#SaturdaySweets. Karameller is a new candy shop in Vancouver that sells Scandinavian candy free from GMO, trans-fat and high-fructose corn syrup. One morning we dropped by to chat with the founders, Louise and Luis, to learn how to import tons of candy and how to do what you love with those that you love.
What brought you to this business?
Luis: You know, I think we should be eating candy while we answer these questions. Louise can start with that one and I’ll make you guys a little bag.
Louise: I’m born and raised in Sweden. Swedes eat the most candy in the world – it’s always between the Swedes and the Fins – about 19 kilos per person per year and about 6 kilos of that is bulk candy. I’ve lived in Canada for 12 years and every Christmas, New Year, birthday, any holiday I could think of, my mom and my dad would send over five kilogram packages of candy because there was no good candy here – not to me anyway. Finally, after 12 years, I saw that there was a gap in the market for good candy.
It took us about a year from start to finish (to find the location and get the branding going, find the interior designer, etc.).
Did you get help with the branding and the interior design of the store?
Luis: Michael travels to Portland quite a bit and every time they went, there is candy store that they love so he was very much tuned in to the idea of a candy store and how to make that a much more interesting experience and a more beautiful location.
The design is very Scandinavian. We wanted the colour of the candy to pop. Traditional candy stores are very busy with a lot of colours. In our store, all of the focus is on the candy.
And what about branding?
Louise: The branding was created by Glasfurd & Walker.
Luis: When we approached them, they loved the concept and the idea and they were also very keen to work with us, which I thought was sort of a lucky break too because they’re quite busy and getting into their schedule would’ve been pretty tough if they weren’t excited about the project.
Going forward we’re looking at doing partnerships with other local brands and companies where we find alignment in what we’re trying to do.
Did you do any sort of marketing to promote your store and build your brand?
Luis: We knew from the beginning that we wanted to try a social media only strategy so we contracted an amazing PR person, Erin Sousa from Sparkle Media, and we knew that our approach would be through Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter, and she’s been great with that.
Erin’s vision really complements the design aesthetic of the store, the idea, the feel, the colours, the tone, everything.
When you were a kid, what did you want to be when you grew up?
Luis: I remember I wanted to be a mechanical engineer. I was in industrial engineering for the first few years, but then I ended up switching to a career in music, which caused a lot of controversy at home. But soon after I got the opportunity to play with a well-known rock band in Colombia and then I met the band that was playing with Shakira at the time.
When I turned 23, I moved to Vancouver to study audio. I ended up staying and about 10 years ago I started getting into IT through music and computers and soon enough IT became my entire world. Now I have my own IT company.
I love computers and I love music, I still play around town.
Louise: I always thought a cop or a flight attendant. Going through school I didn’t really know what I wanted to do, but I always liked working in hotels and with people, meeting different people every day. I started working in hotels on the weekends when I went to school. When I was 19, I moved to Oslo and I got a job in a hotel. I stayed there for five years and then I started working on cruise ships and that’s actually how I met my husband. So I guess hospitality was my calling, and it still is – I love it. But it’s different now because it’s my store, I get to be proud of what they come in for, it’s my product.
I think a lot of people are surprised when I’m behind the counter and they’re asking about the brand and I say that I’m the owner, they’re like, “What! You’re the owner?! You’re actually working here?” And I say, “Yeah, working here 7 days a week.”
What has been the most exciting minute of your entrepreneurial journey?
Luis: Just taking this from concept to completion is one of the most rewarding things, and just seeing people walk in the door every time is like, “Yes! Another customer!” It’s very exciting.
Louise: I think the first moment was probably when we saw the brand for the first time. When the logo came out, it made everything more real.
Everything was sort of up in the air until we saw the logo. It was like, “Oh my god, this is what it looks like, finally.” That was a big moment.
What technology / apps / websites do you use on a day to day basis?
Luis: We use a nest thermostat, which is really cool because we have the ability to monitor temperature remotely and because we do a lot of chocolate in the store, we need to keep the temperature constant, we can’t let it get too warm, and we can’t just turn it off at the end of the day.
Being in IT and technology, it was just the natural course to find the coolest little gadgets and products to use in the store.
Who has been the biggest influence in your life and what lessons did they teach you?
Luis: When I started my IT business and became a consultant, somebody who was in the community doing consulting as well reached out to me out of the blue and basically was like, “Hey, who are you and what are you doing? How can we collaborate?” And it was very unexpected because I had a sense that it was everybody kind of on their own. It really took me by surprise that he reached out so openly and in a friendly way to collaborate and share his knowledge and that really changed my mentality around entrepreneurship.
Every time I learn something new, I try to share it back whenever I can.
What advice would you give to new entrepreneurs who are starting their own businesses?
Luis: Find something you love. Actually, find something you love that’s not too specific. It’s too easy to get into something very particular that you’re amazing at and get lost. There are two sides of any coin: one side is your passion and then the other side is business. Keeping both sides of that coin in mind is important.
Louise: I say surround yourself with a great team and go for it.