Ok, just a word of warning about this interview...you will have a major craving for carbs and sugar when you're finished reading it.
Now that that's out there, I'm so happy to introduce you to Candice of Cacao Sweets & Treats! Cacao is Illinois' first 100% natural, organic, from scratch bakery. It's located in Grayslake, IL and has been around for seven and a half years. Candice is the first business owner I've interviewed with a brick and mortar business and she has lots of great insight! But honestly if you scroll down for no other reason than her cakes it's totally worth it...
How did you get started in your field?
Total accident! Well, my background was restaurant start up and operations, but actually baking was just a late night obsession! I always thought that maybe "one day" I would open a bakery when I retired, but it was really necessity that started Cacao. My soon-to-be husband and I both lost our jobs in the same week three months before our wedding (we were only engaged for 5 total), so you can imagine the stress that puts on starting your life together.
When we got back from our honeymoon in Greece, Adam (my best friend since 8th grade and now husband) very calmly said, "you need to do something because your projects are becoming my projects". I'm a little type-A and don't do well sitting still.
So the 4th of July craft fair was coming up and Adam suggested I bake. We had bills to pay immediately and we decided it was something I was good at and that people love dessert. So about $10 worth of ingredients in my kitchen and some lovely handmade business cards started it all!
Where do you find inspiration?
Nature. Always nature. I love a natural aesthetic. My goal is always to let the food speak for itself. I don't like making something look un-whatever it is. Why? Let it shine in it's realness!
What do you wish you had known when you were just starting your business?
HOW MANY HOURS WE WORK - I say we, because "we" all get it! You don't shut off. You can't slow down. Your brain is out of control. I'm super workaholic to begin with, but my own thing? Pfft, get in my way, dare you!
What has been the most effective strategy for gaining new customers?
I believe in word of mouth. I don't like paying for advertising - it's not authentic. Sure, it's a slow uphill battle, but it's quality over quantity!
What has been the best part of running your own business?
It seems like you are constantly striving. Striving for the vision you have in your mind and something always gets in the way. And then one day, you pause for a moment and look around you and see where you started and what you have. That's when you have to be really proud of yourself for making stuff happen!
And then one day, you pause for a moment and look around you and see where you started and what you have.
That's when you have to be really proud of yourself for making stuff happen!
What has been the most difficult part of running your own business?
Time. I never have enough time! Never enough time or money. If only....
What goals do you have for your business in the next 5 years?
We all have the numbers we want to hit, but my goals are really to try to slow down a bit. Not in the how much I work necessarily, but to slow down enough to reflect and enjoy.
I am a full time baker before being a business owner, so it's a full day of work before all of the other stuff takes place - paperwork, employees, number crunching, sourcing, building projects, etc. My days are so busy I forget to look at everything from an aerial view, which is really the whole point of it all!