Recently, I had the opportunity to speak with Jeri Vasquez, owner of Kindred Cooks Caramels. In business since 2013, Kindred Cooks makes some of the most amazing, handmade caramels from the freshest ingredients that are highly addictive. Just like Jeri says, “All it takes is just one bite and you’ll be hooked.”
I sat down with Jeri to learn more about her business, how QuickBooks® has helped keep her books balanced, and the advice she has for other business owners and entrepreneurs.
Troy Marcyes: Tell me about your business.
Jeri Vasquez: Kindred Cooks is a woman-owned business that specializes in making handmade, “dangerously delicious” caramels. Using a recipe that was handed down, we make classic and unique melt-in-your-mouth caramels, from Traditional, to Espresso, to Spicy Hot Bacon. With 10 different flavors, we have something for everyone.
TM: What are the most interesting parts of your business?
JV: Problem solving, creating new flavors of caramels, meeting all different types of people and being a part of the amazing community of local makers.
TM: What are some goals for your business?
JV: Our goal is to introduce as many people as possible to real, small batch, handmade caramels. Most people haven’t had these type of caramels, as they are not mass produced like the caramels most people have tried. I like to say, “Our caramels keep your dental work where it’s meant to be!” To accomplish this goal, we are focusing primarily on growing our wholesale accounts, participating in local events and growing our internet/social media presence. Like any small business, we are trying to grow our revenue as much as possible, while keeping our costs as low as possible. However, it takes a certain amount of experimenting to figure out what avenues are the best to take.
TM: What keeps you up at night being a business owner?
JV: As a business owner, you have to be willing to take risks and make mistakes – both of which can be hard to do. With our product, there are several different revenue channels we can explore, but which one is right? How much time do you spend on each? What’s the right pace to grow by? Growing too fast too soon can ruin a business, but growing too slow can allow others to pass you. A lot of things weigh on your mind when you own a business because you are trying to be good at everything – and of course, you’re not!
TM: What are your thoughts on QuickBooks?
JV: I’ve been using QuickBooks for as long as I’ve had my business. It is a great way to stay organized (well, I do get behind reconciling) and makes me feel like I know basic accounting, even though I don’t think I really do. I use the online version and so my cousin, who is a CPA, goes into my books from time to time to make sure I have entered everything correctly and creates reports for me. It also makes payroll and doing my taxes really easy.
TM: What challenges did you face that QuickBooks helped you solve?
JV: Bookkeeping, of course, as well as taxes and payroll. One lesson I learned the hard way is to be more diligent about entering my invoices in a timely manner. I got several months behind on entering my invoices and one of the stores went out of business, so now I am out the money they owed me. If I had kept my books up to date, I still would have lost some money, but not as much because I would have been reaching out to them to pay invoices that were way past due.
It definitely helps me run my business, do my taxes, get help when I need it and do payroll – I love how everything is in one place.
TM: What advice do you have for others looking to start their own business?
JV: That is a broad question. It is great to have the ultimate say in how I spend my day and I really enjoy not reporting to anyone, but it can be lonely, too. Be aggressive with your sales and miserly with your spending. Find little goals to help you stay motivated. Have a clear plan and break it down to measurable steps as much as possible – it is easy to start chasing “shiny things” and not getting anywhere and spreading yourself too thin. Do your research, but also jump in! Go for it!
It’s heartfelt businesses like this that keep the economy growing and customers coming back for more dangerously delicious caramels. As they continue to prosper, Kindred Cooks Caramels stay laser focused on creating amazing fare for their customers.