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Women in Chocolate: Lindsay Tarnoff, Laughing Gull Chocolates

Lindsay Tarnoff is the founder and chief chocolatier of Laughing Gull Chocolates in Rochester, New York, a company that she started seven years ago and now  runs with her friends and business partners, Karla Carey and Allison Zukoski. With Lindsay’s experience in pastry art and master’s degree in public administration, Karla's managerial experience, and Allison's MBA, they were a perfect trio. While chief chocolatier is her title, Lindsay is involved in "a little bit of everything." Her business focuses on providing a welcoming community while offering chocolate confections, chocolate tastings, and classes where people can learn how to make truffles.

Chocolate Maker Versus Chocolatier

A point of information for chocolate lovers is that the terms “chocolate maker” and “chocolatier” have different meanings. A chocolate maker, like Suzanne Forman from Tangle Chocolate, starts with cacao beans and turns them into chocolate, whereas a chocolatier like Lindsay starts with chocolate made elsewhere and turns it into confections, bonbons, and truffles.  

It's Not Only About Chocolate

Family influenced Lindsay to start a chocolate business. She says, “I grew up in a family of dark chocolate lovers and service industry workers, so it felt natural to me to go into the chocolate business.” Lindsay’s capstone paper in undergrad school was about the history of the morality of chocolate, and caused her to start telling people she was going to save the world with chocolate. She says, “I became passionate about sustainability and the story of chocolate without knowing what the solution was."

When she moved to Rochester, she joined a group of women entrepreneurs where she received immense support on her journey. She is now involved in the Chocolate Industry for Social Justice with Tangle Chocolate owner, Suzanne Forman, where they continue making strides in their industry.

The COVID Pivot

Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, her store was a "casual, family friendly place that offered upscale drinks and chocolate,” and a variety of classes to gain chocolate knowledge. It gave parents the opportunity to come and enjoy a gourmet cup of chocolate, while also being able to bring their kids along, which was perfect for Lindsay, who had one child and was pregnant with her second. On March 16, the day Rochester shut down, Lindsay and her partners were well into the process of changing their business model because they no longer felt comfortable bringing families into their store—and she went into labor! 

Lindsay remembers, “Allison and Karla got the online store up and running, and they were able to convert all in-person classes to online within days.” The trio currently offers their truffle making classes, chocolate tastings, and wine and chocolate pairing classes online while they wait for the time when they can welcome people back into the store.

Lindsay has learned a lot through the many years of running a business, but allows that “One of my main takeaways is recognizing that you can accomplish your dreams, with the right opportunities and right support, as long as you recognize that taking care of yourself is a number one priority.”

Bridging Roles at Home and Work

An important aspect of Laughing Gull Chocolates is family, as mentioned above. When Lindsay first moved to Rochester with a daughter and no job, she realized very quickly that having a business and a baby is hard. She says, “In my head, there were two options: get a job and make just enough money to pay for daycare, or follow my dream and bring the baby to work." Her business partners also had young children, and they found that bringing them to work and helping each other out worked well for them. It allowed them to manage the business and be with their kids at the same time. Lindsay believes, “In today's society, women are expected to be our partner's everything, our child's everything, and give 100% to our job as well, and while it's impossible to do alone, with good support from others, I’m finding that I can do more.”

A dream Lindsay has for other women is for them to also have opportunities to bring their children into work, doing wonders for their families and the economy as a result. 

See what Laughing Gull Chocolates has to offer at https://laughinggullchocolates.com/.

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