Tuesday, December 11, 2018

Tip #286: Make Softer Creams that Won't Dry Out


With the holidays upon us, we’re sharing a quick and easy tip for achieving softer creams.

Did you know the type of corn syrup you use can affect the texture of your creams? Get softer, creamier creams by using corn syrup with a higher dextrose equivalent (DE).

Problems with creams that dry out? Corn syrup with a higher dextrose equivalent will create greater humectancy (or moisture retention) within your creams.

RCI's Tip of the Week blog is just one of the many resources we offer to help candy makers refine their craft and build upon their business and marketing practices. Review past blog posts for quick and actionable tips to apply to your business. Look for the "Subscribe now" box on the right to enter your email address and start receiving weekly tips, like this, delivered straight to your email inbox.

Not a member? Click here to learn how RCI can help you build your sweet business.

Tuesday, December 4, 2018

Tip #285: The Best Business Investment You’re Not Making (and How to Change that in 2019!)

When is the last time you invested in your education? As an owner of a business it is easy to ignore learning opportunities and get lost in the details as you scramble to complete daily tasks before the sun sets. It is easy to make the budget decision not to invest in education, because something else is more important or pressing. Despite these beliefs, many would argue education is the best investment you can make in yourself, your team and your business.

Education comes in all different formats; print, online resources and webinars, seminars and workshops, certifications and courses and even in-person meetings such as trade shows or local networking events. You can purchase a new book on candy making (here’s a few of our favorites) or subscribe to industry-related publications like Candy Industry and Manufacturing Confectioner. You don’t have to read everything, but pick content that you find useful and relevant to your business.

In case you’re not already familiar, education is deeply rooted in Retail Confectioners International’s (RCI) mission, which is to advance the confectionery industry by offering members the knowledge to build sweet businesses from entrepreneurial passion. For over 100 years, RCI has developed a reputation as a valuable resource for small business owners both established and new to the industry. Through our member-exclusive publication, Kettle Talk, web resources, regional conferences, annual convention and expo, as well as education courses, we give confectioners the opportunity to take time out and focus on their knowledge of the industry and learn from others. With that said, we’re thrilled to share our month-by-month lineup of 2019 events, each designed to help you expand your knowledge to build an even sweeter business.


JANUARY: WINTER GETAWAY
RCI will kick off the new year by hosting a sold-out group of confectioners in Costa Rica for our Winter Getaway in January. Attendees will have the opportunity to unwind from the hectic holiday season while gaining valuable insight of their craft while exploring the origin or chocolate at local cacao plantations on this unforgettable trip. This event is currently sold out.

FEBRUARY: TRUFFLES+MORE
Following Valentine’s Day, candy makers are invited to attend RCI’s Truffles+More education course at Savage Bros. Co. in Elk Grove Village, Illinois (near Chicago). Join us to learn various formulations and trouble-shooting techniques for truffles, meltaways and nut pastes. In addition to classroom-style learning, gain hands-on experience in the kitchen making variations of these popular confections. Space is very limited, so register now at retailconfectioners.org/truffles. If you’re looking to elevate your candy making skills (or those of your staff), this is the course for you!


JUNE: ANNUAL CONVENTION & INDUSTRY EXPO
RCI’s Annual Convention & Industry Expo is our premier event of the year! If you’ve never attended an RCI event or if you haven’t been recently, our annual convention is like a mixtape of RCI’s greatest hits all in one! Connect with fellow candy makers, chocolatiers and suppliers looking to share ideas and grow their businesses at the Connecticut Convention Center in Hartford, Connecticut June 3-7. See, touch and (in many cases) taste the latest and greatest equipment, ingredients, packaging and services (and more!) our trusted network of industry suppliers has to offer at our two-day expo. If it’s education your seeking, you can expect relevant sessions on topics covering production, marketing and business, all designed for the retail confectioner. RCI will conclude the week with behind-the-scenes tours of local candy businesses, which takes education to the next level. Look for more event details to come after the start of the new year. Click here to receive notification when registration opens.


