Photography by Gabrielle Plucknette of Gabrielle Plucknette Photography
Tell us a little about yourself and what you do.
My name is Jennifer Posey. I grew up in the sleepy beach town of Santa Cruz, CA. When I was young I played sports, music, and was outside all the time. I went to San Jose State University for Undergrad and Grad in Leisure Studies, and worked in Public Administration for lots of years. For the past 10 years, I have been the owner/operator of Hedonist Artisan Chocolates and Ice Cream, located in Rochester’s South Wedge. At Hedonist we make unique chocolates by hand, in small batches; we also make great ice cream and our own waffle cones.
What did you want to be when you were a child?
When I was really little I wanted to be a cowboy, then a hair dresser, a professional athlete, and finally a bluegrass musician. When I was around 10 years old I got a job as a scorekeeper for little league baseball -- I received $5 a game and a hotdog. I loved the hotdogs so much and I ended up spending the rest of my money at the concession stand. I didn’t know it then but it that was my first step in becoming a “foodie.” After that I always had a job, so I could buy whatever food I wanted without my parents saying no. My curiosity, and love for food traditions, runs deep within me to this day. Now I think that when I grow up I want to be an old lady that always cooks Sunday dinner and everyone wants to come over for it.
How did you get started? What were some of the difficulties you faced in starting?
I moved to Rochester 13 years ago with my wife, who had a job at Xerox. I had previously been a Parks and Recreation Director and I had intended on continuing my career in Rochester. I learned that there were not many opportunities in that field here, so I had to make some changes. A year had gone by, and so had my savings, before I needed to take some action. I always wanted my own business so I started to explore my interests, my skills, and what Rochester was missing. My experience in Parks and Recreation had given me a solid skill set in business, leadership and innovation. My time working for a famous chocolatier -- Richard Donnelly in California -- had given me experience and exposure to the world of fine chocolate. When I realized there was not an artisan chocolatier or ice cream maker in Rochester I could see my path.
I started Hedonist with $300 and a credit card. I worked long hours alone for a few years, saying yes to everything and everyone. I loved working hard, and still do. Difficulties are all around if you want to see them, but I like to think of difficulties as challenges; challenges that I’m going to conquer, or games I need to figure out, and then win.
In moments of self-doubt, hardships or failure how do you build yourself back up?
I try and slow down, prioritize, and then put things in order. I find that I do my best critical thinking/regrouping/meditating/praying when I am alone and I am doing something physical. If I need to pick myself up and assess what is happening around me, I’ll go swimming or go for a long walk alone where I can think things out and decide what I need to do. In business I revisit my mission statement and the vision of how I wanted to achieve my goals. I also find it helpful to check in with the “Seven Habits of Productive People.” All you can do is move forward and be yourself, and this helps me do that.
Lettering by Brittany Statt of Bee Paper House
What is your best advice to someone just starting out? What advice do you wish someone had said to you?
Make a plan. A whole plan, that is complete and realistic. Then have other people (people that will be honest with you and understand how plans work) look at it and tell you if you are lying to yourself. In other words don’t guess: know the information. Surround yourself with people who are strong where you are weak. Be open to other people’s ideas, but don’t get lost in them. Learn how to work with other people’s strengths. Don’t fight hard all the time; choose your battles. Mostly: be yourself and always try to do the right thing.
What inspires you?
The spice isle. The farmers market. Ethnic restaurants. Passionate people.
What is your favorite part of what you do?
My favorite part of my job is I get to make amazing stuff! But the best part is seeing other people love it! I love the people that I work with, all the things we dream up, and then making those dreams come true.
I also like that every day is completely different than the day before. Some days I am a chocolate maker, some days I’m a window designer, other days I work on search engine optimization. Next week I will be painting our building, tonight I will be networking, and right now I am a blog writer.
What do you find most challenging?
The world expects all businesses to run effortlessly, without delay or error. Small businesses still have to tackle all the same challenges as big businesses, but with less staff and resources, so we have to be “Janes of all Trades.” Of course, I specialize in my craft of chocolate and ice cream making, but what is challenging is staying on top of things like design, search engine optimization, shipping and receiving, marketing, networking and a million other things.
I also find it challenging to find the time to finish all the exciting and not so exciting projects we want to do. There is always something to do at Hedonist, as in life; it’s challenging to get to everything.
Name some local creatives that you really admire.
I admire so many folks in our city of Rochester. I love the passion that our local individual artists and crafters have. To name a few is hard. My partner and I opened Little Button Craft and Press on South Avenue because we wanted a place that would celebrate as many of these creatives as possible. I met a lot of locals that I became fans of through that.
Objects and food made with someone’s hands, and using old world techniques, excite me. I feel like it gives character, depth and soul. Meats cut by hand, knit sweaters, upcycled bags, original painted artwork, craft beers and wines, small cheese makers, letterpress, and the like. I admire those people: they keep craft alive.