Winner, 2013: Andy’s Candy Apothecary
In 2013, Andy’s Candy Apothecary was selected as the grand prize winner of the inaugural Calling All Dreamers business competition from a field of 49 contestants.
We caught up with first-time entrepreneur Andy Paul, the owner of Andy’s Candy Apothecary, to learn how the competition helped him jumpstart his business.
How did you hear about the competition and why did you enter?
A friend of mine who knew of my fondness for great candy and who had come along with me and my wife to the Fancy Food Show in San Francisco suggested it to us. I had been talking idly about starting a small side business up until that point. I entered mostly because it seemed like the right opportunity to push me along, although at the time I didn’t think much about winning it.
What was the best thing about winning the Calling All Dreamers competition?
The prize package! I had always known that starting up a business required a lot of work and services – although I didn’t really know how much. Having such a comprehensive suite of services was a huge help. If you make a list of all of the little things and services that you would need to start up a business, it’s daunting. Having a majority of them provided for me at the beginning made the start-up work much more manageable.
You just celebrated a one year anniversary, how is business?
Business has exceeded our expectations. When we opened on December 13, 2013, we had planned to have three business components right away: storefront, website, and events. But, the storefront was so busy from the start that it absorbed all of our time and energy. This might have been a financial concern, but the store outperformed so much that it covered any projected income we were missing from the other two components. Then, over the summer, we began our events piece with premium in-store candy tastings, and candy displays for parties. We also now have a concessions outpost at the B Street Theatre. We finally launched our e-commerce website in December 2014, which did very well over the holidays.
What is the most challenging thing about owning your own business?
Growth and maintenance. We now have 5 part-time employees. The larger the business gets, the trickier it is to sustain from a management and quality perspective. Also, you want to keep things fresh for your customers and for you and your staff, so that requires an ongoing investment of time and energy.
What is the most rewarding thing about owning your own business? What is it like to own your own business?
First of all, it makes me so happy to have brought something cool and fun to downtown. I love our shop and I love the reactions of our customers when they walk in. As for lifestyle, the biggest shift for me was that feeling of creating my own path (long-term, and on a day-to-day basis). I was ready for a career where I felt fully in charge of the directions and ideas to pursue.
Why did you decide to open a business in downtown?
Well, the competition required it! Honestly, once the competition started, we were also considering some non-downtown locations. That was a hard decision – we had no idea. Ultimately, we thought that, with the arena coming, it was the right decision. And there’s no question now, that it was.
What do you like best about your downtown location?
There is a ton of foot traffic downtown and a lot of growing energy. Even when the arena was two years away, we had an automatic built-in walk-by customer base. And, there are still tons of new customers finding us every day. Our exact location – next door to Temple Coffee, and across the street from Blackbird – has been perfect for helping people to find us.
What was your vision before you opened? How did the competition help you bring it to life?
My vision was to have a shop that carried all of the coolest, most interesting, and highest quality chocolates and candies that I could find. I knew that there were other people like me who would appreciate all of the great things I could find and bring to Sacramento. The competition made that all possible. I also wanted a thriving business with a healthy buzz. The competition brought us a ton of goodwill and publicity to help make all that happen.
As an entrepreneur, why is it important to dream?|
Dreams allow you to be a little less practical. That’s where the energy starts for me. Dreams allow you to say “what if,” which is basically what I was doing for years before the competition came along. At some point, you need to come down to earth and cover logistics, etc. But, the dream is the motivator underneath. Life will always be ready with the reasons why you can’t do this or that, but so many of the great success stories start with someone being told they can’t do it. But, then they did it anyway. I was doing it to myself actually. I had this idea, but in my mind, it was always going to be a side hobby like a small street cart on Second Saturdays, or maybe an online business. I didn’t think it could be a full business. I didn’t think I could make it happen. The competition allowed me to dream a little bigger than that.