Part 3 of the “From McDonald’s to a Million Dollars” series

If you missed part 1, you can read it here. If you missed part 2, you can read it here.

OK! Let’s dive in.

So my business partner, Sher and I had already tried our hand at several different business ventures at this point in the story. It was Winter and we needed to come up with an idea…FAST!

Inner Glow was born!

Handmade beeswax ornaments that we formed in beautiful molds. They smelled divine and looked so Victorian. We tracked down the most popular locations in the mall and set up a kiosk to sell for the holiday season. We put together a few other creations as well, including gift baskets and our very first cookie mix wrapped up in a lamé bag.

That was an OK gig. A lot of effort for not a lot of return. But it sufficed at the time.

Out of the handmade collection, the cookie mix got the most interest. This sparked our juices to market on a wholesale level. Off to New York City, we went with hope, our bag of goodies, a flyer, and a display rack (which we made in the garage out of wood we acquired from Michael’s craft store.) 🙂

Talk about “culture shock!”

2 small town girls taking their “crafts” to one of the most stylish, cutting-edge meccas of the world. I guess we were too naive to be nervous! Needless to say, we got a few eye-rolls!

What this experience taught us was that food had a special allure to it.

Even though our first attempt at cracking into the gourmet food scene was a flop, there was intrigue from people high up. This planted the seed for future endeavors.

We went back to what worked before – the local craft shows. When we were pounding the pavement at the buying houses, we came across a new company who made large, soft pretzels. They were marketing them to boutique grocers. We got the idea of grilling these beauties and serving them with various dipping sauces at the festivals. We placed our first order and learned the ropes of shipping (and storing) pallets of frozen food.

The crowds went wild. There was nothing like what we were doing on the food scene. We had flavors like sourdough with stone ground mustard, mozzarella with fresh marina, and cinnamon and sugar with hot caramel sauce. Plus, there was something about seeing your huge pretzel being grilled right to order that made people really excited. This was a success!

A success that didn’t come without challenges.

Challenges such as:

  • Every show was outside where the weather was the one factor that you couldn’t control.
  • As we grew, so did the need for freezer space. We sourced a local restaurant that allowed us to utilize their walk-in freezers, but that quickly got old for them and left us in a quandary.
  • It was grunt labor. 10 hours on your feet in high heat, plus the set-up and tear down every show was exhausting.

We knew we liked food.

We knew people liked our food.

We knew we had to do something different to make a sustainable and enjoyable business.

This is when we started thinking about gourmet foods. We started playing in our kitchen.

An individual truffle was our first innovation that looked special enough to market. Very fast into the research and development, it was apparent that we didn’t have the skills or operation to control the shelf life of a product with unstable ingredients like fresh cream.

We were confident of our flavor combinations, so we brainstormed how we could apply all our interesting truffle ideas into something that was shelf-stable.

And the Decadent Dippers came into fruition.

2 pretzel rods dipped in flavored chocolates and mounded with loads of mouthwatering toppings, finished off with a decorative drizzle.

We created a line and went door-to-door within a 60-mile radius of our home.

At the time, there wasn’t a product like this – a gourmet treat that looked elegant enough to be in the gift segment. It was perfect for gift basket companies, corporate gifts, coffee shops, and so much more.

Within a couple of months, we’d connected with a master broker who saw amazing potential in the line. From there he networked with well over 100 road reps encouraging their customers to bring in our products.

This was real.

Finally, a business that was getting a serious foothold and allowed us to do something that we loved.

We grew bigger and bigger.

We transitioned from the lower level of our home to a 600 square foot facility, to eventually an 8,000 square foot commercial kitchen and warehouse.

Through sales and marketing, including extensive trade shows, we built our customer base to 10,000 wholesale customers and 3,000 retail customers.

These numbers weren’t an “email list,” they were buyers! (Many of them ordering multiple times per month to keep their shelves stocked with fan favorites.)

This was the pinnacle of our endeavors!  

million dollars

We went from a white piece of paper and crafted something that grossed 1.7 million dollars in our best year.

After 17 years, we sold that company.

The lessons that were learned, the friendships that we made, the memories that were created through that time will forever have a footprint in our hearts.

Let’s face it, business is a roller coaster! It’s got the highest highs, the deepest lows, and no doubt promises a wild ride.

I wouldn’t trade it for the world!

You can see, how anyone (even a McDonald’s employee) can persevere and create something from nothing. Something that banks 7-figures and touches thousands of people around the world.

If you’ve got an idea, pursue it. If it doesn’t work the first time, try again. Tweak, test, perfect.

People are waiting for your innovation!

Until next time…breathe joy,