Taking Stock of BonBonBar

My wordpress draft folder shows that I’ve been meaning to write this post since September 5th… Time goes by so fast — week after week! And whatever I wanted to say in September is completely outdated. It’s now nearing the end of November, and I just looked back to see that BonBonBar’s first order was put in on Dec 9, 2007. BonBonBar has been around for nearly a year! For almost 52 weekends and Mondays, I’ve spent my time making, packaging and shipping out candy.

I really do want to share what’s going on with my business with my readers, but it’s a bit more complicated than baking and eating info, and constantly changing… So, I thought I’d just run through and share a few bits about different subjects at this point… And get used to blogging about thoughts again!


When I rented my first commercial kitchen last November, I had had such a hard time trying to find one that I just grabbed it out of desperation. Little did I know that I’d now be in my third kitchen (and the first with real A/C), and will switch to my fourth kitchen (also A/C’ed) in December.

The new kitchen is probably the biggest element of change since the company started because I will have unlimited hours and unlimited access. Until now, I’ve had limited kitchen time per week. Because of that, I’ve had to try to be busy, but not too busy; and that was another reason for being cautious about wholesale, which is volume-oriented…which, for me, means more time and less money for the same work and ingredient prices.

I’m still trying to wrap my head around the unlimited thing, and try to figure out how I can take advantage of it sooner rather than later. A lot of my worries of the past year had to do with trying to figure out how much revenue I could make out of limited production time… And now that issue is practically gone. But I’m not convinced that a lot more wholesale is the answer now, either; there are still issues with it other than time. I think more direct sales is still the answer, hopefully for large orders like weddings, events, and gifts. At least I will have a faster turnaround time so that orders can be filled faster whenever necessary, which will help customer service. Already, I’m shipping Mon-Wed’s instead of just on Mondays. And it’s making me feel a lot less guilty.

Also, it’s been rare that I’ve been fully stocked for my Farmers Markets since the whirlwind of DailyCandy, and it’ll be nice to know that I can always go and make more when needed.


I have an intern! An intern who’s a fantastic worker and a wonderful person. So, not only have I not been alone in the kitchen for a few weeks, but more things are getting done in the same amount of time. It’s almost like magic — that things are done well that I didn’t do! And there’s another perspective in the kitchen. It’s very exciting.

In addition, I’ve gotten faster and more efficient with my work. When I started last year with 4 products, it seemed like such a daunting task to make and keep track of everything. Now I have 13 products! And so things shift — instead of making huge batches of 2 bars, I make smaller batches of 5 bars. I think I prefer that variety, or at least not having to make so many Malt Bars at one time. I like them and they’ve been especially popular lately (often beating out the Caramel Nut Bar for the first time), but they take more time and effort than any other bar. I’ve considered discontinuing them, or just offering them in dark chocolate, but I just can’t go through with it. At least, as I mentioned above, I’ve gotten faster with them. Oh, and I finally got a bigger mixer, so things are faster on the marshmallow front, too.

And while I occasionally have problems with what I make, my reject rate has gone waaaay down. I used to plan on so many rejects per batch, but now I don’t so concretely. In a way, I’ve probably gotten a bit cheaper because of this — I try to avoid waste more than I ever have.

It’s a nice feeling, to know how much I’ve improved since I started this blog in January 2006, when I started culinary school. And at the same time, I promise that chocolate and sugar keep me more than humble — I respect that they are complex and temperamental things that we manage to tame occasionally.

And when things do go wrong, I can take it in stride, and apply creativity and logic to fix problems. I don’t have the fear that I had about production that I had when I started. I know I can make it work somehow.


I had vague ideas of having good customer service when I started, but I had no idea what that really meant beyond a vague idea of helping sales. It’s so much more than that. Customers have been so wonderful!!! I’ve met, emailed, befriended, and/or have been helped by so many customers around the world. I’m so touched — and amazed — by how many people are taken the time to email and call me to let me know how much they enjoy the confections and appreciate what I do. And at Farmers Markets, I look forward to chatting with my regulars perhaps more than anything else. Without that interaction, the business wouldn’t be nearly as fun.


