These days, Kesha Dozier spends her days surrounded by chocolate. Chocolate covered nuts. Chocolate truffles. Even chocolate covered bacon.
That sweet-salty treat is one of the most popular items at The Chocolate Boutique, Dozier's business with locations in Raleigh and Morrisville. Since opening her Raleigh shop four years ago, she's helped thousands of people celebrate birthdays, Valentine's Day, weddings, baby showers and just your average day with some sweet treats.
But the chocolate business is a far cry from where the Wake County mom of three started her career - in forensics at the medical examiner's office. It was a dream job until Dozier, then a young mother, pricked her finger during the autopsy of a known drug user.
As she went through a battery of tests to ensure that she didn't catch anything from that tiny pin prick, she started thinking about her life with her growing family.
"I really revaluated what I wanted to do," she said.
She switched jobs and worked in the corporate world in biotech sales for a decade. She loved the job, but it didn't allow her to explore her own creativity. So she looked to create a business of her own.
Two of her passions were hot yoga and chocolate. She knew that her husband, who is not a fan of yoga in blistering heat, would help little in a hot yoga studio.
"Chocolate became the thing," she said.
Dozier traveled to Europe to study chocolate making and chocolate shops. She opened the Raleigh shop at Lafayette Village Shopping Center four years ago. The Morrisville location at Park West Village Shopping Center came two years later.
From the shops, Dozier sells all kinds of chocolate and candies - chocolate with ganache, bars, dipped items. Like the shops that she visited in Europe, confections are kept behind glass jewelry cases or stored in large glass jars.
That milk chocolate bacon, made with locally grown applewood bacon, is her No. 2 seller. Her top seller is a salted caramel chocolate truffle (which is absolutely delicious, I can report).
The shops also are venues for children's birthday parties, team building and adult gatherings. She offers several packages that include access to the shops 1200 molds - everything from spark plugs to high heel shoes. Party goers can learn a bit about chocolate and how it's made and then make their own treats to take home. For adults, packages include a glass of wine. These make for fun girls nights out, Dozier tells me.
The business also has given Dozier a platform and opportunity to support breast cancer causes. Dozier had a double mastectomy in September, a procedure that doctors recommended because of a history of breast cancer in her family.
She's normally a private person, but she's eager to share her story and help others. She is working with groups such as Pretty in Pink and the Duke Cancer Center, where she receives her treatment, to raise money and awareness. She plans to do a fundraiser for the Duke Cancer Center this year.
She has big plans for more stores, franchises and growth for The Chocolate Boutique. But, for now, she's happy where she's at. At the end of the day, she gets to eat chocolate.
"I do believe this is one thing I wouldn't ever get tired of," she said. "The possibilities of flavor combinations are endless."
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