Stan Kitson, Chocolatier
The love of cooking came first. Then the love of chocolate. It all just happened. Bam! I was hooked on fine chocolate and the art of creating with it.
At this moment in time – 2019 – Robyn and I are celebrating 40 years of marriage. We have three grown sons, who each have a special woman in their lives.
My first flirt with fine chocolate came the week of Christmas 2017 and the kids were home for the holidays. It was a blustery winter evening after dinner that we brought out chocolates gathered from about 15 various artisan chocolatiers around the country. We proceeded to savor, taste and share our feelings about our amazing flavor journey together as a family at our very first chocolate tasting event.
It was after that tasting with my family that I first envisioned becoming a chocolatier, and brings me to where I am today.
But first, let me take you further back, to when I discovered that cooking and baking were creative outlets for me. This goes way back to 1993, when I had no choice but to take a year off for a medical condition. That meant a year free from the stress of Robyn’s and my marketing business. Doctor’s orders. Until that time, Robyn took care of making meals. Now that I was home, I thought it was the least I could do. I really hadn’t tried it before. The “aha” came in how much I enjoyed it, especially so because my middle son, who was 6 at the time, decided to be my sous chef in the kitchen – a bonus of together time, as well.
Fast forward several decades, and I’m proud to say I invested time in developing my tastes, my recipes, and my breadth of culinary creations. Preparing meals for family and friends fed me in a different way in that I love how food brings us all together.
So, at our family chocolate tasting Christmas of 2017, something triggered inside of me to pursue learning everything I could about chocolate.
There’s need here for more personal history to put this new passion in context. You see, I met Robyn at college when we were both very young. I asked her to marry me after only three weeks of dating and she was crazy enough to say “yes” knowing she could really make up her mind later as we dated for four years. But my point is, I followed her into marketing. Isn’t that what you do when you’re 19 and don’t know what you want to be when you grow up? Now, in retrospect, I know without a doubt science or engineering was my calling. So what does this have to do with chocolate? A lot! Chocolate is complex and digging into the physics of its many forms fascinates me. Creating with chocolate aligns with how my mind works. It’s a fit for me!
My professional career prior to chocolate has been – and still is – in marketing and research, skills deeply honed over the decades and ones that serve me well going forward in the chocolate business. I joined Robyn in our family business Kitson Marketing, Inc. (KMI) in 1990 and have been there ever since.
Robyn Kitson, President
“Chocolates bring us together.” It’s a central theme to Driftless Chocolates.
When I talk about chocolate, and when I share chocolate…people light up. They share stories and opinions. Enjoyment of chocolate is memorable, yet in the moment; a shared experience; a personal and private reward.
I know Driftless Chocolates is a calling where I belong.
I grew up in a family business. Mom and Dad, both journalists, sought out vibrant towns in need of a good community newspaper, and then gave the community just that: a weekly journal of news and insights important to them.
My parents instilled in me a keen sense of community. And, my father, particularly, nurtured and developed in me a strong entrepreneurial spirit that I continue to exercise today. By the age of 14, I entered the work world under the tutelage of Dad (after school, of course), and thoroughly enjoyed my hours learning and doing, and wondering why anyone would call this “work.”
So, when Stan and I began toying with the idea in 2018 of starting a chocolate company. It didn’t take us long at all for each of us to declare, “I’m in!”
Stan and I know we work well together. Driftless Chocolates is our third business venture as a couple.
In 1987, I started Kitson Marketing, Inc. (KMI), a marketing and research company specializing in the marketing needs of manufacturers, distributors, associations and nonprofits. At the time, I quit my job and took a leap of faith, and it worked. My little start-up grew rapidly and within months, I had my first employees. Finally, in 1990, Stan joined me full-time. KMI remains part of our livelihood today.
In 1999, we embraced web application technology and developed our own CRM/PRM system for manufacturers called InTimeTools® and it operated as a division within KMI. Our system was mission critical for clients around the world. We discontinued work on the system around 2009, however, and in May 2019 our last system ceased being used. It was a good run!
Today, I have achieved years of deep experience with the latest innovative technologies in all things ecommerce, marketing and research. And, I love it!
I am kid-in-a-candy-shop happy to be growing Driftless Chocolates! Stan is the chief chocolatier and focuses on the fine chocolates produced. I’m the entrepreneur and businesswoman who thrives on growing business to meet our customer needs in the best ways possible.
One of my favorite roles is that of taster. Tell me what you’d like, and I’ll see what I can do!