Reading Girl Scouts Earn Business Badge Local businesswomen encourage girls to become entrepreneurs

src="" alt="PHOTO: Reading Girl Scout Troops 73290 and 71305 recently earned their Business Owner Junior Level merit badges." width="300" height="179" class="size-medium wp-image-260" /> PHOTO: Reading Girl Scout Troops 73290 and 71305 recently earned their Business Owner Junior Level merit badges.

Reading, MA Local Girl Scout Troops 73290 and 71305 recently tapped Reading business owners Erin Calvo-Bacci and Lisa Serrano for their expertise in order to earn their Business Owner, Junior Level merit badges.

The business owners addressed the girls at a recent Scout meeting, answering their questions about how they started their own businesses. Calvo-Bacci is the owner of Bacci Chocolate Design of Swampscott, parent company of The Chocolate Truffle of Reading. Serrano, a registered dietician, is the former owner of The Growing Gourmet, which taught cooking and nutrition to preschool and elementary school age children.

Troop Leader Harriett Lyons said the program supported the goal of the Girl Scouts of America, to teach girls to be assertive and to prepare them for their future.

“Erin and Lisa were perfect guest speakers because they exhibit the skills we try to teach our Girl Scouts,” she said.

To earn their badges, the girls were required to come up with a business idea, and then learn the steps they would need to take to bring it to fruition, Lyons said. The girls had many ideas, including designing clothing, renting space in a barn for horses, and designing jewelry.

“We talked with Erin and Lisa about how they came up with their ideas for their businesses, and they gave them the idea that they could make money doing something they love,” Lyons said.

The girls learned how to develop a rudimentary business plan, determine who their customers would be, and how much to charge for their products.

“It was really encouraging to see and to listen to girls at age 10 who don’t know anything about business, have great ideas and a great entrepreneurial spirit,” said Calvo-Bacci.

The girls will complete their experience with a walk around Reading’s downtown, visiting with businesses owned by other women, Lyons said.

For more information about Bacci Chocolate Design and The Chocolate Truffle, visit,, and

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Specialty Food — Chocolate & Confectionery

Specialty Food — Chocolate & Confectionery.

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The Sour Side of Sugar for Massachusetts

Current Department of Agriculture policies keep the price of sugar artificially high forcing American candy manufacturers to pay double the price of sugar than those in the rest of the world.

MA Confectioners meeting with Senator Warren in Washington

MA Confectioners meeting with Senator Warren in Washington

American candy manufacturers pay double the price of sugar than those in the rest of the world, leaving them with bleak options: slow growth and raise prices for consumers, use cheaper sweeteners such as high-fructose corn syrup, or move their operations out of the country. Hershey, the quintessential American chocolate manufacturer, has already moved jobs out of its namesake Pennsylvania town as well as Colorado and California to Canada, where it is cheaper to import sugar. In the past decade, other companies, including Fannie May and Brach’s have moved their Chicago manufacturing center to Mexico, and Kraft moved 600 workers from their LifeSavers factory in Michigan to Canada.
Massachusetts is not a sugar producing state, however, the commonwealth has seen the loss of many candy makers over the past several years from Cambridge and Lawrence. Bacci Chocolate Design which also owns and operates The Chocolate Truffle in Reading purchased a small chocolate manufacturer located in Lawrence and merged it within its operation in Swampscott. The family business has made personal sacrifices to stay in business, “I can certainly understand weighing options and making tough decisions. We don’t receive any tax breaks so it would certainly be nice to cut the cost we pay for sugar so we could put that money toward hiring more people,” stated owner Erin Calvo-Bacci who was in Washington with representatives from NECCO and Hilliards asking Masachusetts Legislatures for their support. “We small business owners are grateful for the support we have, but we need the support of Massachusetts leaders in Washington, because without the amendment, our state stands to lose revenue and jobs.”

Those manufacturers that remain in the state, including the iconic NECCO company, are working hard to be profitable enough to remain here. While they do so, they are wooed by Canada’s economic development officials. Additionally, non-confectionery businesses that use sugar, such as bakers and cereal producers, are also forced to raise their profits to remain viable, leading to higher prices and tough business decisions.

It is time for Congress to act to save a significant American industry, retain American jobs and support American consumers. We urge retailers, manufacturers and consumers to contact our nation’s leaders and tell them to curb these outdated subsidies.

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Reading Business owner attends National Retail Federation leadership conference in Washington D.C.

Reading Business owner attends leadership conference in Washington D.C. Erin Calvo-Bacci, owner, The Chocolate Truffle, attends National Retail Federation Leadership Conference
Erin Calvo-Bacci, owner of the chocolate manufacturer Bacci Chocolate Design, Swampscott, MA, and its retail division The Chocolate Truffle of Reading, recently attended the National Retail Federation Leadership Conference in Washington along with the president and board members of the Retailers Association of Massachusetts.

