Life at Concordia is a little bit sweeter ever since the university acquired the assets of a successful Wisconsin chocolate business.

Editor’s note: This story first appeared in the fall 2022 edition of Hearts Together, a Concordia University Wisconsin and Ann Arbor special magazine edition.

Life at Concordia is a little bit sweeter ever since the university acquired the assets of a successful Wisconsin chocolate business.

Richard Koenings, an adjunct instructor at CUW, had previously owned Red Elephant Chocolate, a popular artisan shop with storefronts in Milwaukee’s historic Third Ward and downtown Madison. After more than a decade of operating the business, however, Koenings was looking to pass the torch. He saw the enterprise as a prime hands-on learning opportunity for Concordia business students and pitched the idea to Vice Provost for Research and Innovation Dan Sem, PhD, PharmD.

Now, the business is called Concordia Red Elephant Chocolates. There’s no longer a storefront. Instead, the operation runs out of CUW’s professional-grade kitchen on campus. Anyone nationwide can place an order to enjoy the handcrafted treats through Concordia’s e-commerce website. There’s even an opportunity to order chocolates with custom logos, which the LCMS English District took advantage of over the summer for its district convention.

Concordia Red Elephant Chocolates is made possible by the entrepreneurial nonprofit CU Ventures, which formed last year, and private investors, including CUW Assistant Dean of Professional Development Ken Harris Jr., PhD. Over the summer, the spin-out company and its investors acquired the industrial equipment necessary to make the chocolates, purchased the business assets, and hired the operation’s two employees: Sue Krawczyk, who crafts the chocolates, and Cherie Banner, who serves part time as a business manager. Also involved in the e ort is Jafar Payandeh, a graduate assistant enrolled in CUW’s Master of Science in Product Development food and beverage track.

Now that CUW students are back on campus for the fall 2022 semester, Sem says he’s eager to involve them as well.

“We are running this like a bona de business but then looking to involve students in multiple ways,” says Sem. “The applications are really endless—from marketing to bookkeeping to student projects. It gives them real, applied learning experiences. Plus, who doesn’t like chocolate?”

Want some?

Click on the link below to order your own Concordia Red Elephant Chocolates.

—The fall 2022 Hearts Together magazine hit mailboxes in early October. View a PDF version of the magazine here. If you are not on our mailing list, but are interested in receiving a free copy, email