Walk into Brownie Points headquarters, and-Hello! How are you?-there she is, the friendly founder and president of the company, sitting at the desk beside the door, where a receptionist would typically be.
Lisa King, however, is anything but typical-and that may well be why the energetic 49-year-old's sweets business is such a success, even appearing in all 60 dressing rooms at the 2012 Billboard Music Awards.
"She knows how to make somebody feel really special, like they're the only thing that matters in that moment," says Lisa Berliner, King's sister-in-law and Brownie Points vice president. Mindy Vogel, who oversees operations, sings similar praises: "Whoever the customer is-if they're buying one brownie or 1,000 gifts-she treats them the same."
King grew up on the east side of Columbus, graduated from Ohio State, and soon moved to Cleveland, where her then-husband got a job. By day, King taught third grade. By night, she indulged her baking hobby, at first doctoring brownie mixes, and then creating recipes from scratch. People raved-and asked for more.
Eventually, Brownie Points became King's fulltime job. She stopped baking out of her apartment kitchen and moved into a bigger facility, focusing on producing beautifully packaged brownie and treat baskets for corporate gifts and incentives. She hired friends and family to help. Even after her husband accepted a job in Columbus and they returned to Central Ohio, King continued the business, commuting almost daily. Work, she says, was a challenge-but a joy.
The long drives, however, took their toll. King finally relented, sold the business and stayed home to mother her two young children.
Several years later, though, with two teenage kids and a pending divorce, she yearned for Brownie Points again. She bought it back, opened in Columbus, and started small. Since reopening in 2002, the company has grown into a niche powerhouse. It employs about a dozen fulltime workers (more at the holidays) who last year made more than 2 million brownies. It has improved profits by at least 25 percent every year, enjoys national attention from the likes of Food Network and supplied treats for the Billboard Music Awards after someone from Justin Beiber's camp requested them.
King also has hit a sweet spot personally, marrying Eddie King-whose family's popcorn business she bought and folded into Brownie Points-and having a third child.
The road here hasn't always been as sugar-laced as people might believe, King notes. "They didn't see you unloading the truck, or crying in the back because you didn't know how many brownies would be made today."
But it is quite obviously her passion, and she is proud.
"I always say it's a labor of love," she says. "It really is."
You can buy Brownie Points online at BrowniePointsInc.com and from a small shop in their company headquarters at 5712 Westbourne Ave., Columbus. But you'll find them elsewhere, too.
Brownie Points supplies the brownies in the Cake Batter Fudge Brownie ice cream
Brownie Points makes the German Village eatery's turtles, Schmurtles and bear claws
Brownie Points packages are sold in the upscale department store's catalog & website
The company makes 25 flavors of brownies (starting at $3.25 each) and a handful of popcorn flavors, too. We sampled oodles to share our five favorites.
The Original Kitchen Sink Gourmet Brownie
The more, the merrier: this has four kinds of chocolate-milk, dark, bittersweet and white; plus peanut butter; butterscotch; caramel and toffee pieces
Gourmet Buckeye Brownie
A must-have in Buckeye country, it's two layers of rich chocolate fudge filled with creamy peanut butter batter and topped with chocolate chips
Red Velvet Gourmet Brownie
King put her spin on the red-velvet-cake trend with this: two layers of fudge-like red velvet brownies sandwiching a decadent, dreamy buttercream frosting
Trendy Trash Gourmet Popcorn
All the rage, this vanilla butter popcorn has kettle chips, pretzel sticks, Bavarian pretzel pieces, broken grahams, dark chocolate, white chocolate and caramel
Chocolate Caramel Sea Salt Gourmet Popcorn
There's really just one good word for this combo of caramel corn drizzled with chocolate and sprinkled with sea salt: addictive