Sweet Talk: Crack Caramel
When it comes to candy there are A LOT of options out there. And when it comes to caramel, to be honest, in the past we've stayed away from it. But recently we've been changed...by many adorable twined linen bags. Apparently we've been eating caramel all wrong and not fully understanding the beauty of experiencing the freshest, most delicious hand made batches around.
Sincere, elegant and top quality - these are not only words that come to mind when eating Crack Caramels, but also when spending time with the lovely ladies behind the operation. We spend a moment in the kitchen with this Los Angeles based chewy confection company to learn about unexpectedly falling into the candy business and how much (or in this case how little) it takes to keep things sweet.
Who: Jennifer Gregori
What: Crack Caramel, Los Angeles
You starting Crack Caramels in a personal pursuit to make the best treats - tell us a little about where the name comes from and what moment convinced you to take these candies out of your kitchen and into a full-scale business.
Initially, the caramel was simply just for me. Every year at Christmas I would order Knudsen Caramels to put in my own stocking....then one year, my son Emerson gave me a candy thermometer (random gift) for Christmas. I cook a lot for my family and do some baking, but candy making just seemed ridiculous. About a year later, I thought I'd actually try to make some caramel for myself. Nightmare. I will spare you the details but I have a stack of index cards with a gazillion different variations of a single caramel recipe. It was plain silliness for about a year. I couldn't stop, though it was never my intention to use that thermometer more than once. And it wasn't a labor of love (and still isn't), rather something that I just couldn't quit until I got the buttery brown sugar taste right. Right for me, that is.
Once I got the what I was looking for, I kinda toyed with the idea of making it a little business. I had given some as thank you gift to Coco at Heath Ceramics in LA and she wanted to sell them at their store on Beverly. So, I did the grownup stuff like creating a site, finding a kitchen and creating an LLC, but, to be honest, it was really just a glorified hobby that I kinda got a kick out of. Just recently, I partnered up with a friend of mine, Leily, to really give this business a whirl. Together we are all in to to make this little operation into a full fledged success. She's been doing all of the marketing and let's just say that she's had me in kitchen making more caramel in the last six months than I have the previous two years!
Crack came from the fact that nearly every other batch I made had a giant fault line running through the sheet of caramel. If you don't get caramel off the heat at precisely the right second, the caramel sheet will inevitably crack when cut into pieces. But, the kicker for me was that it sounded nice...Crack Caramel...in the alliterative sense.
Your packaging is simple, yet elegant. Give us a little insight into your branding and design thought process.
Well, there's the crack that everyone thinks of when they hear Crack Caramel, which wasn't where I wanted to go with the name...so, to steer away from that, I made sure the logo and packaging were very sweet and old timey. The color of our logo is a replica of my grandmother's pink coral lipstick, for goodness sake! My friend, Chelsea, at Sugar Paper did an amazing job with the letterpress on the hang tags, note cards, and all of our paper materials...all of this to avoid something that is unavoidable when you use the word "crack" next to your product name. Ha!
What is the most important lesson you’ve learned launching your own small business? What advice would you give to other makers on how to promote and get their craft out there?
The most important lesson I have learned is not to dilly dally. I treated this as a hobby for much too long, thinking "this is fun and I like doing this" rather than really going for it and turning it into a successful business from the get go. I'm a professional photographer and have been for the last 15 years, so I kind of figured the caramel would just be a side order. But, I realized that, for me, it eventually had to be all or nothing where Crack Caramel was concerned. Now that we've started really doing the work it's so much more exciting and gratifying!
The advice I would give to other little start up craftsman"ish" businesses is just start, and start small. I made such a minimal investment initially (I put $500 in a little citibank business account and we've been in the black ever since). Do what you can with what you have...and for goodness sake, don't dawdle!
What keeps you inspired on days filling orders and stuck over the stove top? Any particular caffeinated bevvy or soundtrack that keeps you motivated?
Podcasts and NPR...I'm cringing as I type this. Here goes...I listen to "The Madeleine Brand Show" that was on KPCC a few years back (I don't like Press Play, her new show on KCRW, but sometimes I try to listen hoping she will be less bland and more spunky like she used to be). Then there is Airtalk with Larry Mantle (embarrassing...just embarrassing...my friend Tim gives me such a hard time for this one). I also just finished the Serial podcast and I was crazy addicted to that....couldn't get enough, couldn't stop talking about it. Now I'm listening to the Startup podcast.
Oh, and Intelligentsia coffee.
Lastly and mostly, gabbing on speaker phone with my business partner, Leily, about everything and nothing.
How should we take our Crack Caramels? Is there an ultimate pairing or should we stick to a solo experience?
A wedge of a Granny Smith apple with a caramel on top...like an apple caramel "tartine"...though my husband, Arnaud, who is from Toulouse, says that a french person would never eat caramel with an apple...and that goes for Brie with a pear slice, too.
What’s next!? Any dream projects, collaborations or new kinds of sweets you’d love to take on?
What's next is the hard part...making more money. I believe we have a caramel that is perfectly delicious already (and lollipops, too, of course). It is the best caramel you'll ever chew (ask anyone who's had it) and I've seriously put in the time to make it so. No need to change it up and add thyme or bacon, or kale....
Want more candy-coated inspiration with interesting movers and shakers in the sugar focused culinary world? Check out more interviews from our DXD Sweet Talk Series!