Here's Why This Entrepreneur Gave Up Leadership of Her Successful Chocolate Company

The co-founder and former CEO of Lily's Sweets decided the best thing for the company was to take a step back.

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By Stephen J. Bronner

Courtesy Lily's Sweets
Cynthia Tice

Typically, when investors take over leadership of a business from its founder, it's a bad sign. But for Cynthia Tice and her chocolate business, Lily's Sweets, it was an acknowledgement that sometimes an entrepreneur is not the person best suited to lead a company as it grows.

"While I always believed Lily's would be successful, this expanding mainstream consumer awareness and desire for change created a groundswell for growth for Lily's Sweets beyond what I could have imagined," said Tice, who will remain at the company as its "conscious." "By 2017, I was aware that Lily's had outgrown our team of four people, two being my children, and my experience consulting other brands afforded me an appreciation of just how special Lily's was. I wanted to give the brand the opportunity that it deserved, and decided bringing on an investor and leadership that could grow a team would best set Lily's up to meet its full potential."

Image credit: Courtesy Lily's Sweets

Related: The Food Industry Is a 'Gold Rush' for Entrepreneurs, Says the Founder of Krave Jerky and a $40 Million Marshmallow Brand

Since I last featured Lily's Sweets in The Digest, the company received an undisclosed investment with VMG Partners and moved from a virtual workforce to an office in Boulder, Colo., the main hub of natural food in the U.S. The company said its business doubled in 2018, with its retail footprint expanding from 3,000 U.S. stores in 2017 to 10,000. Lily's has redesigned its packaging and plans to introduce new products, including chocolate covered peanuts and almonds and peanut butter cups, this year. Its team has expanded to 25, and is now led by Jane Miller, who has led a variety of food companies and had served as the division president of Frito-Lay at PepsiCo from 1984 to 1997.

"Most of my career in consumer packaged goods has been focused on fixing things, and this opportunity provided just the opposite scenario," Miller said. "With 84 percent of consumers looking to reduce their sugar intake, according to Mintel, I saw joining the Lily's Sweets team as an opportunity to continue the growth of something special."

Tice co-founded Lily's Sweets with its stevia-sweetened chocolate in 2011. The natural sweetener had been deemed as safe by the FDA only three years prior. Lily's launched nationally with Whole Foods in 2012.

Stephen J. Bronner

Entrepreneur Staff

News Director

Stephen J. Bronner writes mostly about packaged foods. His weekly column is The Digest. He is very much on top of his email.

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