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Siblings taste success, and how sweet it is

Young brother and sister team share in a chocolate business

(Page 2 of 2)

Speaking of the role Elise and Evan's mother plays, Dr. Gonzales says, "She's kept everything in perspective for them. "These kids don't have a big head about the business, which could tend to happen. They've had a lot of publicity, but the kids are really grounded."

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Gonzales says he was impressed with their demeanor and the way they carried themselves from the moment they applied for space in the Enterprise Center. The Chocolate Farm is viewed as a pilot project that could lead to a youth-business incubator.

The center provides a sense of community to budding entrepreneurs, and the Macmillan children have fit right in. "The other people in the kitchen really like them," says Gonzales, who adds they have a good relationship with low-income people from the neighborhood hired by the Chocolate Farm and other companies. The Chocolate Farm generates more orders than the Macmillans can handle alone, so about a dozen part-time workers help, in addition to friends, who also get paid.

Gonzales says that having the Chocolate Farm in the center, where tenants generally stay three years, has been an inspiration to other entrepreneurs. He notes: "People are watching and saying, 'My gosh, look at how they're doing all this stuff. We better get with it.' "

Elise is the one who usually has her friends come and work in the kitchen. Evan concentrates on office tasks. He orders chocolate by the ton, writes checks for rent and work performed, and keeps tabs on what's selling, among other duties.

Their most popular item is a sampler called the Chocolate Farm Classic, which sells for $20 (including shipping). It comes with two chocolate cows on a stick, two Pigs in Mud, eight Chocolate Paws (with pecans and caramel), six Chocolate Clouds (dipped marshmallows), and Lemon Sheep Munch (a white chocolate and lemon chips mixture shaped like a sheep).

Business picks up around Christmas and Valentine's Day, and filling orders could be overwhelming, with thousands visiting the company website daily, except the family works together to keep the business from burdening the children.

"There's a lot of teamwork," says Elise. "We get together in little meetings and discuss everything."

The children know schoolwork takes priority over business. And while they think of the business often, they stay busy with other pursuits, too. Evan, a freshman at Cherry Creek High School, is on the school tennis team and plays year round, and Elise, a seventh-grader, plays the violin, takes jazz dance classes, and is on her school's track team.

Elise doesn't keep tabs on how much time she devotes to the business, but mostly goes in on weekends, sometimes spending five or six hours.

The family insists on quality in every aspect of the business, says Gonzales, who points to the work they've done to attractively decorate a 2,500 square-foot office space in the Enterprise Center and to the Chocolate Farm's newly published cookbook, a visual delight.

When the new office opens, the plan is to invite school classes in for field trips so that they can learn about starting a business, and maybe try their hand at making a chocolate cow or two.

A business can be a wonderful family activity, Gonzales says, because "it gives you an opportunity to focus on something that involves the whole family, which is great. There are very few activities that do that."

(c) Copyright 2001. The Christian Science Publishing Society