AUGUST: CHOCOLATE BOOT CAMP & FALL REGIONAL CONFERENCE
The ever-popular Chocolate Boot Camp® course, which typically takes place in February, will now be available during the summer. Make your way to Wockenfuss Candies, in Baltimore, Maryland on August 5-8 for this brief yet, comprehensive, hands-on course taught by industry experts. Sold out for the last eight years, the course will give twenty-five students an opportunity to gain knowledge they can take back to their businesses. This course is great for both veterans and newcomers alike.
googoo.com
RCI is headed to Music City for its Fall Regional Conference in Nashville, Tennessee August 19-21. Here you can find a great mix of education and connection opportunities, combined with fun, local flair that can only be found in Nashville! Experience the sweet side of Nashville by touring local candy businesses, like The Goo Goo Shop, home of the iconic Goo Goo Clusters. Visit retailconfectioners.org/events for updates on all RCI’s upcoming event updates.

Don’t skip another year without investing in yourself and your business. Take advantage of the many industry-related events; attend a conference, send an employee to one of the upcoming RCI education courses, join RCI in Hartford or Nashville and connect with fellow candy makers. Focus on learning this year and watch your business benefit as a result. We hope to see you in 2019!

RCI's Tip of the Week blog is just one of the many resources we offer to help candy makers refine their craft and build upon their business and marketing practices. Review past blog posts for quick and actionable tips to apply to your business. Look for the "Subscribe now" box on the right to enter your email address and start receiving weekly tips, like this, delivered straight to your email inbox.

Tuesday, November 27, 2018

Throwback Tip #128: Quickstart Seeding Process for $30 or Less


If you temper chocolate in small-batch tempering machines, save yourself the headache this holiday season with this week’s quick and easy tip.

Are you using chocolate wafers as seed for your tempering unit? Before putting them in the feed of the tempering machine, quickly (don’t overheat!) use a heat gun on them to form one large clump or block of wafers. By doing this, you will help keep the wafers from sneaking through the blade and over-tempering your chocolate.

See? Quick and easy!

Want more game-changing tips like this?
Register now for RCI’s Truffles+More course February 20-22, 2019 in Elk Grove Village, Illinois (just outside Chicago). Visit retailconfectioners.org/events to stay up-to-date with all RCI’s educational offerings in the coming year.

RCI's Tip of the Week blog is just one of the many resources we offer to help candy makers refine their craft and build upon their business and marketing practices. Review past blog posts for quick and actionable tips to apply to your business. Look for the "Subscribe now" box on the right to enter your email address and start receiving weekly tips, like this, delivered straight to your email inbox.

Not a member? Click here to learn how RCI can help you build your sweet business.

Tuesday, November 20, 2018

Tip #284: 8 Ways to Show Employees Gratitude



Recognized employees are happy employees.

To some level, I think we can all agree this is a true statement. But why is it important? Studies show happy employees are, on average, 12% more productive than their less-happy counterparts. And now that Christmas is just over a month away, we could all use tips on how to be more productive, right?

Following an education session on attracting and retaining talent at RCI’s 2018 Annual Convention (RCI members: click here to watch the recap video), RCI members shared the countless ways they show employee appreciation (plus, many more) during our live question and answer forum, we call “Kettle Talk.” Here’s 8 of our favorite member ideas to show employee gratitude.

Simple recognition

This tip may be so obvious you could be overlooking it. Recognition in the form of a simple thank-you note or shout out in the company newsletter or on the white board in the breakroom can speak volumes. You may even be surprised at how many people hold on to kind notes from a boss or co-worker, to later reference when they need a pick-me-up.

Training

“40% of employees who receive poor job training leave their positions within the first year,” (go2HR). There are countless studies, like this, illustrating the value of employee training and development opportunities.

Staff from Winans Fine Chocolates + Coffees
regularly attends RCI's Annual Convention & Industry Expo
“We do a lot of training, because if [employees] feel overwhelmed, they won’t want to stick around,” said Mike Koch of Morley Candy Makers/Sanders Candy acknowledging the very low unemployment rate in their community. “When [we] hire someone, we do our best to keep them.”

