Betty Jane Candies has been serving Iowans confections for three-quarters of a century. Back in 1938, Peter Kloston, an entrepreneurial candy maker from Joliet, Illinois, had heard that a candy company had shut down in Dubuque, Iowa and that there was a surplus of skilled candy makers looking for work.
Anxious to seize the opportunity, he relocated his family to Dubuque and opened a store on, yes Main Street, and named it Betty Jane Candies. The company quickly became a mainstay of the city. During three generations of Klostons, Betty Jane Candies grew from a small store on Main to a healthy confectionery business, encompassing a production facility on the city’s West side and three retail locations (two in Dubuque and one in Cedar Rapids, Iowa).
In July 2011, the Siegert family purchased the company with Andrew Siegert taking over as president. As the young candy maker explains, preserving the heritage of Betty Jane’s Candies has been an important goal for the new owner.
“We have been very careful about keeping the integrity of the recipes intact,” he explains.
If you were stranded on a deserted island with only one kind of candy, what would it be?
This is a tough one, but I guess I would have to say the Gremlin, which is our version of a turtle. Those are just amazing.
What’s the last cool thing you saw online?
The COOLEST thing I’ve seen online was our Gremlin chocolates in People Magazine’s holiday entertaining guide. We were chosen as the top culinary gift for our state (Iowa) and so many of our Facebook fans sent me messages about it before I had even seen the article.
When you were little, what did you want to be when you grew up?
I’m only 29 so when I “grow up,” I want to be a successful entrepreneur and owner of a popular candy company! If you had asked me that when I was 10...Batman.
What issues concern you most about the confectionery industry and why?
My biggest concern about the confectionery industry is the volatility of raw material pricing.
What’s the last book you read?
Work has kept me from reading as much as I’d like, we’ve been very busy these last few years but that’s a good thing. I’m ashamed to admit I have about four of them “in progress,” including Warren Buffett’s Tap Dancing to Work, George Packer’s The Unwinding and Walter Isaacson’s Steve Jobs.
What is your pet peeve?
If given the chance to choose anyone, whom would you like to collaborate with?
I’ve had the chance to collaborate with a lot of great people in the candy and retail industry already. Jim Bourne installed a huge new enrobing system for us last summer and he is a very knowledgeable and friendly guy. Dan Abel Jr. and Sr. down in St. Louis of Chocolate, Chocolate, Chocolate company are some really great candy makers.
What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever received?
A very good piece of advice I remember to this day from my Little League coach, “Practice doesn’t make perfect. Perfect practice makes perfect.” Just being at work for long periods of time doesn’t make you a hard worker or an effective leader. If you really want to succeed, you need to put in focused effort.