KINGSPORT, Tenn. - A Kingsport woman faced with a career change decided to start a new job, one she created on her own.
Bellafina Chocolates is a local company based out of her Kingsport home, and it's helping children all across the region.
The smell of chocolate fills the Kingsport home of Brenda Barnicki. Off of her kitchen is her workspace, where she makes gourmet chocolates. "On a busy season like Christmas we're using it every day," she explained.
Barnicki wasn't always doing this. As a chemical engineer she worked at Eastman, until a few years ago when she lost her job.
But that bump in the road led her here, to her own chocolate company. "I ultimately kept coming back to really wanting to run this chocolate business and dedicate it to children's charities," she said.
Barnicki donates half of her profits to area children's charities. "All the success I've had in my life is because I've had a very stable family, parents that loved me, focused on my education. It really encouraged me to be the best I can be and it really breaks my heart when you see kids that don't have those advantages," she said.
It's been about a year since the business became her full-time job. "There are some milk chocolates, a dark chocolate blueberry, this is a dark chocolate orange," she said while showing off her products.
To go full-time, Barnicki needed the right equipment, approval from health inspectors and she chose to hone her skills at the Culinary Institute in San Francisco.
"We only use fine chocolate, organic cream and butter, and real ingredients for flavoring -- liquor, fruit, nuts or coffee," she explained.
It's a big career change Barnicki says has been worth it. Her customers believe this chocolate company was a delicious decision as well. "I have people say, 'this is the best chocolate I've ever had.' They'll name some of big names and say, 'this is way better than that,'" she said.
Her goal is to grow the company and eventually have a kitchen away from her home dedicated solely to chocolate goods. "Today I can write thousand-dollar checks for charities. My goal is in ten years I want to be able to write a million dollar check for charity," she said. "I can't wait until that happens."
And on her way, Brenda Barnicki hopes to satisfy a sweet tooth. "Every time you bite in to a Bellafina chocolate we want it to be an experience you remember," she said.
All the while helping make a better life for children near and far.
Bellafina Chocolates sells goods in several area stores, including Fresh Market in Johnson City and the Kingsport Chamber of Commerce.
You can also order from their website, bellafinachocolates.com.