Location: 55 George Street West, Stratford, Ontario, Canada
We are a family run (my husband and I) small operation where we make over 170 chocolates and candies on site and sell in a store out of the same building we own. We have been in business for 16 years now! My husband, Derek Barr, when we first met, was a candy maker and chocolatier. His bosses wanted to retire, and new folks bought the business he was working at. He loved doing what he was trained to do, and wanted to do it for himself, and for us, for our future. My background was in restaurants, hotels, and general customer service. I thought it was a great idea, and he put a business plan together. Initial hurdles were finding the right location to open the chocolate shop and initial funding. The biggest thing was having enough space for machines to allow us to make everything from scratch, and to cook and dip all the candies and chocolates on site. People like that our chocolates and candies are all made on site. Help for funds came in the form of family and a small bank loan.
What books are you currently reading? What books do you recommend other entrepreneurs read?
Books I like to read are generally autobiographies. I am currently reading Tom Petty's and the Beastie Boys autobiographies. I love art books and fashion entrepreneurs showcase books (i.e., Alexander McQueen). I love knowing where someone I enjoy, admire, and are inspired by comes from and how they made it to a place of (hopefully) fulfillment.
Did you ever deal with contention from your family and friends concerning your entrepreneurial pursuits?
How did you handle it?What would you do differently in hindsight?
No one in either of our families expressed concerns. I think they probably thought we were dreamers, or crazy, but it did work out for us, 16 years in business later. They knew we were/are hard workers. I would do a few things differently though. I would start smaller regarding staffing initially. We hired too many people in the beginning and could have done more ourselves which would have allowed us to save money and some initial headaches.
What would you say was the single most influential factor in your business success?
The most influential factor in our business's success is actually caring about what we are making and selling, and ensuring when people come into our store they have a pleasant experience. So often in theses times customer service is overlooked, and when I go out into the world to shop it is a gamble if the person ringing me through with my purchases is even present or in a good mood. We are constantly complimented on how good our staff is and how informative and how pleasant they are.
What do you know today that you wish you would have known when you first got started as an entrepreneur?
I knew it was going to be a lot of hard work, long hours, and sacrifice. Looking back you can't change anything that happened, or didn't happen; you can just work hard, be humble, and sell a great product that you believe in. Don't let anybody tell you how to run your business or take control of your image or narrative.
What advice would you give to an upcoming entrepreneur locally and internationally?
Advice I give to anyone who is thinking of opening or running their own business or that I give to one of our student workers going away to college is to work hard, and do what you love. It's simple, don't make it harder than it is.