I previously wrote a post about how I got the idea to start Grand Street Candy and another about how I eventually launched it. I know you can't stand the suspense any longer, so here's the final chapter of the Grand Street Candy story.
Once I had made it through the holidays and managed to make, wrap and ship all the orders I had received online, I knew that there was a market for the Monkey Bar and Easy $treet and that if I scaled up production I could turn Grand Street Candy into a successful business. I had already spent a lot of time working out how to scale up production and had put together a detailed business plan and financial model. I knew what kind of equipment I needed, what kind of space, how much it would cost, how I would have to distribute the candy and so on.
As I was planning all this, I was faced with a basic decision early on. Would I set up a small candy factory myself or would I outsource production to an established manufacturer. This is a very popular way to produce small runs of candy. Virtually all candy manufacturers have spare capacity in their factories and so contract out candy making services to third parties to keep their factories as busy as possible.
The way I saw it, the pros and cons of outsourcing production were as follows:
- Pros of outsourcing:
- Very low start up cost
- Experienced workers and professional production immediately
- All necessary packaging, warehousing and distribution already figured out
- Lower risk if the business didn't take off
- Cons of outsourcing:
- Lack of direct control
- Not very fun, turns making candy into strictly business
- Possibility of getting ripped off (having the products copied) by the contractor
- Possible issues with using the exact recipe I wanted, need to adapt it to their process
- Eliminated part of the market appeal of Grand Street Candy bars as small batch artisinal creations
I thought about this for a long time and eventually decided that I didn't really want to be in the candy business just to have somebody else make the candy. What I liked about the whole idea was actually making the candy itself. If I were to contract that out, I might as well be making toothpaste. I imagined myself in that situation as just running a generic business, processing orders and passing them on. It didn't hold much appeal for me and I was also concerned that having them manufactured by a regular candy company would make the bars less interesting, more typical and eliminate what was so unique about them.
So I decided that the only way Grand Street Candy was worth taking to the next level was to set up a small independent candy factory. I started digging deeper into my production plans, looked for industrial space in Brooklyn and Queens and got more quotes on used candy making equipment. I sent out my business plan to family and friends and started looking for investors. I could launch the business for less, but to do it right I needed about a million dollars.
Now asking friends and family for a few thousand bucks is one thing, but raising a million dollars is another. The investors I spoke with loved the candy and thought my business plan looked good, but I soon found out that there was no way they would invest any real money as long as I was still running the company part time from my kitchen. If I wasn't willing to commit, to quit my job and dedicate myself to the business, why should they commit money to it?
Now by this time, I wasn't really running the business out of my kitchen anymore. I had found an industrial kitchen in the Bronx that could be rented by the hour for food entrepreneurs and was making the candy there in the meantime. At the time I lived on the Lower East Side, however, and so spent as much time commuting back and forth to the Bronx as actually making candy bars.
I had also had managed to get the candy bars into a small but rapidly growing chain of coffee trucks and cafes in the East Village. The Mud Truck and Mud Cafes were a great match for Grand Street Candy in terms of their quality product, their independent spirit and their aesthetic and branding as well. Pretty soon, the orders started to pick up again. Between orders from Mud and the Web site I was back to having to make and pack candy just about every night.
I was exhausted and knew that the situation as it was could not last long. By that point I had taken a line of credit on my home which together money I had saved was more than enough cash to quit my job and get started. I just needed to do it. Should I quit my job and devote myself to Grand Street Candy? Or should I close up shop?
I was reluctant to do either. As much as I had grown sick of my day job, faced with the idea of quitting I realized that I sort of liked it. I was good at it; it certainly paid well and it was interesting. I worked as the head of product development for a growing software product line and though it lacked the delicious appeal of candy bars, it was much more intellectually stimulating. I thought about running a candy company and considered what that would be like day to day. While I loved experimenting with and making candy bars by hand, running a candy company would be all business most of the time. There just wasn't that much to it that I found interesting beyond the candy-making itself. I was concerned that I would quit my job, start working full time at Grand Street Candy and after six months be bored out of my mind. Because I had a mortgage and a family, it wasn't like this business was something I would be able to walk away from. The reason to do it was for the pure love of it. If I didn't love it, there was no point.
I decided to go ahead and take the plunge. I didn't like the idea of coming that far and giving up. I knew the business could work and I wanted to do it. One afternoon I sat in my office, preparing to quit my job. I drafted an email to my boss telling him that I was giving notice. I reread the email and hovered the mouse over the "Send" button. I left it there for a few minutes as I carefully considered the whole thing.
I loved candy bars. They're delicious of course. They're fun to make. Grand Street Candy was a good idea and people seemed to really like the bars I made. Demand was picking up and I had a plan that I felt would really work. I believed I could raise the rest of the money I needed if I just were willing to commit myself to it full time. But when I was honest with myself I realized that running a small manufacturing business was just not something I really wanted to do. The day-to-day reality of it started to bore me. If it was boring me now, before I had even really started, how would I feel in a few months or years?
I didn't click send and deleted the email.
Once I changed my mind and decided not to scale up the business, my interest in keeping up the small scale production by hand, with its endless long nights, suddenly evaporated as well. That night I began telling my friends, family and customers that I was shutting down Grand Street Candy.
Without exception, everybody was against the idea and tried to convince me to reconsider. I was told that I was giving up a great opportunity, that it would be a real success, that it filled a niche that nobody else had, that the product was great, etc. And most of all, people said that they were mad that they wouldn't be able to get Monkey Bars anymore!
But I'd made up my mind and felt great relief at not having to fill any more orders by hand. That night Ichecked my supply of remaining ingredients. I still had a couple eleven pound blocks of top quality Belgian chocolate. I broke myself off a huge chunk and for the first time in a long, long time I enjoyed an evening of sitting around at home, just eating ingredients, reading a book, watching TV, and doing whatever it was I'd done before the previous year of non-stop candy. Needless to say, my wife and I ate big chunks of Beligian chocolate -- not to mention the prescious last batch of Monkey Bars and Easy $treets -- for weeks and weeks afterward.
That was more than five years ago now. To this day, whenever I meet people I haven't seen in a while, they always ask me if I'm still making candy bars. Those were so good! Why did you stop? They were a big hit at my dinner party. My cousin gave a Monkey Bar to Sandra Bernhard and she went CRAZY over it. (That's actually true, by the way). And so on, and so on...
Yes, they were good. Yes, they could have really taken off. Yes, Sandra Bernhard did go crazy over it. It's just I didn't want to make them anymore. And once the love was gone, once I felt like it was just going to be a job, that was that.
But hey, if you like them, maybe soon you will be able to make them yourself!