In our brand spotlight, we feature Abound brands who are ready for retail. This week we sat down with Anita Comisky, the founder of Amelia Toffee Company. Amelia Toffee Company sells small batch handcrafted toffee, is based in Amelia Island, Florida, and has been in business since July 2015. Shop toffee here.
Abound: Why did you decide to start this business? Why this business and not a different one?
Anita: I learned how to make toffee from my grandmother over 50 years ago and I wanted to carry on that tradition. But do it in my way. I guess it is tradition with a twist. We are still a family business and hope this will continue on for more generations.
Abound: How did you make your first prototype? What changes have you made to your product since then?
Anita: We have been innovators in toffee making, we are the only toffee maker making unique flavors like key lime or chai tea as well as using custom 3D silicone molds. Toffee making had not changed for over 60 plus years, and the flavor selection was only milk chocolate, dark chocolate or some white chocolate. We are the only toffee maker using just dark chocolate and creating uniquely flavored toffee.
Consumers want a more robust flavor profile and we are giving them what they want! In addition, we have taken advantage of technology to make our production more efficient with the silicone molds. They create very little waste, it’s easy to enrobe the toffee pieces with chocolate, and they’re fast to cool.
Abound: How do you make your product? Yourself? A manufacturer? What’s your process like?
Anita: We have grown rapidly over the past few years and needed to engage a co-packer to help us with the manufacturing. The co-packer cooks to our specs and we manufacture as well so we never miss a delivery.
Abound: What’s your day to day like? Do you have any favorite and least favorite parts?
Anita: The life of a toffee maker is very sweet. We meet with customers, make toffee, deliver and also sample in many stores. I absolutely love doing samplings and hearing what our customers say about our toffee. I never tire of hearing how good it is!
Abound: What was your initial investment? How did you get the money?
Anita: We have financed this ourselves so we have been very conservative in our approach to growth. That is for a couple of reasons, first, we wanted to make sure we had controlled growth so our quality never suffered, and secondly, we didn’t want to overspend so we could never recoup our investment. New food companies need to plan on spending 3-4 times more than they ever expected. Costs are high from equipment to insurance to payroll and one needs to have working capital to last through the slow months.
Abound: Where was the first place you started selling your product?
Anita: The Ritz Carlton on Amelia Island. We love working with The Ritz and they have been amazing to partner with over the years. We create unique flavors for special events, and we’re also part of the gift spot and mini bar offerings.
Abound: Where do you sell your product now?
Anita: We sell to Whole Foods, 200+ specialty retailers across the country, and Abound!
Abound: Where would you love to sell your products in the future?
Anita: We would love to be in every major city’s specialty stores and be a household brand.
Abound: Do you have a favorite product? If so, which one?
Anita: That is like asking a mother who her favorite child is. It depends on my mood, the season and the occasion. I love all our toffee flavors!
Abound: What’s your marketing like? Is social media an important part of your business? If so, how?
Anita: Yes, social media plays a huge part in our marketing. We need to spread the word about Amelia Toffee being unique and incredibly indulgent and social media is a wonderful medium to do that.
Abound: What are some of the most frustrating challenges and/or moments you’ve had with Amelia Toffee Company?
Anita: For us it has been finding distributors willing to work with a start up. Once you grow large enough, you can’t handle the deliveries yourself, so you need to work with distributors who can deliver and sell your product. We are fortunate to work with two currently, Nassau Candy and Florida’s Own, and they handle a good percentage of our customers.
Abound: What are some of your greatest achievements and victories you’ve had with Amelia Toffee Company?
Anita: We were selected as an Innovator in Florida for our unique flavors and cooking process, which is a great honor. Also getting on the shelves at Whole Foods, which is not an easy task!
Abound: What advice do you have for people who want to sell a product?
Anita: The old saying the harder you work the luckier you get is so true. It takes lots of hours to grow any business.
Abound: Is there any business advice or quotes you’ve heard that you think about often?
Anita: “What do you need to start a business? Three simple things: know your product better than anyone, know your customer, and have a burning desire to succeed.” — Dave Thomas, Founder of Wendy’s. I strive for that every day.
Abound: What’s your favorite thing about being a business owner?
Anita: Creating a product that everyone loves.