Snowshoe Candy Co. – Unwrapped

Snowshoe Candy Co. is a creative exploration of caramels, candies and other things to make winter warmer based in Omaha, Nebraska

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Project Description

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Snowshoe Candy Co., founded in 2013, grew out of a passion for mindfully made candies and a family recipe. What started as a seasonal hobby has grown into a thriving business. In April 2017, we received funding for an artisanal candy cooker that will allow us to make larger batches and more caramels. Until now, we have wrapped each caramel by hand, a labor-intensive process, that limits our growth. With an artisanal scale wrapper (the model we are looking at was designed and built in the early 1900s for apothecaries), we would be able to scale up production, decrease material costs and continue to grow our business towards financial sustainability!

A Brief Her-Story

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Having grown up in Southeastern Wisconsin, I am quite familiar with cold, snowy winter days that slip into nights. My Poppa, our resident family caramel maker, has been making his special recipe for many years. I have fond memories of tasty, sweet caramels melting in my mouth and warming my soul through the winter months at home.

While visiting my grandparents in 2009, my Poppa shared his special recipe with me and taught me the craft of caramel making. I have been making them since, but only once the weather cools, the leaves change and drop, and only until the first signs of spring. The seasonal significance of caramels is important to me; making them in the spring and summer months would surely not yield as satisfying of a treat! In 2013, I launched Snowshoe Candy Co. as a complimentary seasonal business to our market farming business, Little Mountain Farm. Since then, it has grown exponentially, with our last season yielding over 15,000 hand wrapped caramels!

What’s so special about small-batch candy?

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Throughout history, candy has been a special and accessible luxury food that can be enjoyed in tiny morsels by people across the spectrum. As it first made its presence in US, candy was primarily a female-led industry of newly immigrated families who would set up “shop” along the sidewalks, using a simple kettle, burner and paddle. With low overhead and minimal startup costs, it was a way for the home cook to make extra earnings to support their families.

My fondest memories of sweets as a kid were the ones that were made with love and care. The box of caramels that would arrive every year at the holidays from my Poppa Clark. Or the cordial cherries I made with my great-grandma before Valentine’s Day. When my Poppa shared his recipe with me, a new tradition began. I started making caramels and sharing them with my community. The recipients responded with joy and excitement! Friends and strangers alike would share their family memories of sweets, which added to the joy of making caramels.

With the industrialization of our food system, many of the handmade small batch candies were replaced by big brand name candies. The more I considered it, the more I realized the connections between small-batch candies, nostalgia and the importance of this “little luxury” food group in preserving traditions. I say nostalgia in the broadest sense, as it encompasses the connection to the beginnings of candy in our country, to regional distinctions and cultural histories, and to familial ties. Stories are shared and new traditions are created. Suddenly, this little luxury of candy is the gateway to an enriched experience, making the world a little sweeter.

About our caramels + candies

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As a farmer, sourcing local, whole ingredients is important to me. Our direct to consumer model shortens the time between production and consumption and eliminates the need for artificial colors, flavors and preservatives. By featuring locally sourced, high-quality ingredients, we’re able to create unique confections that can’t be found on the mass market.

That means creamy yellow butter from an Iowa family-farm, fresh fruits from local farmers and specialty ingredients direct from the source. While we can’t source all our ingredients locally from farmers (though we’d like to!) we do our best to source whole ingredients, the kind you can pronounce, from the best sources possible, including non-GMO corn syrup and sugar.

Perfecting the caramel

Leslie Swan Photography.

Since 2009, I’ve made over a hundred batches of caramels. Over the years, I’ve perfected the process and found the best ingredients around. A great recipe, years of experience and top-notch ingredients means the smoothest, tastiest caramel!

Our caramels have been featured in a variety of media outlets including PBS’s Edible Feast Victory Garden show, Edible Omaha Magazine and more. Through our online store, they’ve been enjoyed in 28 states throughout the United States. And as we’ve continued to grow, we’ve sold thousands in the Omaha metro through holiday events and as corporate gifts.

How We are Growing

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In April 2017, we were selected as the winner of the Cox Communication’s Get Started Pitch Competition. As a reward, we received $7500 cash prize to invest in our company. We are using this to invest in a larger batch cooker and to construct a commercial kitchen at our farmstead, which will enable us to make batches 10 times the size of our previous batches. That means more caramels for you! And a lot more for us to wrap!

Help Us Get Wrapping!

Leslie Swan Photography.

Until this spring, our batch size was limited by our equipment. With the prize package from the Get Started Pitch Competition, we are investing in a larger cooker that scales our batches tenfold. Before this, each batch was made in a pot on the stove top, then cut, individually wrapped and packaged by hand.

With your help, we can invest in a candy wrapping machine that will allow us to wrap our larger batches with efficiency. This wrapping machine will also allow us to source bulk wrappers which will decrease our batch cost and allow us to start wholesaling our caramels to local and regional stores! And in general, it means more caramels for you!!

My dream machine is a Rose Forgrove 22B – a classic piece of machinery that was made in the early 1900s as an apothecary wrapper for drops and gummies. They are few and far between, but are made to last. The cost of a Rose Forgrove ranges between $12,000 and $25,000 depending on condition and location. With an 8% top-up to cover iFundWomen and credit card fees, we are asking for $15,000 to cover the initial investment in a wrapping machine.

So far, we have invested $5,000 of our business earnings and the $7,500 Get Started Pitch Competition prize package for our current equipment, supplies and to build a commercial kitchen at our farmstead. With your help, our small business can continue to grow and make winter warmer.

Here is our dream machine in action!