Joan Coukos' transition from international banker to artisanal chocolatier began when she found a set of chocolate molds at an antique market in Belgium.
"I felt like I was on the verge of some discovery," said Coukos. "I couldn't put them down."
She began gobbling books on chocolate and making chocolate once a month to bring to work. When she left banking in the fall of 2001, chocolate became her full-time job. She went to food networking events and chocolate trade shows. Banks and headhunters called with job leads, but she turned them down – she was up to her elbows in chocolate. Then, in 2003, she started her New York-based company, Chocolat Moderne.
It's a dream so many people have: Chuck your day job and do the thing you're most passionate about. A handful of those who leave cubicles to be entrepreneurs succeed wildly, such as handbag maker Kate Spade, who quit Mademoiselle magazine to start her business and now has 15 retail stores and 315 employees.
Coukos, whose chocolates are sold online and in upscale food stores, is energized by entrepreneurship.
"I wake up in the morning and I wish I was immediately at work," Coukos said. "I can't wait to get here."