Sometimes it takes a lemon to spark a dream.

Gail Ambrosius – Chocolatiere

Ever since she was 17 years old, Gail savored the idea of giving to others the opportunity to indulge and relax; to appreciate finer things in life. But, as with many childhood aspirations, real life took over and she found herself working for the State of Wisconsin as a cartographer in the Department of Natural Resources. The DNR provided stability and great employee benefits, both valuable assets for a single mom.

In the fall of 2003, after having worked at the DNR for 10 years, talk of budget cuts started permeating through the state agencies. For many state workers, it was the first time that they sensed instability and unpredictability in their livelihood because state jobs were touted as “safe” and insulated from economic downturns. It wasn’t long before Gail learned that the DNR would be facing job cuts. Unsure of whether her job would be one of those eliminated, she assumed the worst. She began thinking of her next move and quickly turned her thoughts to her childhood dream. When the news of her job loss finally came, she was ready. By taking control of her destiny, she transformed feelings of anxiety and fear into building a business. At 44 years old, she felt liberated and excited to start a new chapter in her life.

Using money from her meager savings and a small business loan, she started to make her business plan. Her job loss enabled her to take time to travel to France to learn about making and serving fine chocolates. Upon returning to Madison, Wisconsin, she took classes at the University of Wisconsin Small Business Development Center, got a part-time job at the Soap Opera (a fine body care shop) where she had worked while attending college, did a lot of yoga, took long walks, rode her bike and talked to friends and her son about her business idea. She also researched the chocolatier market. Gail found that each of these activities helped formulate and solidify her business idea even more. Nevertheless, several people expressed concern to her about the venture and worried that she would not be able to make a living as a chocolatier. “I am a risk taker,” she would reply “and this is a calculated risk. “I did my homework and I feel confident that I can make this work.”

In 2004, Gail opened Gail Ambrosius-Chocolatier on Madison’s east side. She currently has 10 dedicated employees, fascinating customers and an amazing story. The loss of her job at the DNR gave her the nudge that she needed at the time to follow chase her dream. Hence, she does not view her job loss as tragedy, but as an event that brought a new opportunity in her life. Although she views opening her business merely as something she needed to do for herself and her family, her willingness to take a leap of faith encapsulates the LemonSpark idea by offering inspiration to others.

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