Here’s one recipe for a charming life: Take two Broad graduates, mix in a handful of hard work with a little savvy business strategy, add a heaping cup of romance and voilà — a power couple!
There are many alumni love stories, but there are none quite like that of hospitality business grads Alex Clark and Kyle Welch. These two dedicated entrepreneurs each pour their hearts into their own businesses — one based in Detroit and the other in Chicago — and have found a special bond in their relationship and their work.
“We can be uniquely supportive to each other … very early on in our relationship, we realized we each had someone who understands the demands and requirements of operating a business that’s your responsibility, and that’s been amazing,” Clark said.
Clark (’10) is the ringleader and founder of Bon Bon Bon, a gourmet chocolate shop based in Detroit. Her creations have been dubbed “Willy Wonka-esque” as they constantly push industry standards, landing her among Bloomberg’s World’s Best Chocolate and earning her the title of Forbes’ “Best Young Pastry Chef in the World.”
Welch (’09) is the passionate president and co-founder of Chicago Scoops LLC, through which he owns and operates 43 Cold Stone Creamery and Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory locations across 12 states, making him the largest Cold Stone franchisee in the country. Prior to this, he also franchised with Little Caesars, owned Epic Burger and ran his own T-shirt company. For his early career success, Welch was honored by MSU as the 2017 Spartan Innovator.
What brought the power couple together wasn’t their time at MSU as students — it was actually a string of coincidental connections.
The meet-cute story
“It’s a really great story. We didn’t know each other at MSU, even though we went through the same hospitality business program — we never had classes together,” Welch said. “We both started our companies within the same month in 2014, and then both our businesses scaled quickly in 2017.
“My sister had Bon Bon Bon at her wedding in Detroit in 2015,” he continued. “She said, ‘You need to meet this girl,’ and I didn’t think much of it at the time because I was in the middle of running a Little Caesars franchise.”
As it turns out, their worlds were brought together well before that. Welch discovered that his grandfather had been friends and neighbors with Clark’s grandfather, both working as doctors in Detroit decades earlier.
“Grandpa Welch actually delivered Alex’s dad as a baby,” Welch said. They hadn’t met yet, but Welch realized that their families were uniquely linked.
As budding, successful entrepreneurs, Clark and Welch were individually invited to be speakers for MSU’s inaugural Innovate State series in 2016-17 by their mutual friend Brian Keehner, associate director of development at University Advancement. Soon after, Keehner introduced the two at a networking event in Chicago in 2017, and they instantly knew there was a connection.
“Kyle and I really quickly got along, and it was very clear that this was my man,” Clark said. Like Welch had discovered earlier, Clark quickly saw how their worlds were interlaced when she told her father about their meeting and connection. Many of her father’s childhood stories involved Welch’s father and uncles.
Clark and Welch have been together ever since, tying the knot in 2019. With a strong dedication to growing their own businesses, they’ve navigated years of a long-distance relationship and found that they bring different strengths to each other’s work — a sweet synergy.
“Every day we help each other and support each other,” Welch said. “Some couples are nervous to work together; we have kind of figured it out to have a ton of fun with it.”
Clark added, “We’re essentially interested in the same thing when it comes to work, but we do it in very different ways that really don’t have a lot of overlap.”
They both act as a resource for the other, complementing each other in terms of experience and applying their unique strengths to the other’s business needs, ideas or questions without stepping on the other’s toes.
Sharing the love
In true Spartan fashion, these savvy entrepreneurs are constantly innovating and eager to give back, in their own ways and together as a couple. Amid the pandemic, Welch helped create the nonprofit Feed Chicago to aid restaurants that were forced to close and to sustain struggling communities. The organization has recently rebranded to Prosper Chicago to become a lasting movement beyond pandemic relief.
“Our goal is to feed half a million meals per year to food-insecure individuals throughout Chicagoland, and we’re doing it by working with local, independent restaurants,” Welch said.
As for Clark, she has a few ideas up her sleeve that will surely push creative boundaries once again.
“Continuing to create under a digital construct is really fun, and it’s opened our eyes to how we can be more hospitable overall, even in our stores,” she said. “I feel very passionate about the power of design in terms of agriculture, so my latest construct is on the lines of agriculture thought of in a completely different way.”
The couple also shared how their love for MSU has only grown stronger as they’ve stayed involved as alumni.
“Individually and together, we’ve been really supported by the entrepreneurship program at MSU and it’s been almost more of a resource post-graduation,” Welch said. “We’ve been extremely blessed and fortunate to be acknowledged by MSU for awards as well.”
Continuing to share the Green and White love, Clark and Welch are excited to give back to the university and to be help with mentoring future entrepreneurs.
“The entrepreneurship program is doing incredible things and moving at light speed. If we can be a phone call to someone or an introduction, we feel so lucky to be a part of it.”