Calvo-Bacci was appointed to the RAM board last December. The Retailers Association of Massachusetts, or RAM, is a 3,500-member trade association that promotes the retail industry, providing legislative advocacy and services for local businesses.

This was an opportunity to meet with members of Congress to discuss the impact of decisions on issues such as sales tax fairness, healthcare reform mandates and tax reform. On the table were such issues as:

How Main Street retailers support communities through employment and charitable giving.
How sales tax, healthcare reform mandates, and tax reform affects small businesses, which do not qualify for tax breaks.

Calvo-Bacci is member of the RAM Legislative Committee, and serves on the Buy Local task force of the Reading-North Reading Chamber of Commerce. Currently serving her second year as a Town Meeting member in Reading, she was a member of the Historical Demo Delay Bylaw Working Group, which crafted a local bylaw that passed last fall.

Calvo-Bacci has more than 20 years experience in the retail industry; as a student often working in multiple retail jobs to pay for college. She has owned The Chocolate Truffle since 2003, and in 2006, launched Bacci Chocolate Design with her husband Carlo Bacci. Bacci Chocolate Design, located in Swampscott, sells its CB Stuffer line of Peanut Butter Cups, Gourmet Bars, Chocolate Pizzas and slices in to retail stores nationally. Prior to owning Bacci Chocolate Design, Inc., Calvo-Bacci spent five years in retail management, eight years in business development, and the last two years as a marketing communications consultant working for political campaigns, non-profit organizations and a talent acquisition consulting firm.

Calvo-Bacci said, “Working in retail, especially for companies such as Banana Republic, Haven’s Confections in Portland, Maine and Fanny Farmer taught me a lot in regards to marketing, sales, customer service, loss prevention and management, but it is still very different when you own your own business. At the end of a shift I could go home, but owning our own business means our “shift” is 24/7. With fewer legislative hurdles, we can have a strong retail industry which is necessary for the economic growth our country needs.”

Photo: Erin Calvo-Bacci, owner of The Chocolate Truffle of Reading and Bacci Chocolate Design, third from left, recently attended the National Retail Federation Leadership Conference in Washington, D.C., with fellow members of the Retailers Association, from left, George Carey, owner Finz Seafood & Grill, Salem; Jon Hurst, president, RAM; David Ratner, Dave’s Soda and Pet City, and Jerome Murphy, M. Steinert & Sons, Boston.

Photo: Erin Calvo-Bacci, owner of The Chocolate Truffle of Reading and Bacci Chocolate Design, third from left, recently attended the National Retail Federation Leadership Conference in Washington, D.C., with fellow members of the Retailers Association, from left, George Carey, owner Finz Seafood & Grill, Salem; Jon Hurst, president, RAM; David Ratner, Dave’s Soda and Pet City, and Jerome Murphy, M. Steinert & Sons, Boston.

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Paper or Plastic?

Reusable Green tote from The Chocolate Truffle is also a coupon.

Reusable Green tote from The Chocolate Truffle is also a coupon.

Earlier this month, the town of Manchester-by the Sea voted to ban the use of plastic bags in its retail stores, joining the town of Brookline which last fall banned the use of the bags and Styrofoam food and beverage containers in its local establishments. The state Legislature is mulling the issue as well, out of concern over environmental issues.

On the surface, such a ban makes sense. Lightweight plastic supermarket bags are a blight in our communities, flapping as rags in our trees, clogging our waterways and potentially endangering wildlife.

But, is an outright ban the answer? According to a Boston Globe article dated April 7, 2013, Manchester-by-the-Sea selectman Tom Kehoe voted against the ban, stating that “environmental awareness cannot be legislated.”
We’d like to see the launch of a statewide public awareness campaign, similar to the successful “give a hoot, don’t pollute” and “crying Indian” anti-littering campaigns that blanketed the airwaves in the early 1970s. Wouldn’t the manufacturers of plastic bags welcome the opportunity to support such a campaign rather than see their products banned outright? And how about giving retail outlets the ability to charge a nominal fee for the plastic bags, similar to the five cent deposit mandated on plastic bottles? Consumers would have the opportunity to pay the fee for the convenience of the store supplying the bags or avoid it by bringing their own. Many stores already make reusable bags available for purchase, so there is evidence that consumers already support being given the option.
At The Chocolate Truffle we provide one bag with each purchase. If our customers would like additional bags, we make them available for an additional charge. We also offer cloth bags for purchase, with a 15 percent discount every time they are reused. Some people opt to purchase the bags, while others decide they don’t really need them after all.
We enthusiastically support education efforts to remind people that being careless with their plastic bags have real world effects, and giving them incentives to make better decisions. We agree with Mr. Kehoe, though, that trying to legislate environmental awareness may have the unfortunate result of causing resentment and confusion, and ultimately a backlash that can undo the good that will be done.

