Better Than Chocolate

How does the CEO of a chocolate company stay svelte? According to a recent Wall Street Journal feature about Phyllis LeBlanc, head of Harbor Sweets, it’s all about dressage.

Phyllis LeBlanc, CEO of Harbor Sweets, makers of Dark Horse Chocolates, was recently profiled in the Wall Street Journal. More accurately, her fitness regime was profiled in a section of the paper that highlights the workouts of Highly Effective People. This fact alone is a score for lovers of a sport where the uninitiated spectator may ask “Sport? Huh? Isn’t the rider just sitting there?” That the WSJ explained a bit about dressage and why doing it well demands such a high level of fitness from riders is enough to maker the dressage community leap up and wave their oversized foam fingers.

foam finger

Photo via SmartPak

“Riding a 1,200-pound animal requires a lot of core, leg, and arm strength and a great deal of skill to make it look effortless and graceful,” LeBlanc explained to Jen Murphy, the story’s author.

LeBlanc began as a part-time chocolate dipper at Harbor Sweets, in Salem, Mass, as she worked her way through college. She’d always been a horse lover and had delivered newspapers from the back of her pony as a kid. At Harbor Sweets, she worked her way up through the ranks, eventually becoming the company’s executive vice president and COO. Then she earned her MBA at night at Boston University, where a class about entrepreneurs spurred her to create the line of Dark Horse chocolates. Shortly after the decadent, horse-themed candies hit the market, she bought the company.

She rides her horse, Chinon, on weekends and two or three times a week after work, which means she doesn’t get home until 9 p.m., when her husband often has dinner waiting for her. (No, I’m not making this up.)

Gourmet magazine called Harbor Sweets a cross between Willie Wonka’s and Santa’s workshop, according to a video on the company’s website.

The big question, of course, is how could one possibly spend long days in a chocolate factory, then compete regularly in a sport that requires one to wear absolutely unforgiving white pants?

Willpower, apparently. LeBlanc told the Journal that she limits herself to just one chocolate a day at work. And she doesn’t get to eat it until she’s walking out the door. “Because once you have one, you can’t stop, ” she said.

How can she have just one?

How can she have just one?

pb pony

If I could only have one, you’d better believe it’d be this big peanut butter-filled pony.

The Journal piece outlines her other diet and fitness strategies along with noting how dressage helps her in business. “Riding provides me with lessons in patience and clarity for managing my work at the chocolate factory,” she says. “When I’m not focused, my horse can sense the lack in my authority … The same can be said of employees and vendors.”

A life full of chocolate and dressage. What could be better?

Go Riding.


MORE PLEASE! If you liked this post, check out…