Vol. 127 - NO. 39

Blog Startup CPG

SINCE 2019

Growing Pains
When Starting a Business

Tracy Ernst is the Co-Owner of Essential Candy.

Essential Candy began in 2018 after an inspirational and divine moment while I was on a long distance bicycle ride to help a friend with the side effects of chemotherapy. We introduced our healthy organic hard candy infused with essential oils and have gone through some growing pains; some were easy to evolve into, such as packaging changes, others were more challenging as it was met with an expensive mistake. Keeping in mind that creating and then redoing the process has a cost reflection, so “doing things right, with ease, the first time” is recommended. Recognizing the growing pains along the journey by listening more, asking for help and doing the research is the key to successfully navigating your journey from the start of something small to bringing your product to retail.

Consumer Packaging Changes at the Right Time

Essential Candy made its debut by introducing our Digestive Blend healthy hard candy to friends and family and they loved it. This blend contains Lemon, Ginger and Peppermint essential oils that can help with nausea and digestive upset. We also donated our candies to various cancer support groups and pre-Covid, we had the great pleasure of meeting and hearing from those individuals helping to craft new blends to support overall health. After a period of research and development and testing different blends, we landed on the idea of putting it to the real test of customers. Did these healthy candies resonate with the people who came into our booth at farmer’s markets? Yes! They were also quick to ask if we had candy to help with pain and sleep. Not in the beginning, we didn’t, we eventually brought them to market. We now offer CBD hard candies as well. We offered a plethora of samples and tested the marketplace and after a few months we knew we needed to expand into a larger venue. We showcased our hard candies at multi-day festivals and discovered we needed to add more blends to our offerings. We listened and I meditated fiercely knowing that I can adopt clarity and mindfulness from sitting in silence.

What we learned early on was that our packaging needed to change from a generic bag to a more professional pre-printed bag rather than a label adhered to clear bags we initially used. Many conversations around the dinner table had us deciding to take the leap and hire a graphic designer. We decided on a total revamp to a moisture barrier gusseted stand up pouch with a zip closure as the home to 3 ounces of individually wrapped hard candies. We entered into the world of minimum order quantity (MOQ) lingo, deciding how many bags and which blends to keep, and what number of bags to print. Again, more meditation and stillness and we chose what we could afford, and had the printing house do our 3 most popular blends (Digestive, Uplifting and Clarity). For the rest of the blends, we would continue to use our home printed labels on generic stand-up pouches. Eventually, we introduced all 14 blends and met the MOQ with flying colors. We are now ready for another rebranding and another print run, but this time we are leaning on a company that will help us. Remember: asking for help is courageous not a sign of weakness. Seek out support from friends and family, industry experts and networking at industry events, choose to lead with your heart, trust and believe in yourself, the answers will present themselves.
Scaling for Growth
Choosing to hire a co-packer to make your product or to build a manufacturing facility is a difficult decision. The investment into either option is met with both positive and negative outcomes and one to not be hasty in. Essential Candy decided to spend the better part of 2021 building a manufacturing facility from a shell of a space so that we could have control of everything (which you don’t often get when using a co-packer). The process was met with some challenging moments of ensuring the design of the space was conducive for how and which we wanted the flow of production to move. Communication to the architect and involving the general contractor and his tradespeople ensured we would have some level of control of the outcome, while leaning on their expertise. Remember that the timeline of such build outs do not usually go as planned, so be prepared for the unexpected delays of the supply chain, and a list that could go on items behind schedule.
When purchasing machinery for your production, do your research and ask the manufacturer for references. Speak to their clients and ask specific questions relating to the use of the piece of equipment. But when it comes to purchasing a machine that costs over $50,000, do your research and ask questions, then ask more questions, and seeking a mentor’s opinion could also help too. Costly mistakes can happen even when you have contracts in writing; do your research. Be sure to read the terms and conditions of the purchase agreement. Most times these are written to be in favor of the seller. Make sure that what you are purchasing is exactly what you need in order to operate and scale your production.

Essential Candy has come a long way in such a short amount of time. When I look back on all these changes I am so proud of the evolution and ensuring from the very beginning our motto of “doing things right, with ease, the first time.” stays intact.
There have been four packaging changes, a manufacturing facility Essential Candy calls home, friends that support us, super fans of loyal customers, a growing list of retailers, and we continue to donate to those individuals going through cancer. Remember to stay the course even when there are times that are difficult. Keep believing in yourself and you too will conquer those growing pains. #CandyWithaPurpose.

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