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Sick time

Last week, The Boston Globe reported that legislators’ effort to require Massachusetts businesses to offer employees paid sick days is gaining momentum.

On the surface, this would seem to be a no-brainer. What’s not to like, after all? The parent with a sick child will no longer have to choose between his or her child or her job. The worker with the flu will be able to take a day or two off without endangering the health of his or her colleagues.

According to the Globe article, “Under the Massachusetts bill, companies with more than 10 employees must offer workers seven days of paid sick leave; companies with six to 10 employees would have to offer five paid sick days, and companies with fewer than six employees would be required to offer five days of unpaid sick leave.” This bill is seen as a supplement to the federal Family and Medical Leave Act, which guarantees job protection for up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave each year, but only for companies with 50 or more workers.Needing a rest

Business owners are reported as being opposed to the measure. Let’s examine why, and the possible ramifications of this bill becoming law.

The Chocolate Truffle is the retail arm of Bacci Chocolate Design. In total, during the off season, we employ (in addition to the two owners) two part time workers at our factory and four part time workers at the store. During the busy season, we increase to three full time workers at the factory, and two full time and additional part time at the store.

Anytime an employee calls in sick (and we require workers to be healthy a full 24 hours after an illness before coming back to work), we need to cover that shift, either by ourselves or by calling in another employee. If we need to pay sick leave, we will be paying two salaries for one shift, or do without the extra person, taking the shift ourselves.

I can assure you that we, like all other small businesses, will opt to do more with less, and not bring in an additional person, unless absolutely necessary. Our overhead costs are already so high that we do not hire additional personnel unless we absolutely cannot function without them.

If a mandate from the state comes down saying we have to pay employees for sick days, something will have to give. Most likely, that means fewer shifts for employees. Very possibly it means selling off the retail end of the business, and that will eliminate jobs. We have already closed two retail stores because of prohibitive overhead costs.

We are like all business people in Massachusetts. We are trying to not only stay in business, but grow our business and that means hiring more employees. We want to put people to work, but that is becoming harder and harder to do. If the legislature opts to include incentives such as lower payroll taxes or other tax benefits for small businesses, then that would certainly lighten the load. That seems unlikely, as it would cost money. But, you cannot keep imposing these mandates that are withdrawals to a company’s financials without giving them something to deposit. Not if you want to keep and encourage business to flourish in Massachusetts.

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Hop the Block for Team Wilcox – Home

Hop the Block for Team Wilcox. Support Team Wilcox with this HOPe-filled Reading Fundraiser

via Hop the Block for Team Wilcox – Home.

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Lent, chocolate, and the meaning of sacrifice

What did you give up for Lent?

“Being Pope,” was the number one intended Lenten sacrifice, as announced by Twitter last week, a hilarious riff on the Vatican announcement that Pope Benedict IV was stepping down.

Further down on the list were social media (including Facebook, Instagram and Twitter), swearing, alcohol, fast food, virginity and marijuana.

Interestingly, chocolate, which is typically at the top of the list of things to give up for Lent (at least among our friends) slipped from number 2 on the Twitter scale in 2011 and 2012, to number 17 in 2013. Of course, that could simply be due to the fact that Valentine’s Day fell the day after Ash Wednesday this year, but we’d like to think it speaks to an appreciation of the positive impact of chocolate to our health and well-being.

Lent is historically a time of fasting, abstinence and penitence, observed in the six weeks before Easter, beginning with Ash Wednesday. While traditions and observances vary among Christian faiths, it is widely seen as a time for reflection on the suffering and sacrifice of Jesus Christ, his life, death, and resurrection.

Traditionally, many people give up what they consider to be a vice during the Lenten season in an attempt to remove barriers to God, embark on a self-improvement plan, drop bad habits, or become more active in their communities.

Is chocolate consumption a vice to be shunned by the faithful? On the 2013 Twitter list, chocolate ranks higher than desserts, ice cream and frozen yogurt as vices to sacrifice.

The association between chocolate and sin most likely comes from the long held belief that chocolate consumption brings on the sensations of sexual arousal. Indeed, that assumption was supported by a 2004 study conducted at a hospital in Milan, Italy, which stated that women who consumed chocolate daily reported a higher rate of sexual satisfaction, including an increase in their sex drive.

