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Candy Maker

Decadent chocolate truffles, drenched with mocha sprinkles. Chewy peppermint-swirled toffees that melt in your mouth. Creamy nougat-filled candy bars. North Americans love their sugar buzz -- and candy makers eat up the profits.

The love of tasty delights is deeply embedded in our culture. Need a quickie gift for Valentine's Day? A heart-shaped box of chocolates is always the perfect choice. Heading to the movies? Don't forget that super-sized candy bar. We love it, we crave it and we have to have it.

Our Sweet Tooth

How much do North Americans love candy? According to the National Confectioners Association, 99 percent of U.S. households purchase candy at sometime during the year.

What does this candy consumption mean to sweet-toothed entrepreneurs? Plenty. Candy is here to stay. As long as there are movie theaters, traumatic "comfort food" times and small children, there will always be candy makers. And that's a very tasty trend.

The Candy Train

Jolene Durbin, owner of Get Suckered, Etc., jumped on the candy cash-train -- and sped towards success. Durbin, who bills herself as "The Sucker Queen," owns an Internet-based business that specializes in sucker supplies and retails her product all over the world. "We manufacture, as far as I know, the only stainless steel sucker molds on the market today," says Durbin. "I don't have any real competition."

Get Suckered, Etc. started as a home-based venture that skyrocketed. "I started out of my house just making suckers for local shops, then started to buy minimum orders from vendors to get better prices on the supplies," says Durbin.

She soon realized having other people sell products for her would make more money -- quickly. "I got the idea to do home demonstration sales in order to show several people at once how to make the suckers. The sales were awesome, and within the first year I had 12 other women doing home demonstrations also," explains Durbin.

"Soon there was too much traffic for my house and I found a small shop. It took three months to do the tenant improvements and open the doors."

Net Profit

Despite her success, Durbin closed her retail business and re-entered the corporate world. Then she realized the Internet could breathe new life into her old business idea. "[The Internet] takes my corner store and opens it to the world," says Durbin. The timing was right and the money was there -- it was time to test-drive her retail store on the Internet frontier.

Durbin's Net-based business means she has a sweet relationship with her keyboard. "I'm on the computer usually about five hours per day, communicating to customers or looking for potential customers, then I take the orders that have come from the Internet website online ordering system and process them for shipping," says Durbin.

Seem like slack hours? It takes a long time before entrepreneurs can work shortened workweeks. "It is a lot of time-consuming hard work, with little take-home pay in the beginning. It is demanding of your time and energy. The positive aspects of this job are you make your own hours, [and] there is no store to worry about. If you need a day off it's cool, but the next day will be more work."

Like most entrepreneurs, future candy makers may be surviving off discarded candy samples for a while. There are no guaranteed salaries for candy makers, although a good product, strong market research and unfailing optimism will eventually pay off.

"Easily you could bring in $1,000 per week in the first year, and increase that by 100 percent the second year and 200 percent the third year," reports Durbin. Before you start selling tasty treats, beware. It costs money to start a business. "I believe it would cost you around $10,000 to start from scratch."

So, what's the future for the Sucker Queen? Success. Durbin has a laser-targeted business plan. "I plan to start an affiliates program. In five years, I should have a huge customer base as well as 400 demonstrators. The affiliates program should have thousands of members which will generate even more traffic to the website."

Getting Started

Want to experience the sweet taste of candy-maker success? Although there are no educational requirements, plan on having some food and business knowledge before you start.

"Food science, food chemistry and food nutrition courses would be helpful," according to Carol Hochu of a candy manufacturer's association.

"I have an accounting background and also took numerous business management courses and seminars," reports Durbin.

Once you've successfully taste-driven your product, plan to market -- aggressively.

"Smaller companies can compete by offering products for which there is a smaller market than the bigger companies are willing to deal with," says Susan Smith of the National Confectioner's Association.

"There may not be enough sales potential in certain products for the big guys, but the sales volume would be great for smaller companies. These may be products that appeal to certain regions of the company or certain demographic groups," says Smith.

Although there are only about 350 candy manufacturers in the U.S., these numbers mostly represent "the big boys" who control a tremendous market share. (Hey, who hasn't heard of Hershey's?)

Ready to start your new career? Get the education you need, plan your product and go for it. In what other career can gorging yourself on chocolate be considered market research? Now that's a yummy benefit!


Get Suckered, Etc.
Learn more about Jolene Durbin's candy-making business

Candy Detective
Lots of links to the candy industry

Candy Making for Beginners
Learn how to work with sugar, chocolate and more

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