Winans Fine Chocolates + Coffees acknowledges the importance of employee development through continued education and networking opportunities within the industry, and invites staff members to attend RCI conferences. Even if you can’t send your team to an RCI event, look into other industry education courses or professional networking organizations near you. Click here to see a list of RCI’s industry affiliates, many of which also host conferences and education courses for your consideration.

Celebrations

Carving out time to celebrate holidays, birthdays, work anniversaries or merely the fact that it’s Friday can boost morale before a busy holiday season, improve employee retention and help build an overall stronger company culture where the team feels appreciated.

Dolle’s Candyland saves up prizes throughout the year (many of which are free promotional items that they receive) to raffle off at their annual employee celebration. Everyone walks away with a prize—from kiddie pools to mugs and silly promotional products. Even with very little money invested in the prizes they make it fun for all involved.

While the aftermath of a typical company party may include streamers and used plastic cups, a company party for Dallas Caramel Company more closely resembles a Jackson Pollock painting. Outfitted in white t-shirts and equipped with throwable paintballs, staff members playfully battled it out in the company parking lot and took home a colorful reminder of the fun that ensued. Although this type of activity may not be the best fit for all teams, consider other unconventional ways to create memorable experiences for your team to enjoy.

Of course, you don’t have to go all out to celebrate your employees. Small acts of kindness, especially when unexpected, can go a long way and, in many cases, feel more thoughtful and personal. For example, Rosalind Candy Castle buys a couple dozen roses for Mother’s Day and gives mothers on staff a single rose.

As we prepare to celebrate Thanksgiving this week, consider ways to show your gratitude. Whether it comes in the form of a simple “thank you” note, more training and development opportunities or a fun celebration, taking the time to show employees you appreciate them is always worth the investment.

RCI's Tip of the Week blog is just one of the many resources we offer to help candy makers refine their craft and build upon their business and marketing practices. Review past blog posts for quick and actionable tips to apply to your business. Look for the "Subscribe now" box on the right to enter your email address and start receiving weekly tips, like this, delivered straight to your email inbox.

Not a member? Click here to learn how RCI can help you build your sweet business.

Tuesday, November 13, 2018

Tip #283: Create an Even Better Holiday Display with this Surprising Tip


If you’re looking to create an impressive holiday display in your candy shop, many would agree large moulded chocolates make great showpieces. However, working with chocolate as your medium certainly presents enough challenges to cause you to look for another subject to be the center of attention. Whether for fear of the potential effects of exposure to sunlight, humidity, curious customers, or ____________ (you fill in the blank), you may have decided long ago that even a jolly, three-foot-tall chocolate Santa in all his glory is not worth the investment of time and resources every year, especially during holiday season.

This week’s tip will allow you to deliver the same impact only a large chocolate Santa could, but with eventually the same effort as takes to do some light dusting. Simply follow the steps below to create a chocolate look-alike Santa (or snowman, Easter bunny, turkey, etc.) out of Plaster of Paris.

Step-By-Step Instructions for Chocolate Santa Look-Alike
By RCI member, Marie’s Candies of West Liberty, Ohio

Materials needed:

Marie's Candies has made plaster Easter
bunnies so realistic it's hard to tell the difference.
  • Plaster of Paris
  • Mixing bowl
  • Popsicicle stick (or other mixing utensil)
  • Access to water
  • Brown acrylic paint or spray paint
  • Paint brush
  • Glue gun (optional)
  • Icing eyes (optional)

Instructions:
  1. Make sure your favorite chocolate Santa mould is clean. The great thing about using moulds you already have is the Santa in your display will look just like the real chocolate Santas you want to sell.
  2. Follow the mixing instructions on a package of plaster of Paris.
  3. Wet the inside of the mould, so the Santa can be removed easily. Fill the mould a quarter at a time, tapping it to remove air.
  4. Remove Santa from the mould after one hour and let it dry for 24 hours.
  5. Wash the mould and any other tools immediately after use.
  6. Once Santa is dry, use spray paint or a brush to paint it chocolate brown.
  7. Use a glue gun to add icing eyes (optional).

