Starting a Gourmet Candy Business
Interview with Nancy Boru, Owner of Lone Cone Toffee
After leaving an abusive relationship, Nancy Boru worked odd jobs to make ends meet. One day a friend passed on a vintage toffee recipe, Nancy took it to a gift show and started her own candy business, Lone Cone Toffee. Read her inspiring story in this interview.
Nancy Boru of Lone Cone Toffee makes the best toffee you will ever taste.
Tell me about your current business. What are you doing exactly?
Lone Cone Toffee makes the best toffee you will ever taste, or so my many customers tell me.
When did you start the business?
January, 1996 in Norwood, CO. Now, I'm located in Charlotte, NC.
What were you doing before this, and is this your first business?
I had escaped an abusive marriage with my children and found a small ranch town in the mountains of Colorado to hide out and start a new life. I was living in subsidized housing and working any odd job that came my way when a friend shared his grandmother's 75-year-old toffee recipe with me. I borrowed $100 from another friend and went from there.
How did you come up with your business idea?
I was searching for a business that I could operate from my home because I was a single parent and needed to be around when my kids got home from school so they would not become delinquents. A friend shared his grandmother's toffee recipe with me and I cooked up a couple of batches and took them to a Holiday Gift show in Telluride, CO. It was a HUGE hit and I decided that this would be something that I could do that would be a thing that people would buy on a recurring basis. Since I was living in such a remote area, I needed something that could reach far and wide. Lone Cone Toffee has turned out to be just what I needed.
Did you operate your business from your home? What were the challenges and benefits to this strategy?
I operate the business side from my home and cook my product in a commercial kitchen rented to me on an as needed basis. When I started, I did everything from my home and aside from having my house filled up with toffee stuff I eventually got busted for cooking in a non-commercial kitchen. It has been a huge struggle finding a place that I can rent only during my strong sales season.
With the current economy in a slump, what cost saving tips would you have for a new entrepreneur?
I joined Tradebank, a bartering group. I have been able to trade for advertising, marketing, printing, auto repair, tires, restaurant gift certificates, chiropractic work, and many other things. This has enabled me to increase my line to three flavors because I could get all my new labels on trade. It has also opened up a whole new group of customers to me because those with whom I trade send my toffee to thousands of people who might otherwise never have a chance to try it. Many of these people then become cash customers. If any of your readers are interested, have them go to Tradebank.com to check it out and if they decide to join, have them list my company as a referral. I will send them a free box of the best toffee in the world, Lone Cone Toffee.
Temporary labor can be a great asset to an entrepreneur. Have you ever hired temps or contractors? Would you suggest this as a strategy for new business owners?
To this point, I have only hired temp workers and it works out beautifully. My business has been primarily a Christmas holiday business so I have not needed to hire anyone full-time. Hopefully I will be in a position to do that soon.
What have you done that has been very effective in helping to grow the business?
I do a huge amount of networking. Charlotte is a phenomenal city in that regard. You could go to three different networking events here everyday if you wanted. Whenever I attend one of these events, I walk around and give an individually wrapped piece of Lone Cone Toffee to everyone there. It's almost like handing out crack. The people who taste it become instantly addicted.
What advice would you give to somebody else who wanted to start a similar business?
You have to be very dedicated to the dream, persevere when the going gets tough. And ask for help.
That's a good tip for business and for life. Thanks for sharing your time and talent with us today. And be sure to send us some toffee!
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