Yet, chocolate, particularly dark chocolate has other well documented health benefits, as i chock full as it is of flavenoids, flavenols, and anti-oxidents.

As specialty chocolate manufacturers, we certainly don’t want to lead our customers astray during the holy season. But, if we can tempt a few with a reminder of chocolate’s health benefits, maybe next year a few more will push chocolate lower on Twitter’s list of Lenten sacrifices. If not, we’ll just remind you that Lent ends with Easter. And there’s plenty of time to pick up a few chocolate eggs.

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Reading Business Contributes to Education Fundraising Efforts

The Chocolate Truffle customers contribute more than $300 during Fundraising Days

Coolidge Fundraiser

Students from the Coolidge Middle School and the coach with Sales Associate from The Chocolate Truffle

Valentine’s Day week was an especially sweet time at Reading’s signature sweet shop, The Chocolate Truffle, with customers contributing more than $300 to town education efforts through the business’s give back program: Fundraising Days.

During Fundraising Days, a local group picks a designated day or week. Then they promote the event to their supporters, reminding them to shop at The Chocolate Truffle during the designated time, either in person, online, or by phone. When a customer mentions the organization during the transaction, the receipt is set aside. All receipts are tallied at the end of the designated time period, and The Chocolate Truffle contributes 15 percent of the tally.

During Valentine’s week, Understanding Disabilities, a local program that educates children about seeing beyond disabilities, raised $289.56 for their education programs, and the Coolidge Middle School science club brought in $32.50.

According to Heidi O’Connor, Executive Director of Understanding Disabilities, “Like many nonprofit organizations, fundraising is a critical element of success to Understanding Disabilities. We are very fortunate to be part of a caring community with many volunteers which keep UD alive and serving the adults of tomorrow. We are also grateful to business partners, such as the Chocolate Truffle, who are well known in Reading and kind enough to participate in our fundraising efforts.”

Erin Calvo-Bacci, owner of The Chocolate Truffle, said, “Fundraising Days are a great way for organizations and local businesses to collaborate in a win-win relationship. The organizations are in dire need of financial support from the community as are the businesses. Working together to help support each other builds strong communities.”

For more information about The Chocolate Truffle or Fundraising Days, please contact us at

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Fundraising Frustration

Earlier this month we participated in a fundraising event that left us steaming and wondering why we bothered. In short, the emcee, a local radio DJ (in a paid appearance) publicly insulted The Chocolate Truffle by not having any idea who we were or what we were contributing.

It should be said that this was a tasting event we had participated in before. While it was created in support of an out of town organization, we are friendly with one of the organizers, and were happy to help support a worthy cause.

The emcee, holding a microphone, spoke with each of the vendors, commenting on their contributions for the crowd, so that the folks could cast their votes for the “best dessert in the Merrimack Valley.” When he got to us, said, “Oh, you brought that thing,” before moving on to the next table.

That thing he referred to was our Gourmet Dark Chocolate Bars with Himalayan Sea Salt and our new Peanut Butter Truffle Peanut Butter Cup.

Thanks. Thanks a lot.

At the end of the evening, we packed up our bars and our hurt feelings, reevaluating whether or not we would want to continue to support an organization that would hire a host so indifferent to the contributions of their vendors.

With some time to ruminate and reflect on the evening, I’d like to pass a long some thoughts for those in charge of organizing fundraising events on what vendors need to keep participating in their events.

Make a personal contact. In my town, there are folks who run worthy organizations who never set foot in The Chocolate Truffle unless it is to hang a poster or ask for a donation. To them, I offer our usual Fundraising Days effort, in which they pick a designated day or week, and urge their supporters to shop with us during the designated time, either in person, online, or by phone. When a customer mentions the organization during the transaction we set aside the receipt, and then donate 15 percent of the tally. Sometimes they are interested, sometimes they demand a contribution. I’ve had at least one person tell me I “just don’t get it,” after declining to write them a check on the spot.

Then there are the folks who shop at our store regularly, who support us as well as seek our support in return. These are the folks we’ll do anything for. You need a chocolate fountain? You’ve got it. You want a gift basket for a raffle? Say no more.

Encourage networking Small business owners need to meet other small business owners, to develop connections and help support each other’s businesses. If you let prospective vendors know who else is coming, they may be more inclined to support you.
Say thank you Just like mother taught you, a written thank you note is always appreciated. Let your vendors know how much their contribution is valued, and you will probably see them again at your next event.

We donate our time because we want to. We do it because we know you and care about your cause. But, we are also looking for marketing opportunities and to raise awareness about our own companies. It is frustrating to donate time and product where the return is one-sided.

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