2006 WINNER: ALISON NELSON | FOUNDER | CHOCOLATE BAR
After a string of unfulfilling jobs managing coffee shops and working for a dot-com in the late 1990s, Alison Nelson realized that she needed to be her own boss.
"I get bored easily," says Ms. Nelson, who describes herself as a "terrible employee." With her love of chocolate and entrepreneurial spirit as a guide, Ms. Nelson opened Chocolate Bar in January 2002. She had no experience save the knowledge she gained from devouring 18 books on chocolate.
Today she is the sole owner of the cozy store at 19 Eight Avenue, which touts a long list of celebrity clients and 100 wholesale customers, including Charlie Trotter's in Chicago, Soho House in New York and gourmet stores in 10 cities.
"Alison came out of the woodwork," says award-winning chocolatier Andrew Shotts, who makes some of Chocolate Bar's products. "But she's very discriminating and has good instincts."
The daughter of a New York City fireman and a caterer, Ms. Nelson grew up with three sisters in Rockaway, Queens, where as a kid she took her first stab at running a business by selling soda at church functions and redeeming cans for the deposit. "I'm a very hard worker," she says. She expects to open a second Chocolate Bar Flagship location in Manhattan soon.