After following these simple steps, you will have an impressive moulded chocolate so realistic, you’ll want to display it year after year! As far as we can tell, the only downside here is that you might have to perform a lick test if you get your look-alikes mixed up with actual chocolate. Have your real moulded chocolate displays ever met their untimely demise due to curious customers or exposure to the elements? Share your story in the comments below.

RCI's Tip of the Week blog is just one of the many resources we offer to help candy makers refine their craft and build upon their business and marketing practices. Review past blog posts for quick and actionable tips to apply to your business. Look for the "Subscribe now" box on the right to enter your email address and start receiving weekly tips, like this, delivered straight to your email inbox.

Not a member? Click here to learn how RCI can help you build your sweet business.

Tuesday, November 6, 2018

Tip #282: Collaborate to Get More Customers

So, it’s November. That means Christmas is right around the corner, and so is another holiday that may or may not be on your radar. Small Business Saturday is scheduled for November 24 this year. Unlike Black Friday and Cyber Monday, which are largely dominated by big box stores, this is a day to celebrate small business and encourage holiday shoppers to visit the brick and mortar businesses that serve their local community.

One of the greatest strengths of the Small Business Saturday movement is the way it brings communities together. Not only does it help small businesses attract consumers in their local communities, but it sparks opportunities for those businesses to work together toward that common goal. This week’s tip serves up actionable strategies for collaborating with fellow businesses in your community.

Cross-Promote Special Offers and Events

When a favorite local business or a neighboring business is promoting a sale or special event, offer to help promote it. This could be in the form of a shout out on social media, placing their sales flyer in your customers’ bags or promoting their special offer or event at the bottom of your eblast as part of a “what’s happening in our community” section. Sure, you could do it purely out of the goodness in your heart, but chances are the right partner is going to return the favor.

Not only will this practice create great relationships with fellow small businesses (not to mention, champions for your business), but it will also give your brand awareness legs…long, lanky monster legs. By expanding your reach through partnering businesses, you will have the capability to reach consumers you may not have ever had the chance to reach on your own.

Team Up on Traditional Advertising

For many small businesses, advertising through traditional channels like print, radio and tv may seem wildly out of reach, but have you ever considered splitting the cost between like-minded businesses in your community? As an example, a group of retailers from the small Canadian town of Almonte, near Ottawa, shared the common goal of attracting more consumers to their small town. By teaming up they were able to stretch their resources and purchase an ad in a regional magazine, valued at $1,000, for only $80 a month. “We don’t necessarily get our own ad, but it’s for Almonte,” said Emily Arbour, the owner of Cheerfully Made Goods. “If the town’s busy, then we all benefit.” Read more about their story, featured on Shopify.com.

Although Small Business Saturday may be a great way to get the ball rolling, don’t let your collaborations end after November 24. Use the event as an opportunity to experiment with different partners and find out what works well for all parties involved. If you find a partnership that works, begin to brainstorm ways to collaborate throughout the year.

Bonus: Who Should I Collaborate With?

If you’re asking yourself “what other businesses should I be collaborating with?” Read Reach Local’s blog post for some ideas on where to look for the right match for your business. Also, if you haven’t done so already, apply to be a Small Business Saturday “Neighborhood Champion” and get connected with other local champions participating in the movement. Click here for more information about how to get involved.

RCI's Tip of the Week blog is just one of the many resources we offer to help candy makers refine their craft and build upon their business and marketing practices. Review past blog posts for quick and actionable tips to apply to your business. Look for the "Subscribe now" box on the right to enter your email address and start receiving weekly tips, like this, delivered straight to your email inbox.

Not a member? Click here to learn how RCI can help you build your sweet business.

Tuesday, October 30, 2018

Tip #281: Want More Clicks? Segment Your Email List



Imagine yourself catching up with your extended family at Thanksgiving dinner. Chances are you wouldn’t share the same stories with your dear ole’ granny in the exact same way you would your favorite cousin/BFF. Similar to email segmentation, you may want to create different email messaging for your loyal customers versus someone who has never set foot in your store but signed up for your email list in hopes of winning a giveaway.

