Interested in starting your own entrepreneurial journey in food and beverage but unsure what to expect? Then read up on our interview with Sara Wiseman, owner of Madam Bonbon, located in Hamilton, ON, Canada.
What's your business, and who are your customers?
I make creative small-batch bonbons, chocolate bars, and confections. My business, Madam Bonbon, has been in operation in Hamilton, Ontario, since 2020. I work out of Café Baffico, a take-away bakery that specializes in sourdough donuts, bread, and coffee. Some customers find me through the cafe, but a lot of my business has been word of mouth. The bonbons make a great present for special occasions. Every time a customer loves my bonbons and gives them to someone else as a present, they are essentially advertising for me. I do a lot of collaborations with other small businesses, such as beer, cheese, and wine pairings, and they are a great way of building my customer base. I also create custom bonbons for special events such as weddings or fundraisers.
Tell us about yourself
I went to culinary in British Columbia in the early 2000s and then worked as a baker for many years. I was always interested in pursuing training in chocolate, so I finally made the decision in 2019 to take the leap. I chose to study with a variety of different teachers rather than taking a course through a single institute in order to have a broader education. I studied at George Brown and the Chocolate Academy in Toronto, followed by workshops with some world-renowned chocolatiers, including Melissa Coppel in Las Vegas and Kris Harvey of Beverly Hills. I love the technical challenge of working with chocolate, as well as the artistic and culinary aspects of it as a medium. It is a challenge to produce a well-made product that is beautiful as well as delicious, and working with chocolate ticks all those boxes for me. I am always trying to learn and improve my skills as a chocolatier.
What's your biggest accomplishment as a business owner?
My biggest accomplishment was probably quitting the part-time job that I was holding onto and committing to my business full time.
What's one of the hardest things that come with being a business owner?
One of the hardest things about being a small business owner is confronting the uncertainty that comes with making business decisions regarding scaling up. Before I had even started the business, I invested a fair bit of my own money in training, equipment, and branding. After a year of operation, I left the safety net of a part-time job and committed fully to my business. Opening my own brick-and-mortar shop and hiring employees will be the next hurdles to scaling up my business, and they are daunting. I've never been a big risk-taker, but growing my small business has challenged me to get outside my comfort zone in this way. I've learned to ask for advice, listen, and then do what, ultimately, feels right to me.
What are the top tips you'd give to anyone looking to start, run and grow a business today?
- Do what you love, and aim to do it really well. Don't just do something quickly and mediocre; there are a thousand people doing that already. Also, take time to slow down and appreciate the process, day to day.
- Think about the big picture and the direction you want to go with your business in addition to the day-to-day operation. You can get caught up in daily operation really easily, forgetting that you are the one who is overseeing the growth and direction of the business.
- Ask for help when you need it and collaborate with other people. You can't do everything yourself so look for people who have knowledge and skills that you don't have to help you out
Where can people find you and your business?
If you like what you've read here and have your own story as a solopreneur that you'd like to share, then email firstname.lastname@example.org; we'd love to feature your journey on these pages.
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