According to Statista , in 2018 the leading sugar-free chocolate candy brand in the United States did more than $87 million in sales. With the increased interest in healthier diets there has been a steady increase in the interest in sugar-free candy. However, the ongoing challenge to create a tasty version that keeps people coming back has alluded many small and large brands.
Enter Curly Girl Candy. Local entrepreneur Paula Trenda is setting a new standard for health-conscious candy consumption and is taking the hand crafted, locally sourced, sugar-alcohol-free, plant-based yumminess to a whole new level of excellence. Made in Minnesota with “100 percent indulgence and 0 percent guilt” Trenda’s candy keeps you coming back for more, time and time again. COMPANY PROFILE
Name of company: Curly Girlz Candy, LLC Website: www.curlygirlzcandy.com
Business Start Date: August 2014 as small gourmet candy shop ad then in 2016 as sugar-free candy manufacturer
Number of Employees: 8
Number of Customers: Average 425 per month and growing, corporate/wholesale: 15 accounts and growing ENTREPRENEUR PROFILE
Name: Paula Even Trenda Age: 47
City of Birth: Dubuque, Iowa
City you live in: Owatonna
High school attended: Wahlert High School, Dubuque
College attended: Loras College, Dubuque Q&A
Q. What lead you to this point?
A. I relocated to Owatonna with my husband in 2003. While pregnant, I took classes to become a certified chocolatier, just for the fun of it. After the birth of my first child, working out of the Twin Cities and traveling for work were more difficult, so I took a position as the business administrator for our church, while continuing to make candies for friends and family. Orders were steady and of course everyone’s famous last words — “You should open a store and sell these full-time.” Coming from an entrepreneurial family, starting a business was in my blood and — who doesn’t dream of being a kid in a candy store?
Q. What is your business?
A. Curly Girlz Candy was founded to satisfy the sweet tooth in all of us. From handcrafted truffles, fudge, nut rolls, and caramels to a decadent line of sugar-free/keto friendly confections, we create sugar-free candy so good, you wouldn’t know it was sugar free if we didn’t tell you.
What is the origin of the business?
A. I began making candies for family, friends, and selling at local craft shows and markets. That led me to opening my first retail store in Medford, Minn., in August of 2014. Many customers coming into our store were looking for sugar-free options but I didn’t carry them. The reason was that my grandmother was a diabetic and she loved her sweets. Unfortunately, the sugar-free candy she often ate was awful. Weird tastes and textures and awful gas/stomach pains after eating due to the high levels of sugar alcohols. I didn’t care for the quality of what was available in the market and didn’t carry any. In late 2015, I set out to create a better sugar-free candy, one without the stigma often associated with sugar-free candies. Our line of sugar-free caramels, toffees, brittles, and chocolates have a taste and texture that mimic their sugary counterparts.
Q. What problems does your business solve?
A. With research pointing to all the negative aspects of consuming too much sugar (the rise of diabetes, cancer, obesity), our candies fill a niche missing in the confectionery arena. We create gourmet, handcrafted sugar-free candy with plant-based alternative sweeteners that are low in sugar alcohols and use real ingredients like butter, cream, nuts, etc. They taste great and won’t impact blood sugar like traditional sugared candies.
Q. What big hurdle did you have to overcome?
A. When we first opened the retail store, walk-in traffic was great. But as national retailers near us closed, our traffic dropped. As with many brick and mortar stores, sales were falling. It was at that same time work began on a better e-commerce site, as well as developing our sugar-free caramels. In February 2017 we were included in our first subscription box, Keto Krate. From that time, sales of sugar-free candies have skyrocketed.
Q. Where do you go when you need help?
A. We are lucky in Southern Minnesota, as we have a great partner in the Southern Minnesota Initiative Foundation. Through SMIF, we’ve had access to start-up funding, QuickBooks training, and most importantly the FEAST! Smart Start program that paired us with a business consultant who is an expert in an area we were needing assistance.
In addition, I am a member of a peer group that meets once per month and is made up of other food entrepreneurs. This group is a great way to get out and work on the business, instead of in it. We discuss problems, receive feedback on ideas, and often host presenters that come and talk about various issues impacting small businesses.
Q. What personal strengths or skill sets do you bring to the business?
A. Creativity, resilient, problem solving, ability to relate to others and great customer service skills.
Q. What are you most proud of?
A . Being named Red Wing Ignite Cup Winner and being a semi-finalist for the MN Cup in 2018 and going from losing money for three years to making a profit and growing rapidly.
Q. What obstacles must you overcome to be wildly successful?
A. We lack manufacturing equipment to produce larger batches and staff to create, package, and ship. Financing is also a barrier as we want to avoid large loans and want to remain privately held.
Q. How are you funding your business?
A. Our business has been funded organically to date.
Q. What would be success for your business in the next 2-3 years?
A. To see us continue to grow at the rate of 30 percent or more each year. To be able to expand our sugar-free line and reach a wider audience — not just people avoiding sugar for health reasons or diet (i.e. low-carb Keto/LCHF diets), but also the greater market with kids and families who want to be able to eat candy but prefer healthier options.
Q. In your opinion, what does it take to be a great entrepreneur?
A. You need to have dedication and passion for your product or business. Don’t be afraid to take risks, to work long hours, be a jack of all trades, to sometimes cry over burnt caramel and believe in yourself when no one else does. It is also important to be able to stick to your plan and continue to move forward even when the money isn’t there and people don’t have faith in you.
Q. Why do you do what you do? A. Making people happy and healthy. Q. How did 1 Million Cups St. Paul help you with your business? A. At 1 million Cups St. Paul I was able to receive valuable feedback, get questions that made me think and practice talking about my products. Related Articles You can hear from startups like this every other Wednesday, 9-10 a.m. at the James J. Hill Center during 1 Million Cups St. Paul. Visit jjhill.org/calendar for scheduled dates.The James J. Hill Center is a nonprofit in downtown St. Paul that provides access to business research, educational programming and a place to work. The Hill is open to the public 8 a.m.-4 p.m., Monday-Thursday. To keep updated on what startup is presenting next or to apply to present, visit www.JJHill.org/1-million-cups .
Click here to view original web page at Startup Showcase: Satisfying the sweet tooth without the sugar