Karen Munson will be the first to tell you that working for a family business is not without challenges, but the rewards are immeasurable. She also will tell you that the educational path others might have expected her to take was one that she would circumvent in order to get to where she is today.
As vice president and third generation owner of Connecticut’s largest retail chocolate manufacturing company, Munson abides by the standards and values of the company’s founders, her grandparents. Ben and Josephine Munson began their business in 1946, originally titled “The Dandy Candy Company” in Manchester, Connecticut. Soon after, they moved the operation to a horse barn, converting it into a kitchen and a retail store. The delectable chocolates they made there soon became legendary.
Today, Munson’s Chocolates, based in Bolton, Connecticut has 11 retail outlets throughout the state and employs more than 200 people. In addition to overseeing every aspect of the business operations, Munson is creative director and in charge of product development. She is joined in the business by her father, Robert, who serves as the President and CEO, and her husband Jim, who is the Vice President of Sales.
Munson was born and raised in Bolton and studied at the University of Connecticut where she developed a passion for psychology and business. As she thought about pursuing her master’s degree, she looked for a course of study that would allow her to combine her love of both fields. Her advisor at UConn told her about a new master’s program called Industrial/Organizational Psychology. The University of New Haven was one of the few educational institutions that offered it. Munson pursued her degree here while working full time in the family business.
When it came time for Munson to write her final thesis, her advisor at UNH urged her not to write about her family business. It would be a pivotal point in her life, as she stepped outside of her comfort zone and received a challenging internship at The Hartford Insurance Company. She calls it “the single most valuable experience” she had while attending UNH.
“I believe that my studies at UNH played a critical part in shaping the professional path that I ultimately chose to take. The education, the guidance and the people I met along the way were integral in helping me become the business woman that I am today,” says Munson.
Munson adds that it was always assumed she would be a business major, and if she were to pursue a master’s degree, it would be an MBA. She says she felt pulled, however, in a different direction. “Whether deciding on a major or a career, you have to be driven by your passions. The investment you make in terms of energy and time is far too great not to feel connected to what you do.”
Munson’s Chocolates, a winner of numerous awards for best candy, prides itself on maintaining the quality of its products, customer service and incorporating green initiatives into its business practices. And as Munson turns out a spectacular new line or opens another store, at the top of her mind are the sacrifices made by her grandparents and father -- memories that fuel her drive to continue to develop and grow a business that honors their commitment to excellence and preserves a sweet legacy.
Posted Summer 2010