Maria Valente

Maria Valente used to dread attending her law-school reunions. She felt alone among her classmates in working hard to secure a prestigious degree and not using it. Valente had another dream: to turn her chocolate-making hobby into a career.

But she was too full of self-doubt to go for it until her early 40s, when she decided to give in to her nagging thoughts. She enrolled in entrepreneurial training at the Women’s Enterprise Development Center and perfected her craft at the French Culinary Institute. “I jumped in and never looked back,” she says.

In 2006, she opened up her first storefront, a 400 sq ft space that employed six people. By 2011, she was ready for something bigger: a 1,600 sq ft venue in the heart of Mamaroneck. She added a party room on the lower level, to host children’s birthday parties, last spring. And it’s not just the size of her store that has grown: Her business saw a 200 percent increase on Valentine’s Day 2016 from the previous year. The New York Times and NBC’s Today have both featured her success.

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Now, when attending her law-school reunions, “I had so many people fascinated to know how I started a business and got out of law, because it was their dream to do the same,” she says. “It opened my eyes that what I am doing really is something to be proud of.”

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