I dream in candy.
I'm not talking about sugar-coated, cotton-candy dreams; my dreams are serious and science-based. I'm behind a chemist's table, beakers and flasks spewing and steaming, working on formulas and perfecting recipes.
My company QUIN prides itself on candy made with natural ingredients. In fact, we shun ingredients that would be developed in a lab and opt for those grown in fields, plucked from vines and delivered fresh from the dairy.
I developed our line of candy because I was looking to make something that spoke to me – I wanted to make hard candy, gummy candy, chewy candy. Not chocolate, not bonbons, not truffles – real candy.
The recipes came first. And once I knew I had a solid hit on my hands, I began to develop our brand. I'm a multi-tasker: I can write a recipe for blackberry-tangerine hard candy (and teach others to make it) in one minute. The next minute, I can write copy for our website or direct a new packaging launch. I'm our spokesperson, creative director, communications manager and branding specialist. If it has anything to do with making candy or telling the story of our candy, I'm leading the charge.
Once our product was solid, and a story began emerging, it was time to reach out to potential customers. We started with the types of shops we could only dream of carrying QUIN. We found addresses and contacts and put together packages featuring our favorite candy. I included handwritten notes, explained how we started, described our process, talked about our ingredients. Our approach was as natural as our ingredients – making connections, talking just enough about the candy while allowing it to speak for itself.
From there we continued to grow our retail partner network, opened a store in Portland and started shipping candy nationwide thanks to our website. It was a flurry of learning and training, and at times it seemed that everything was going too fast while also moving so slowly. In small business, there's always work to do, even if sales aren't where they should be.
I'm our recipe developer and our marketer. I'm out facing the public, doing demos, teaching classes, signing books and tackling speaking engagements. It's a balance; and while it can seem unruly at times, I usually handle it all in pieces. I create schedules with blocks of time for product development. Product development is loosely tied to our marketing plan, so once new products are ready, they are plugged into the plan. From there, I work with our lead candy maker on training and with our production manager on adding the new product to the production calendar. Next, our inside sales person handles all outreach to our retail partners. When the team is really working, and each member is fulfilling their role, the balance isn't as difficult.
Small business ownership can be lonely if you don't remember to utilize your team. I've been doing this for a dozen years, and I still forget to turn to my team for help when trying to solve a problem or juggle deadlines. It's easy to think I'm the only one who understands the ins and outs of a project. Often, I simply believe I can do a task faster than anyone else, or that in the time it takes me to teach someone how to do something, I could be done with it and on to the next assignment.
But when I get out of the way and allow the team to come together, I'm not running in circles trying to do it all – I'm actually enjoying myself. QUIN could never be QUIN without the team behind the candy, and I'm thankful every single day for the people who are helping me make it happen.
About the author: Jami Curl is the founder of QUIN Candy and author of the candy cookbook "Candy is Magic" (Ten Speed Press, 2017). After graduating Ohio University in Athens, where she studied English and Theatre, Curl eventually moved to Portland, where she discovered a passion not just for eating sweets, but creating them. In 2013 Curl decided it was time to pursue her obsession of turning real food into great tasting candy by developing a line of confections and opening QUIN Candy. She currently resides in Portland with her 10-year-old son, Theo, and their cat, Birdie. When she's not creating confections, Curl proudly serves on the Board of Directors of the Oregon Children's Theatre and volunteers at her local library and neighborhood school.
Edited for brevity and clarity by Sammi Caramela.