Meet the Mompreneur® of the Month February 2010
Slingerlands, New York
Single mom of 7-year-old son
My Biz: Red Thread Confections
During this Valentine’s month we honor candy girl Annika Pfluger, who creates exquisite, divinely tasty chocolates that serve a great cause too.
Business Birthdate: October 2007
Sweet inspiration: Red Thread Confections is a unique artisan handcrafted chocolate business. I got the inspiration for my company from the ancient Chinese Legend of the Red Thread: “At birth, an invisible red thread connects us to everyone in our life who will become important to us. That thread may stretch and shrink over time, but it will never break.” As an adoptive parent, the red thread legend is very close to my heart. I believe that my son was connected to me by the invisible red thread at birth, and that he will also be forever connected to his birth family and birth country by that same red thread. Red Thread Confections honors the red thread legend by donating a portion of the proceeds from each sale to orphanages in Guatemala, Ethiopia, Haiti and China. Another part of our mission is to create red thread connections with each of our customers – once our customers try our chocolates, they are forever connected as well!
Recipe with a heart: I began my red thread journey when the red thread tugged at my heart and brought me to Guatemala. I met my son there for the first time in July 2003. While the children received endless love from the nannies who took care of them, it was clear that the orphanage was in need of many material things. Thus the seed for Red Thread Confections was sewn. After returning from Guatemala, I spent the next several years learning all I could about chocolate and confections. I graduated from Ecole Chocolat based in Vancouver, Canada and studied artisan chocolates and confections at the Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, New York. My passion is developing unique recipes to produce the highest possible quality products.
Doing what I love: I approach my business in the same vein as an artistic endeavor. It’s a natural progression for me because I’m also an accomplished professional cellist. I have a Master of Music degree and was Fulbright grant recipient for study at the Franz Liszt Academy of Music in Budapest, Hungary. Currently, in addition to Red Thread Confections, I’m an active cello teacher in the Albany, NY area (www.albanycellolessons.com)
Start up steps Getting the business off the ground took a lot of legwork and planning. In addition to completing training to become a chocolatier, I also had to research all the legalities of running a home-based operation. First, I checked with my town zoning department to make sure that the renovation of my production space was in compliance with all of my local zoning regulations. Then I contacted the Department of Agriculture and Markets for the specifics of how to set up my commercial kitchen production space and to apply for an Article-20C license.
Creating buzz for my chocolate biz: I market my chocolates in a wide variety of ways. I’m active in many different social networks (Twitter, Facebook, etc.) as well as participating in some review blogs. I attend my local Chamber of Commerce and women’s business groups for networking purposes. I’ve also advertised locally in my area as an underwriter for our public radio station. Another way to get the word out is to get products on shelves in gourmet and specialty stores in the area. I haven’t attended any major trade shows because I’m too small of an operation, but I have participated in many chocolate shows as a vendor.
My work-family balancing act:As a single mom and sole provider for my family, balancing work and life is definitely a challenge and one that I struggle with daily! Logistically it can be difficult and it makes for VERY long days, but generally, my day goes like this. Up early with my coffee and checking email; then I get my son up and ready for school. In the meantime I head down to my production space and start the chocolate tempering. While my son is in school, it’s all about making chocolates, packing orders and marketing for sales, along with interspersing my cello teaching obligations (I teach at a few schools around town and also have private students).
After my son gets home, we have a nice late afternoon and dinner together and then maybe off to soccer practice; or I may schedule an early evening cello student a couple of times per week. Later in the evenings, I start working on my computer/administrative duties, bills, accounting, and all other miscellaneous paperwork. Late nights after my son is in bed, it’s either back to the commercial kitchen space to work on more chocolate production, or I’ll continue with the computer/administrative duties. Long days… but so worth it! I try to leave at least an hour per day where I can read a book or watch a favorite TV show. I also try not to schedule more than a few hours of work per day on weekends. So I guess my life doesn’t have too much balance – I’m still trying! But, it’s definitely getting easier as my son is getting older and more independent.
Favorite mompreneur perk:I love being my own boss and being in charge of my own destiny. I love the fact that I can attend special events at my son’s school and that I can be there for him.
Best isolation buster:I love connecting with my online friends at mompreneursonline.com or over at Facebook. I feel like they’re my “co-workers” at my virtual water cooler. Whenever I want a little break, I just head on over.
What’s next?I have plans in the works to expand my product line to include more variety of different types of confections. But I want to keep my business a small operation. Offering a truly hand made product is important to my mission and to maintaining a high quality confection.
Helping Haiti: I’ve recently added SOS Haiti to the list of charitable organizations that I donate to. The tragedy of the earthquake there is so sad and the need has never been greater for the children of Haiti who desperately need our help. From now through the end of February, I’m pleased to announce that we’re doubling our donations – SOS Children’s Villages in Haiti will receive a matching donation of our allotted funds for contributions.
Check out her store at Red Thread Confections