Sunday, 18 September 2011

Starting Candy Company Candy Guide: I get many emails from readers who are interested in starting their own candy companies. Do you have any advice for would-be entrepreneurs? Anything you wished you'd known before embarking on this path?

Art Pollard: First off, there are some wonderful classes in Europe. Both Callebaut and Valrhona sponsor schools and classes in the United States and abroad. There are also some very good classes in the United States, though I am not as familiar with those. Pam Williams, however, runs an incredible on-line chocolate course called Ecole Chocolate.This is perfect for people who are just starting out and have a day job.

Some very valuable books are also available that teach many of the tricks used in the chocolate trade. Some books I highly recommend are:

  • Peter Greweling: Chocolates and Confections (Formula, Theory, and Technique for the Artisan Confectioner)
  • Robert Linxe: La Mason du Chocolat: Transcendent Deserts by the Legendary Chocolatier
  • Andrew Garrison Shotts: Making Artisan Chocolates
  • Jean-Pierre Wybauw: Chocolate Decorations
  • Jean-Pierre Wybauw: Fine Chocolates, Great Experience

One thing I wish I had known more fully before I started is how the number of orders is tied to the weather. During the summer months, orders can be pretty sparse. Chocolate begins melting in the 80's (Fahrenheit) and is completely melted by about 96 degrees. When chocolate is shipped, it is important to ship it in insulated containers, often using express shipping. This adds to the shipping costs, and many people shy away during the summer months and wait until the weather is cooler. If someone is planning on starting a confectionary business, it is wise to keep in mind that during the summer months, people often have other things in mind (such as the sun and ice cream), and to budget accordingly.

One valuable tool is frequently overlooked when starting a business: the temporary employment agencies. Companies often have work that needs to be finished but not enough work to make it worthwhile to hire someone full-time. They contract with temporary employment agencies that provide employees for a day, week, or a month. These are very helpful tools for the entrepreneur. They allow you to choose the time and the jobs you want to work while starting your business. You can work nights and run your business in the day. If the business you are starting is busy, you can simply call the employment agency and tell them you won't be in that day. If you want to quit or go on vacation, it is as simple as a phone call, and there are no hard feelings. The pay is not spectacular but it is a great way to pay the rent, put food on the table, or earn money for those "special projects" as you are growing your business.

People always talk about following your passion. It is said so many times it almost sounds trite, but it is true. It is through passion that we can reach the next level. It is through passion that we will find the dedication to work through the hard times, and it is through passion that we will love what we do once we are successful.

The most important part of any project is simply to do it and not be afraid of failure. I had several businesses fail before my software business became successful and eventually helped send me on this great chocolate adventure that I love. Some people have been lucky enough to start a business that is successful the first try. This is not the common case.

Most people have to try many times to be successful. This does not mean that they are failures, only that it didn't work. The timing may not have been right, their skills may not have been fully developed, they may not have had the right people on their team, or there may be political or economic considerations that are totally outside of their control. The most important thing is to follow your dream. We learn more from our failures than our successes, if we are willing.

Life is an adventure, and we should treat it that way. Growing up, I was in the Boy Scouts. When I think back on all the camping trips and other adventures we had, the ones I remember the best were not the ones where the weather was beautiful and the conditions perfect. Instead, when I get together with old friends, the times we still talk about and think back on (and which make the best stories) were the winter campouts that we were usually ill prepared for. The ground was frozen, it was a howling blizzard, and once the tent was set up, we discovered that the tents were on top of frozen cow-pies. As I look back,, these experiences were not failures but great learning experiences and real adventures. We did not appreciate them much at the time, but these experiences were far more valuable than the times when everything was easy.

So many people let their lives slowly pass them by and never do anything about it. One of my favorite quotes is from the movie The Right Stuff, about Chuck Yeager (the first pilot to break the speed of sound) and the space program. Chuck and his wife are out on the Mojave Desert, and his wife tells him, "If you ever turn into an 'I remember when', that is the day I walk out the door and you will never catch me." Chuck went on and not only broke the speed of sound but did it with a pair of broken ribs.

My biggest piece of advice to your readers is to get out there and do something about it. Don't be afraid of failure or setbacks. They are all part of the adventure that is life. When you become successful in whatever areas you seek, these are the times you look back on with fondness. These are the dues that are paid for success.

In the end, it simply comes down to doing it. At times, it may be difficult, but the end is worth it in so many ways.

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