From Marine to Chocolatier with the Founder of Lift Chocolates Brandon Busch
Brandon Bush has loved the art of food since he was a child. Instead of cartoons, he’d watch cooking shows. He carried his love of all things culinary into military service, in which he served two combat tours in Iraq and Afghanistan and continues to serve as a Major in the USMC reserves. During his downtime, Brandon read textbooks from the Culinary Institute of America. Upon his transition from active duty to reserve status, Brandon enrolled in the Johnson and Wales Culinary School, excited to finally be able to pursue the thing he’s been passionate about for his entire life.
Today Brandon Busch is the proud owner of Lift Chocolates and is known by his fellow Marines as The Candyman.
Brandon takes both titles in stride, amused by one and driven by the other. He is also a husband and a father, and has had to learn not only the professional aspect to entrepreneurship, but the personal side of managing his time so as to fulfill both roles.
There have been some harsh reality checks along the way, like when the base housing and the health insurance disappeared along with his active duty status. Suddenly the month to month bills were different, and Brandon felt that pressure as he moved into the next phase of his life.
Initially, Brandon was easing into this dream of starting a chocolate business by renting a shared space in a commercial kitchen. His plan was to carefully build his expertise while learning the industry. One day he’d own his own business but for now, Brandon focused on providing for his family more than making a big move.
It was a solid plan. A responsible one. He and his wife had a good nest egg built during his military service. They had young children and they were both building their own careers. It made sense to go slow and steady along his path to owning a company.
But sometimes the best opportunities don’t happen at the best times, in terms of risk.
Just when Brandon was figuring out how to navigate the civilian workforce, and just when he and his wife worked out a new budget, a local chocolate business owner decided to sell. This was a successful turn-key chocolate business, right in the town they lived in. Concertos in Chocolate had been up and running since 1999. The owner was not only a gifted chocolatier, she was willing to mentor Brandon.
Brandon Busch had a decision to make; Go all-in now, before he was fully prepared, and take a big risk – or stay safely nested in his shared space, biding his time and building his foundation before taking that leap?
“I believe in risk reward,” says Brandon, as he shares his thought process that led him to take the leap. He knew he could make it work and believed in his vision enough to be willing to withdraw capital from his retirement fund. The early withdrawal not only meant he’d deplete his nest egg but that he’d pay a penalty to do so – no small decision for anyone, let alone a husband and father of three.
His wife, “wasn’t thrilled about it,” Brandon admits with a small smile, but ultimately decided to support the man she loves because she knows much his dream means to him. This support is something Brandon says is crucial. The entrepreneurial path is difficult. Marriage can be challenging. Combining the two will test a marriage and doing so without dual agreement will introduce strife into your personal life, he says.
Brandon Busch took ownership of Lift Chocolates in May 2017.
Lift Chocolates is named as a nod to his military service, where he was a heavy- lift helicopter pilot. It also symbolizes the lift in spirits each piece of chocolate is created to offer the consumer.
There are two gaps in Brandon’s life that he leapt over – gaps that too many others fall through. The first is adjusting to life after full time military service – the loss of camaraderie, the sudden absence of orders and steady pay and purpose can work against veterans. For some, it can create that extra struggle that they buckle under, and fall into the gap between military and civilian life.
Next is the gap between having a dream and turning that dream into a reality. Brandon knew he was going to serve in the military and he is proud of his service. But his dream has always been in the culinary arena and chocolate is what called to him the most.
Taking that leap between having a dream and building that dream is no small feat. The gap that awaits to swallow up anyone who stumbles can be terrifying. Only the most committed, consistent, and driven are able to leap that gap.
Brandon has leapt both, but he knows more gaps will appear and he’s ready to leap those too. He’s also doing his part to help others do the same by supporting efforts to serve the military, law enforcement, and first responder communities. From small gestures like offering them discounts on their chocolates, to larger ones like sending thousands of pieces of chocolates to the Chris Kyle Frog Foundation (CKFF) for its gala and other events, to becoming a Patriot Pass Sponsor for the Great American Summit, Chris does his part to give back.
The CKFF is run by Taya Kyle, and offers supportive services to heal and strengthen marriages in the military, law enforcement and first responder communities. Taya is the MC of the Great American Summit in April, of which the CKFF is a beneficiary as well as the Gary Sinise Foundation, the Nine Line Foundation, and other select organizations.
Brandon’s support may seem counterintuitive to those who know the struggle of growing a business and understand the financial responsibilities of doing so. But Brandon also understands the demands of service and how those demands impact a marriage, so he’s more than happy to add his support to a cause he believes in.
He’s also got some advice for those who are preparing to embark on the entrepreneurial path- make sure you are financially prepared to do so. Take a good look at how much money is needed to start a business and be ready to devote your brain power to it all the time.
There will be problems and challenges every day, he says. It will not be easy. But it’s worth it.
Brandon Busch is living his own version of the American Dream and also doing his part to give back in the process. To him, the American Dream is all about opportunity, and he’s made the most of his.
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