Interested in starting your own entrepreneurial journey in food and beverage but unsure what to expect? Then read up on our interview with Dottie Hessel, Owner of Dottie Pops Custom Chocolate & Candy, located in Paradise Valley, AZ, USA.

What's your business, and who are your customers?

Dottie Pops Custom Chocolate & Candy creates handcrafted, delicious custom candy gifts & favors for all occasions, from individual parties to 1000+ person events for large corporations. These customized creations include chocolate and other candies, including toffee, caramels, barks, brittles & lollipops. Customization, either in the candy itself or with custom packaging, provides that extra special touch making every event or gift unique.

My customers range from various large corporations, some of which include the Honor Health Hospital System, ASU's Sandra Day O'Connor School of Law, & Foster Engineered Products, to smaller businesses like the Hubbard Family Swim School, Urbana gift shops, or individual client parties, gifts, showers & weddings.

Tell us about yourself

I am a mother of four, a former Pfizer employee, and have a BS in Marketing with an MBA degree. After many years of extensive volunteering, while raising children, I started searching for a flexible job that would enable me to re-enter the workforce but still be present for my kids.

Eight years ago, I googled ideas and made lollipops for the first time instead of making the same old cookies or brownies for my daughter's dance team. I customized them with dance decor & packaging. Then I donated a few hundred lollipops to my kids' school fundraiser & they were a hit. Instead of re-entering the workforce as planned, I researched and figured out that I could get licensed and actually start my own candy business.

I became obsessed with candy-making and the science behind it. It's fascinating how cooking one degree too long or not long enough, or using too much liquid can totally botch chocolates & candy! I took classes online, made countless batches of candy, watched Swiss and Belgian chocolatier's instructional videos in French, & called different chocolatiers for advice.

I love working together with my customers to develop exactly what they want for their event & when my customers are happy with the result, it excites & inspires me to continue creating custom candy!

What's your biggest accomplishment as a business owner?

I am grateful for the opportunity to have worked with some amazing clients at spectacular venues, some of which include the Phoenician, Omni Montelucia, the Fairmont Scottsdale Princess Resort, Barrow Neurologic Institute, & iconic culinary chef Mark Tarbell for example. I also NEVER dreamed I would be featured in the iconic Arizona Highways Magazine or be asked to make chocolate 'brain' gifts for the medical staff at a nationally respected institution!

What's one of the hardest things that come with being a business owner?

Wearing many hats! It's a challenge learning and being responsible for all aspects of the business, from product creation, development, packaging, quality control, advertising, negotiation, accounting, sales, and continued growth in a changing world.

What are the top tips you'd give to anyone looking to start, run and grow a business today?

  1. Do something that excites you & makes it YOURS! Don't just copy & tweak. The more you invest in yourself, the more fulfilling it will be.
  2. Be flexible, accept & learn from failure, and continually adapt to changes that affect all aspects of your business.
  3. Research: The industry, products, competition, market dynamics, pricing, customers, advertising, etc., and maintain a thirst for knowledge.

Is there anything else you'd like to share?

Don't be afraid to fail and be vulnerable. Seek advice and support when you need it, and stay positive. Every day is a new opportunity. Success takes time, hard work, patience, & perseverance.

Where can people find you and your business?


If you like what you've read here and have your own story as a solo or small business entrepreneur that you'd like to share, then please answer these interview questions. We'd love to feature your journey on these pages.

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