The 42 year old owner of Hugo and Nate Confections, maker of old fashioned, delicious caramels, stumbled into entrepreneurship driven by a desire for an iconic bike and an event his partner hosted.
A Red Seal Baker/Patissier and Chef who makes caramels in Kitchener/Waterloo, Amede is a married father of two. In fact the business is named after his twin boys.
We sat down briefly with Amede to learn more about him and his path to start a confectionery business.
Teaching and parenting would be enough of a job for anyone, but Amede had a singular reason to start the business.
So how do you start selling caramels? If you’re Amede, you cook up a batch of candies, design labels, drop off some samples to 3 local retailers… and when they are this good, before you even return from giving out samples, 2 of the 3 vendors have already reached out wanting to sell the product.
As he puts it, “I’ve been wrapping ever since”.
The success of his caramels led Amede to think about introducing new products. Right now, he says, he is just finalizing a custom ‘coffee crisp’ caramel for their national distributor. Once that’s out of the way, he’ll start putting together some ideas for the holiday season. Right now there are five flavours available: coffee, chocolate, fleur de sel, harvest apple and vanilla bourbon.
The next step for the business is to occupy a larger facility, and then expanding the product line from caramels to a wider range of confections.
He has yet to quit his day job, and only has casual help. For now, he uses a rental kitchen and in addition to local retailers, he has launched a website to process online orders about a year after starting the biz.
While making caramels sounds like a sweet gig, the hours are crazy long. During peak season, he is cooking/cutting/wrapping over 15000 caramels a week.
His advice to wannabe entrepreneurs is to find a market that isn’t saturated, produce a product with integrity, care about your customers, especially those that are representing your company.
We asked him about his biggest daily challenge.
“Argh! Wrapping, without question.” When you think about the challenge most of us have to wrap holiday presents, wrapping thousands of caramels every week seems like a monumental task indeed.
We asked him to share some of the lessons he learned about himself as an artisan.
Lucky locals get to place custom orders, but Amede says that he is always inspired by customer feedback, so if you have an idea after tasting the caramels in your July box, he’d like to know.
His daily schedule is incredibly long, but doing what you love can be incredibly motivating, even when you end up running on barely any sleep.
His off season and peak season tend to be very different. Just hearing him describe his day had us thinking of a nap.
We asked him whether there are any special instructions to store the caramels. His reply: “Eat them, enjoy them, keep them cool in the hot summer months. Hide them from your friends and family if you want them to last a couple of weeks.” For the record, we had to hide the caramels from ourselves before we started packing them in our July boxes.
We talked about some of the trends he sees in his field, and he noticed that packaging plays a huge role in his realm. Mediocre products, featured in beautiful boxes sometimes become popular based on “smoke and mirrors”, he says. On a more positive note, he adds, some boutique craftspeople are starting to set up shop and produce some pretty cool, natural stuff.
And what, we asked, does a busy dad, teacher and artisan do for fun when he is not stirring caramels in his traditional copper pot? Grinning, he tells us “wrap candies… well, and ride my bike.”
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