Courtney & Celia, co-owners of Caramel Caravan
Names: Courtney Robinson & Celia Glowka
Business: Caramel Caravan
Location: Redwood City, CA & online
Celia and Courtney met at the Santa Clara University Food and Agriculture Institute while completing their MBA degrees. For a graduation gift, they each received a Kitchen Aid mixer from their moms, and they took it as a sign they were meant to whip up delicious sweets in tandem. Since launching Caramel Caravan about a year and a half ago, now, they’re enjoying a successful retail and wholesale business. Currently, they’re renovating a 1957 vintage trailer which is literally the "caramel caravan" they’ll use for pop ups and events starting in November.
Hello Courtney and Celia! Tell us about your business.
At Caramel Caravan we make completely handcrafted, small batch caramels and caramel treats using local suppliers like Gilt Edge butter and Clover Cream. Our caramels are rich but less sweet than the caramels of days gone past. We sell to boutiques, small markets, flower delivery companies, gift box companies and more. We find our caramels are often used for gifts, and they resonate especially well with women.
What did it take to turn your idea into a real product?
Having a good partner is super motivating and helped use turn our idea into a reality. We knew we both had the same desire for a deeper personal fulfillment in our work. Neither of our salaried jobs were bad, but we wanted something different. Courtney had this great caramel recipe that was resonating with people, and we ran with it.
What’s one thing you know now that you wish you’d known when you were starting out in business?
We started out offering caramels and baked goods. Then we realized these were two separate businesses. Caramels were a consumer packaged good and our baked goods were not. We decided it was better to do one thing really well, and we found we had a lot of room to try different flavors making just the caramels. This not only simplified the actual concept, but also the operations of the business. Each new product has its own can of worms (sorry, that's gross)!
What has been most satisfying about starting and running your own business?
We love seeing the great response we get from customers. Also, it’s so satisfying to grow our sales, especially by selling to other businesses we love. It makes us feel more like a legitimate business. We’ve also enjoyed the ongoing opportunity to learn about all aspects of business. We’re setting goals and mostly achieving them!
We both find working for ourselves is incredibly motivating. We love being involved in all aspects of the business and building something that has meaning to us.
What has been most challenging or surprising about starting and running your own business?
When you launch a new idea, there is always a measure of self-doubt because the future is unknown. We are both natural overthinkers, and we tend to downplay our abilities, which, of course, increases that self doubt.
On a more practical level, we've had a hard time finding a kitchen space that works for us without investing in our own kitchen. Right now we use a shared professional kitchen space.
How are you gearing up now for the busy holiday season ahead?
We just purchased a vintage caramel twist wrapper from the 1950s. We are also hiring people to assist with caramel production as one half of this partnership is having a baby. That will be interesting!
What do you hope to gain from attending QuickBooks Connect?
We are always pressed for time, but we love connecting with other small businesses and startups, especially those in food, beverage or consumer packaged goods. Sharing experiences can be so helpful because you definitely cannot find all the answers on the internet. Since we run all aspects of our business -- from production and social media to inventory management, sales and more -- we're also looking forward to jumping into a few sessions to give us a deeper understanding of topics we have questions about.
Now it’s your turn
QB Community members, how long did it take you to turn your idea into an official business? What steps did you take to make it happen?
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