For Lisa Dreher, our NJ Mompreneur of the Week and the founder and owner of For the Love of Toffee, it all started with a passion for baking and cooking and a life-long dream of having her own business one day. But, as a divorced mom of two young boys with a full-time job in pharmaceutical sales, she didn’t know how she’d ever make that happen. Then, years ago, while experimenting with dessert recipes, she created a Salted Peanut and Dark Chocolate Toffee that was an instant and addictive hit. When friends and family started requesting it from her, she knew if she ever wanted to make her dream come true, her toffee just might be the answer. Fast forward to today, and For the Love of Toffee has a flagship store in Ringwood with a facility for full-time production, and Lisa and her fiancé Phil sell at craft and food shows traveling from Massachusetts to Virginia (they clocked over 250 shows last year). We caught up with this busy Sparta mom to discover the best part about owning a candy business, how she juggles it all, and the Wildwood ice cream parlor she’s been going to since she was a kid.
Lisa Dreher, the owner of For the Love of Toffee and our NJ Mompreneur of the Week, with her partner, Phil Martinez.
Tell us a little bit about your family and background. My fiancé, Phil Martinez, and I will be married this July. I have two sons, Alex, 26, and Brandon, 23; he has two children, Nick, 26, and Julia, 23. I settled in Sparta in 1997 because it’s a great environment to raise kids—very family focused and like a little slice of Americana. A walk by our local Lake Mohawk can make me feel like I’m on vacation, and I always feel a sense of peace because of all the beautiful nature around.
What was the aha moment that led you down this path? Career-wise, I was a stay-at-home mom for several years and eventually landed a job in the pharmaceutical industry. I still work remotely, heading up sales training for a small pharmaceutical company based out of Nashville. Through it all, I’ve always wanted to have my own business and have always had a passion for cooking and baking. I had an opportunity to make desserts for a local restaurant in town, and I got so much satisfaction when someone ordered and enjoyed my desserts. People always loved my toffee, and I did some research and knew the candy business could be lucrative. It was one of those things where I realized that time was passing and it was time to try it—I didn’t want to have any regrets later on. So in 2018, I started my business without giving up my day job, thanks to the help of many, especially Phil, who supported me no matter what and gave me that extra push to go for it.
In addition to the eight delicious toffee options, For the Love of Toffee also carries trail mix and other seasonal offerings like chocolate-covered strawberries and cherries, protein balls, and numerous cake options.
What’s the best part about owning For the Love of Toffee? Without a doubt, it’s the positive interactions we have with our customers. We live in a very pressure cooker world right now, and it’s the best feeling to chat about something that tastes great and gives people comfort and joy. At our shows, we always have samples to taste, and I get such a high by seeing people enjoy our product.
You work a full-time job. How are you able to accomplish everything? Along with creating all the recipes, I run the company’s background business elements, like marketing and pursuing the direction I want us to go in. Phil produces our products, and because we now have a brick-and-mortar shop in Ringwood, he also runs the day-to-day operations and management, including production, shipping, and selling. My older son helps at shows periodically, and some of his closest friends handle sales. And my younger son does a lot of logistics for us—he makes products in our kitchen, too. Phil’s son also helps at the store, and my nieces and nephew are actively involved. It’s become a fun family thing, and we are lucky to have so much support.
For the Love of Toffee’s loose, mixed toffee. There are always delicious samples to taste at their shows. Lisa loves seeing happy customers enjoy their products.
What do the next 12 months hold for you? Personally, my upcoming wedding is top of mind. Professionally, now that the business is established, we’re looking into expanding it nationally. We haven’t dealt with a more extensive retail or wholesale market, and that’s something I’d like to explore.
What are some of your favorite NJ businesses? I love House of Cork NY, which carries eco-friendly, sustainable, and beautiful cork bags inspired by the cork products the owners discovered while visiting Portugal. They sell at shows and online. Brick + Mortar Marketplace in Lafayette is a home goods store that sells things from NJ makers and also hosts workshops. When I first started For the Love of Toffee, someone connected me with the owner, and she welcomed me with open arms. And last but certainly not least is the local St. Moritz Grill & Bar, where Phil and I met. It has a special place in our hearts because of that, but it has a great comfortable, relaxed hometown community vibe, and we run into people we know all the time, so it’s a lot of fun, too.
Please share some places in NJ that you and your family enjoy. We are beach people and will stop at any shore location depending on what we’re in the mood for, whether to relax or find some tiki bar action or great music. We love it and have such beautiful memories there, so we’re getting married this summer in Wildwood Crest on the beach. Every July, we have our big family vacation with my parents, sister, and extended family. And we always head to Duffer’s, which I’ve been going to my entire life. It’s an old-fashioned ice cream parlor, and it’s perfect.
What’s your best piece of advice for a mompreneur just starting? When you’re starting a business, you’re going to hear from many people. Ask questions and take in all the advice and feedback to your questions. Then figure out if it makes sense for you and your business. People want to help but take it to step by step and go with your gut. It’s your vision and your business.