Thursday, December 5, 2013
Kristin Thalheimer Bingham so easily moves from the role of textbook editor to fitness instructor to business coach that the notion of starting a chocolate shop with her husband, Dean Bingham, appeared almost effortless. Dean Bingham, a self-taught chocolatier and the name behind Dean's Sweets, also works as an architect.
Kristin Thalheimer Bingham and Dean Bingham
Gordon Chibroski/Staff Photographer
"It's a time management challenge," Thalheimer Bingham said. "It's really about using my time wisely."
Thalheimer Bingham, 47, said she tries to block out chunks of time or whole days to focus on different jobs, rather than flitting from one task to the next. Still, she multitasks when she's working 12-hour days at the chocolate shop -- squeezing in editing when she's not waiting on customers.
"Having multiple revenue streams is important when you're a small business," Thalheimer Bingham said. "But truthfully, I love each job too much to let them go."
The biggest contributor to their lives financially is Dean's Sweets, which quickly became profitable after the shop opened in 2008.
"There's a lot more security to having one full-time job. And perks like paid vacation and 401K plans and health insurance," Thalheimer Bingham said.
To help with their mortgage, they own a two-family home in Portland and rent out half. They share a car and often bike to work. They've taken one vacation since they were married in 2006 and that was to visit family in the Carolinas and check out chocolate shops in Manhattan.
They take off one day a week -- which they just started doing in the past year. They now block out Tuesday for themselves to relax, ride their bikes and have some down time with books.
Bingham, 66, balances his architecture career with the chocolate shop. Last year, his time was split about 75 percent at the store and 25 percent with architecture projects, but this year, with the market stagnating, 98 percent of his time is spent with the store. Architecture projects ebb and flow for Bingham, who does residential projects as well as commercial projects such as Grace Restaurant in Portland and Foreside Tavern in Falmouth.
The two have taken a cautious approach to starting the chocolate business. It first launched at home in 2004 and four years later they got their Middle Street store.
"Kristin and I don't look forward to borrowing money. It may slow our growth to some degree, but it's growth we're comfortable with," Bingham said.
Their next step for the business is adding another person to help part-time or even full-time. But that would be a luxury, he said.
Bingham's best advice for people looking to open their own business?
"Keep your day job," he said. "Having employment, having some regular income, even if it's modest will help keep you in place while you're starting your own business."
Being married and working together at the shop sometimes 12 hours a day can put pressure on a relationship -- the two find that they talk about the shop constantly and stop by on their day off.
"This is our baby, our child. It's hard not to always be on top of it," Bingham said.
-- Staff Writer Jessica Hall