We mom with chocolate

How three mompreneurs join forces to make good chocolate and change the narrative of working moms.

by Lindsay Tarnoff

Take flight
toddler reaching for s'mores made with salted caramel chocolate sauce

Owning a chocolate shop and becoming a mom

I wrestled my toddler to sleep tonight. 

At least, that’s what it felt like. Most of the wrestling match, I could smell the defeat; it wasn’t until the last few seconds that I knew for certain I would win this sleepy battle. And in that last moment, as she started to close her eyes and give into sleep, I felt both relief – and at the same time started to miss her, even as I held her in my arms. Her adorable, mischievous grin, her tiny arms holding me close to her – I’d have to wait until tomorrow for those instances of joy. 

Ok – I know this blog is supposed to be about chocolate. Or at least owning a chocolate shop. And, bear with me – it is. It’s about how Laughing Gull Chocolates has been a part of shifting the narrative for working moms.  

Allison, Lindsay, Karla in front of Laughing Gull Chocolates

An evolving Chocolate Business

Laughing Gull Chocolates would never be what it is today if it weren’t for my mom, because I wouldn’t be who I am without her. My mom inspired me and gave me strength, determination, and even a business mindset. And ironically, Laughing Gull Chocolates would not be what it is today if it weren’t for my kids – I wouldn’t be the mom I am if it weren’t for Laughing Gull Chocolates. Those that were around the first couple of years of Laughing Gull Chocolates’ brick and mortar may understand why. Here’s a brief backstory of how I built a chocolate shop and raised a baby at the same time.

In 2017, my new husband Andy and I had recently moved to Rochester. My tiny chocolate hobby turned business venture, Laughing Gull Chocolates, had moved with me – there was no other option.  That first year of life in Rochester consisted of growing one baby inside my uterus, and one proverbial baby in the form of a chocolate business to be housed on East Main Street.

I had accomplished hard things, and overcome many obstacles and didn’t overthink giving birth to a baby and opening a brick and mortar within months of each other. My daughter Alex was born in July, and I signed the lease for our chocolaterie with a newborn in my arms. I was not the first new mom to jump head first and have no idea what I was jumping into. While I was pregnant, friends, customers, chocolate lovers asked how I would manage, I answered that I would bring my baby to work with me. I would follow my dream of changing the world with chocolate and all the while, would have my baby with me.

We choose our hard – mostly. Or maybe it chooses us. 

I don’t remember if it was before Alex was born or shortly after that I realized it would be ideal if I could work with another young parent who also wanted to bring their child to work. Our babies could be playmates, and I would have assistance running the business. It was the perfect scenario.

Coffee Bundle Items set near flowers

The Backstory (and how to make a life that intersected chocolate, children and a career)

When I was young, I got off the bus and walked home to a hug from my mom almost everyday. Even as I got older, her presence offered stability and peace; I loved being able to see her, and recognize how fortunate I am to have her. She was a teacher before I was born – she could not have brought me into the classroom even if she wanted to. Like all moms, no matter what they do, she made a choice, one that was right for her and our family. 

As I got older, however, I realized the assumption that I would go to college directly after high school was directly contradictory with having a big family, which I had also always wanted. How could one raise children, while also pursuing an education or career and/or at the same time afford childcare for said child(ren)? I wanted a career, I wanted to follow my dreams, and pursue my interests, but would I have to choose between that and being a mom? And no matter what I chose, where would I get my transparently sourced, delicious chocolate that I would inevitably want? 

Salted Caramel Chocolate Sauce Laughing Gull Chocolates, Rochester NY

Laughing Gull Chocolate Grows

Karla and Dylan came into our lives just before Thanksgiving, and the four of us were inseparable almost immediately. Soon afterwards, neighbors Allison and Lucy found Laughing Gull Chocolates and made it their daily stop. Not too long after that, all six of us – three loving, tired, change-making moms – and our kids, best friends –  would become a new kind of family; Karla, Allison and I became business partners. In the early days, even pre-COVID, we brought our kids to work with us, raised them together, and ran the business together. Alex still talks about coming to work with me. We were – and still are – a family friendly shop, and loved it when parents or caregivers would come to the shop to enjoy some truffles or chocolate bark and their kids would play with our kids.

We know that moms take on a huge portion of the mental load, and don’t take time for themselves on a daily basis or in their careers. Moms don’t take time to enjoy enough chocolate. (Tangential shout out to fellow Rochesterian Melissa of Chocolate Mindfulness, encouraging people to take care of our mental health through chocolate and mindfulness!) 


Changing the Narrative of Chocolate

I chose my hard. I chose to pursue a career, to have kids, and to start my own business – follow my dreams – so that I could hug my kids every day. (And yes, munch on high quality, craft chocolate – and share that love of good chocolate with my little ones).

In Alex’s early days – and let’s face it, even now, there are moments that I lose myself. Do I spend too long wrestling kids to sleep? Was I going to forget that I was the main character in my own story? Is Laughing Gull Chocolates about chocolate, or the kids? We are changing the world, right? Maybe it’s all of the above. Maybe we are a part of changing the narrative of chocolate – helping to decolonize cacao; while at the same time providing an incredible, mouthwatering chocolate that everyone (moms included!) can feel good about enjoying, while also redefining women’s and moms’ role in business. 

I’m lucky enough to choose my challenges – and I wrestle with my toddler, my almost 5 year old, and myself almost every day. And then I hear Alex playing pretend with her sister Natalie. 

“Ok, Natalie, I’m the mom, and you’re my baby. We’re going to work, and you’re coming with me. Let’s get in the stroller. I’ll teach you how to make chocolate – and we can taste it together!”

My heart melts. 

Or maybe that’s the chocolate in my mouth. Either way, I’m content, and as ready as I can be for the next wrestling match as we change the world with chocolate.