Marie Lincoln left the busy world of the dot-com techonology industry to open The Chocolate Flower Farm in Langley. Photo by Kyle Jensen/Whidbey News-Group

Finding happiness in career is key, says business owner

Making drastic changes to one’s professional and personal life doesn’t always work out as planned.

But for Langley business owner Marie Lincoln, 57, that wasn’t a bad thing.

Nowadays, Lincoln can be found getting her hands dirty during the wee hours of the day tending to the flowers at her specialty nursery, The Chocolate Flower Farm. Later in the afternoon, she often sits behind the register in the nursery’s cozy chocolate-themed retail storefront on First Street, The Garden Shed. Somewhere in the middle of all that and the time Lincoln spends getting shut eye, she somehow manages to make chocolate-themed candles, jams and body products in her commercial kitchen.

“I always seem to be on the move,” Lincoln said. “I never really have time to go to all the town hall meetings because I’m always either at the farm or in the store. But that’s OK because when you work for yourself, you only have to worry about yourself.”

But Lincoln wasn’t always in this line of work. Her life as a nursery manager and chocolate-based business owner is the second act of her successful professional career.

Lincoln was working in the corporate world 15 years ago as the vice president of marketing and later the vice president of business development for an Issaquah-based dot-com company called Jacknabbit.com. The company developed an online appointment scheduling system, and ultimately crashed around the turn of the century. Continuing to work within the marketing industry, she then formed a marketing consulting firm in Redmond with her former partner. Lincoln was then living on Bainbridge Island as a single mom and commuting roughly six hours a day to and from Issaquah or Redmond on a daily basis.

And when one of her firm’s products was licensed to pet product behemoth Petmade, Lincoln thought she had cut a deal that would allow her to move, scrap her lengthy commute, slow down her life’s pace and pursue a dream.

“I always had this dream of someday having this little specialty nursery,” Lincoln said. “I decided I should go for it since I had that financial cushion. For a variety of reasons, I landed on maroon-colored plants — my partner wasn’t a plant person but was really into chocolate. We thought we could marry the two ideas.”

Everything seemed to line up perfectly for Lincoln. She was ready to essentially retire and pursue what she loves. She moved to Langley in 2005 in anticipation of the extra cash from the Petmade deal.

But despite the contract, the deal fell through because of a spike in the cost of aluminum, the material that built the product Petmade was buying. Against a corporate monster with an intimidating legal team, Lincoln’s hands were tied.

“I thought we were dead,” Lincoln said. “I didn’t think I could make a successful business out of a nursery.”

With the little bit of money she had, she bought a few plants and hashed out her business plan to sell maroon-colored plants. The idea was perfect for magazines and later internet sites like Pinterest, and it didn’t take long for magazine and newspaper reporters to come calling. The lifestyle editor for the San Diego Union-Tribune was searching for a niche company that combined chocolate and flowers, and came across Lincoln’s new company. Perhaps she could make a living this way in the end.

“It was like an overnight success,” Lincoln said. “The San Diego Union-Tribune story led to being featured in Martha Stewart’s magazine and on HGTV and other garden channels. It all seemed to happen so quickly.”

Lincoln continued to expand her brand. She attended various product shows and conventions over the years and found chocolate-flavored candles, jams and other items she would later sell. When most of those small crafters were on the verge of croaking, she bought the recipes and started making them herself under her brand name. Things were going well enough for her business to survive the recession, despite losing her partner. She was on her own, but she kept on chugging along knowing she had a special brand.

“She’s a one-woman show and has managed to build an amazing brand,” said friend and Bayview Farm and Garden owner Maureen Murphy. “It takes someone who’s willing to work really hard to do that. She’s very dedicated to what she does and she believes in what she does.”

These days, Lincoln is living a happier lifestyle owning a business that brings tourists to Langley.

Although running the business on her own brings its own stresses and money is a bit more tight than in her corporate days, Lincoln is more content with what she does on a day to day basis. For her, happiness is directly coordinated to her job. And although the job is leaving her with some dirt on her hands, it’s also leaving a smile on her face.

“I think doing something that makes you happy is crucial,” Lincoln said. “Your work is such a big part of your life. Why would you spend your life doing something that made you miserable?”