Segmentation is the practice of dividing individuals into groups based on similar characteristics, such as interests, demographics or behaviors. Think about what happens when you sign up to receive emails from a business, only to find you’re not interested in the content. It doesn't take long before you start to delete their emails before looking at them, and eventually unsubscribe. Segmentation helps ensure the content in your email is relevant to unique groups of subscribers.

WHY SEGMENT?

According to MailChimp, segmentation leads to better open rates, more clicks and less unsubscribe rates. In fact, users who segment their email lists experience 64.78% more clicks than those who don’t use segmentation.

DIVIDE AND CONQUER

Here's some ideas from BigCommerce.com for categories you could focus on to segment your email list.
  • Loyal/return shoppers
  • High total transaction customers
  • Subscribers who have not made a purchase
  • Customers who haven’t made a purchase within 30 days, 90 days and 180 days
  • Demographics such as age, location, etc.
If you're wondering how to identify which contacts fit in to which segments, here's three ways to source information.
  
1. LEVERAGE SALES DATA
You may already be capturing some of this sales data through your point-of-sale system which could help you identify top purchasers and one-time purchasers. Identifying sales data could present opportunities to upsell products, that could have otherwise been missed by sending your contacts the wrong messaging.

2. ASK FOR THEIR PREFERENCE
If you don't have access to your sales data, consider adding options like those pictured below to your subscription form to help you better meet the expectations of your contacts. Or if you have a printed sign-up sheet in your store, give them the opportunity to choose from a couple different options.

Constant Contact

3. TRACK SUBSCRIBER BEHAVIORS
If you use an email service provider like Constant Contact, Mail Chimp, etc. use their reporting features to identify what emails your contacts are reading, clicking and plain ignoring. Use this information to tailor emails that better suit their interests.

During the upcoming holiday season, leverage increased traffic, both in-store and online, to learn more about your customers and build a more effective email list. Identifying different segments of your contacts will not only help you better communicate through targeted messaging, but you can expect this tactic will improve your conversion rate too.

RCI Members: Constant Contact Email Marketing offers a fast, effective way to get your message out to customers and keep your organization top of mind. Start your email marketing today and receive an RCI member discount of 20% for purchasing the 6 month prepaid option or a discount of 25% for purchasing the 12 month prepaid option. Already use Constant Contact? Contact RCI to begin receiving the member discount.

Not a member? Click here to learn how RCI can help you build your sweet business.

Tuesday, October 23, 2018

Throwback Tip #146 Create Gingerbread House Kits

Photo credit: Flickr, Carrie Stephens
It’s hard to believe Christmas is just over two months away! The closeness of Christmas is why this week’s tip is a holiday idea that’s fun for kids of all ages. Host a gingerbread house making party!

A kit a Marie's Candies includes a pre-made house crafted out
of graham crackers, a bag of icing "glue" and a bag of
assorted holiday candies.
Create the individual kits ahead of time with graham crackers, icing and the colorful candies to decorate the houses. Then, charge a set fee and invite families and children to come make their own gingerbread house. Be sure to have plates available for them to take their creation home. RCI member, Marie’s Candies, has had great success inviting customers to decorate gingerbread houses during their annual holiday open house. You also could make it a weekly Saturday activity leading up to Christmas. The possibilities and ideas for this activity are endless!

Not up to hosting a party at your store yet, or don’t have the space? You can still create kits that customers can purchase and take home. Then, ask them to share photos of the finished products on your Facebook page. It’s a great way to stay connected to your customers!

RCI's Tip of the Week blog is just one of the many resources we offer to help candy makers refine their craft and build upon their business and marketing practices. Review past blog posts for quick and actionable tips to apply to your business. Look for the "Subscribe now" box on the right to enter your email address and start receiving weekly tips, like this, delivered straight to your email inbox.

Not a member? Click here to learn how RCI can help you build your sweet business.