would handily pay off the company's debt), Marcus immediately set about righting Zoe's wrongs. To break the company out of its sales rut and attract new business, he tasked Petros with developing 12 new products and Pantelis with restructuring operations at the facility. Zoe, meanwhile, would work alongside Marcus in overseeing a rebrand.
"It was, like a tornado came in," says Petros of his time working directly with Marcus. "[He] kinda switched everything up. But it was all for the best. You know, it taught us that structure, gave us that good work ethic. So things are moving a lot smoother now."
But not every sweeping change instituted by The Profit with his new colleagues … at first. To poke holes in the meager online ordering system set up by Pantelis, Marcus hosted an impromptu Facebook Live and implored his followers to place orders. And that they did, overwhelming the small staff and bringing painfully into light the backend disorganization that had been hampering continued growth at Zoe's Chocolate.
"I think the bottom line was I think he really showed us that we were kind of maybe focused on the smaller picture," says Pantelis. "But in a big way, if that makes sense. Like, small and little markets, as opposed to going after, like, bigger customers and exposing it to a larger audience."
With its facility finally restructured to scale for demand, a new look implemented for both the storefront and brand, and a newly expanded product line on offer, Marcus pushed the trio court a major client: Norwegian Cruise Line. Though Zoe's Chocolate wasn't able to snag a broad worldwide deal with the luxury cruise operator, it did secure a local order for the New York ship. The company also managed a bit of synergy under the Marcus Lemonis umbrella by partnering with on a line of private label chocolate bars.
As for what's next, Pantelis says the trio hopes to expand Zoe's Chocolate to two or three more U.S. locations and perhaps even a flagship store, as well as expanding overseas. And that goal is well within the company's sights now that it offers a wider breadth of chocolate delights.
"I think people you ask now 'Who's Godiva?' ... there isn't a person that doesn't know who Godiva is, right?" says Pantelis. "But I wanna be that company that they associate us with a luxury brand. And that's it, man. You know, just grow it and just be known throughout the world."