An Entrepreneur’s Journal
Tuesday, March 1
This morning I signed on Chargers Candy’s first candy broker. I’ve had negative experiences with other types of brokers and reps in the past, signing people who did not perform well and even individuals who were downright dishonest. It was a trip I no longer wanted to take.
However, my buddy Chuck convinced me that he had the best candy brokers working for him, and that they would be a good fit for our company too. One retailer in their region, CVS, has been on our “to do” list for a while now; this could be our big break. Today’s activities reaffirmed an important lesson: Be open to new suggestions. Every new contact brings new possibilities, and a few bad experiences shouldn’t spoil the opportunity to pursue potentially good ones.
Twenty-seven-year-old Daphne Nissanoff Gerendash founded Chargers Candy with her mother in 2001. To date, the San Diego-based company has rolled out two products, Chargers Chocolate Covered Espresso Beans and Chili + Lime Gum.
Building the company from the ground up has been a challenge, but Nissanoff Gerendash, who graduated from Brandeis University at 19, is not easily daunted. She even managed to take time out from her professional schedule to get married this fall.
In this feature she shares some of the joys and tribulations that are part of an entrepreneur’s life. Rick Wilshe of Barnes & Noble College Bookstores, who wrote the companion piece, “A Category Manager’s Journal” (See page 60), happens to be among Nissanoff Gerendash’s favorite retail clients!
Wednesday, March 2
I originally planned to be in San Francisco today. I had an appointment scheduled with Maria Long, the candy buyer for Fry’s Electronics.
We used to do work with distributors that sold to Fry’s, but unfortunately, they left the candy industry and our relationship ended as a result. My repeated attempts to renew our relationship directly with Fry’s failed, as Maria was very busy and difficult to reach.
I was fortunate one day last month and was able to finally reach her. We set up an appointment for today, but I received a voicemail that the meeting was cancelled because Maria had to leave town on business. This was certainly a disappointment. It took a year to schedule this meeting, but I’m not worried, I will reschedule it for an appropriate time.
I have learned not to be disappointed if something doesn’t pan out the way I planned. Everything happens for a reason. Good things are on the horizon. Patience is key.
Thursday, March 3
I just booked my flight to New York for March 7-10. I’m mainly going to visit family, but I will try to set up some appointments while I’m there. Harmon’s just notified me that the candy buyer has changed, so maybe I can arrange to meet the new guy, Michael Malaussena. It’s the perfect opportunity to introduce our latest product, Chargers Chile + Lime Gum. I sent Mike an e-mail to see if he’s available while I’ll be there. He was courteous and responded quickly, but I’m out of luck, he’s busy until March 17.
I also tried to reach Frank Dinunzi at Dylan’s Candy Bar. Since Dylan’s is the trendiest candy store in New York City, I wanted to see if we can combine efforts and have them introduce our hottest gum (no pun intended!) to their customers. Frank was very familiar with our Chargers Espresso Beans and has contemplated bringing us in many times. He was open to meeting with me and told me to call him when I get into town to set up a time.
One lesson I have learned is that persistence pays off, and that face-to-face meetings are an important tool in completing sales.
Monday, March 7
I just landed in New York. The weather here is unseasonably cold! I’m still trying to thaw out from the few minutes I stood outside waiting for a cab.
I have a few calls to make while in town and hopefully some meetings too. On my list are Frank, Doug Kling, previously of Cadbury Adams, and Stephanie, the former buyer at Harmon.
Thursday, March 10
Well, I'm leaving New York City today. I didn't accomplish much in the way of business, but it's not why I came.
I'm still playing phone tag with Frank. I received a voice mail saying we can meet tomorrow at 4 p.m. if I'm still in town. Oh well. I decided to drop off samples without the meeting even though this is against my rules. My Chargers gum traveled 3,000 miles with me, I may as well have Frank taste it.
This could be an important account if things work out. I will follow up with him via phone when I get back to San Diego.
Monday, March 14
They say that when it rains, it pours. This usually doesn’t apply in San Diego because it usually just doesn’t rain. But today it is raining, and it’s raining bad news.
I received a call from my fulfillment house that they are shutting down without notice. I have been told that I have until March 23 to get all of my goods relocated. As if this wasn’t bad enough, I have a large shipment of new tins coming in from China in two days. I also need to have a pallet of Chargers Chile + Lime Gum for a customer in four days. I need to make a quick decision about where to divert the shipment.
In a pinch, I know who to call for last-minute advice, my buddy Chuck. Chuck has been in business with his father for many years and has broken into the candy industry over time, so when he gives me advice, I listen. Through Chuck I found my new fulfillment house. My lesson of the day was to always make a point of keeping in touch with friends in the industry. They are usually happy to help and can provide invaluable assistance when you need it most.
Friday, March 18
Today is a very exciting day for Chargers Candy. After several months of trying to get a meeting with the regional candy buyers, I finally figured out how to get in to Costco.
As it turns out, there are different ways to get into Costco, and the best way is through their road show buyers. Road show buyers, Emily Halac and Jon Perz, are always looking for something new and interesting for their Costco customers, and since it is done on consignment only, they are more open to bringing in new products. I have been told that there is a 23 percent retention rate from road shows.
Today, with my wonderful team of helpers—my mom, my dad and my husband—I unloaded two pallets worth of Chargers into Costco. The show started at 10 a.m., and we sampled and sold all day. We lined up seven regional road shows with Costco over the next few months.
Tuesday, March 29
I made an executive decision to pull our 7-Eleven account from our specialty rep as I was disappointed with his efforts to appeal to the buyer. We are perfect for convenience stores, 7-Eleven in particular, as they like to partner up with new, innovative, functional candy companies like ourselves. It also is a no-brainer as we are working with 7-Eleven Canada.
I later realized that the 7-Eleven U.S. candy buyer is new, and my rep did not give a Chargers presentation; he just dropped off samples with other candies he represents. I am sure the buyer had a lot on her plate, and this was the wrong time and approach to get noticed. I will handle this account on my own because sometimes it is true that if you want something done the right way, you have to do it yourself.
The most important thing to remember from all this is that persistence is key, and if a buyer says, “I’m not interested,” it means “not interested right now.” In order to succeed you need patience, funding, and the ability to hold out and stick around for a while. Always remember to do your homework on a company before you approach them. It’s the best way to capitalize on your time and money when you meet your audience.
March has been a difficult month. We just celebrated our two-year anniversary in November, and this month we clearly experienced growing pains. There is a lot of exciting news in the air. Chargers Espresso Beans was nominated as Product of the Year in the United States, and is also a finalist in Canada’s Grand Prix. We love the attention and can’t get enough.
Our company is working on more Costco road shows, a test pilot with Walgreen’s, expansion to the university segment in Canada, export to foreign countries, coffee shop chains, and the most exciting—tracking our Chile + Lime Gum launch with Cost Plus World Market. Our team is also developing new candies and flavors for release in the coming months. Good things are on the horizon!