I still think that a handmade candy store is the best form of the business. But with a bad economy, something of a naturally wandering spirit, and a lingering wish to be free from a city, I can’t quite commit myself to it yet. If money weren’t an issue, then sure, I’d go ahead, but it would be a big task now. I’ve learned a lot in the past year about running a business (and that’s really what this first year was for), and I think I could figure it out… Some days, it seems like a very big thing, and some days, it seems quite small. I think if I had a business partner, it would be a lot smoother; I gravitate towards food and recipes, and when I can, sleep. But when I think about what I’ve been able to accomplish as basically a one-person company — like press mentions by Gourmet and Bon Appetit — I wonder what could happen if the company was bigger and had more resources.

I hope that the changes above make things easier. I don’t want to go into all the time-consuming minutiae that I do for the company every week, but it’s sometimes tempting to imagine not having to do anything for it… and not have to think about sales, production, and the weather all the time… To go to a job at someone else’s company and come home and have true spare time. But then I think how would miss the decisions and connections that I get to make now. And I’m not sure what I would do with that spare time…

It’s kind of interesting — I was contacted by a TV production company to develop a cooking show a couple months ago, and as much as I think that lifestyle would be great and less strenuous, I just couldn’t imagine what I would do in front of the camera — I couldn’t even do a simple demo tape. Objectively, I know I could have done something, but subjectively, it just wasn’t something I could bring myself to do. The only viable title I could think of was “Awkward Silences with Nina” with a commensurate picture of me… :s And besides, I only have about 20 of my own recipes — and mostly esoteric candy ones at that. Anyway, it’d be a slim chance that the show would have happened even if I’d gone for it. Part of me is still getting used to being “on” to the public all time just as a business owner, and I think I still have things to do in this role.

So, I’ll see how the holidays go (hopefully lots of orders! you just never know!)… and will try to write about it more often…

7 Responses to “Taking Stock of BonBonBar”

  1. Tania Says:

    Thanks for the update, and congrats on the kitchen and the intern.

    I’ll be placing some holiday orders, as will some of the other people I have convinced to try your wares. Santa has told me to order some Malt Bars up for myself, and who am I to deny Santa?

  2. Verena Says:

    Happy soon-to-be 1st Anniversary for BonBonBar! It’s great to hear about your experiences over the year and what you have achieved so far. How I wished I could intern for you too. Hope you’ll be able to enjoy the holiday season amidst all the candymaking. 😉

  3. Nina Says:

    Thank you, Tania!!! I appreciate all of your support so much! And I’ll be happy to make your Malt Bars. 🙂

    Verena – Thanks, woohoo, a year! And anytime you might find yourself in LA! 🙂

  4. rainey Says:

    Great to hear that you’re finding that you made the right choices for yourself and still feeling good about it on your first anniversary! I just stopped by to see what you are up to and I’m so glad I did.

    Sorry not to be ordering any more candy. And especially sorry not to get to try your pumpkin pie bar. It sounds sensational. My husband had a gastric bypass operation in July and I found, in trying to support him, that I was able to lose 45 pounds. Still got another 50 to go and, sadly, candy is NOT a part of that. But the memories of your other wonderful things is fresh and special and watching the adventure of a young business grow and thrive is still exciting.

    Best to you for the holidays and the coming year. Certainly there will be challenges running a business with a high end luxury item at its core but excellence is excellence and even in tough times people will still need a little encouraging treat and the inspiration of something exceptional from time to time.

  5. Nina Says:

    Thank you, Rainey!

    Congratulations on losing 45 pounds so far!!! That’s fantastic. There’s no need to apologize — health always comes first, and I’m so happy that you’re almost halfway to your goal. Good luck! Food memories are very strong with me, too. I find that, often, if I think a lot about wanting to eat something that I’ve had before, the actually eating can be superfluous because it tastes just exactly as imagine it to taste. So, I’m happy that your memories of my candy are still fresh enough to “taste.” 🙂

  6. Brian Says:

    I’d watch Awkward Silences with Nina. You could make the first comedy cooking show! That’d be great.

    Congrats on being swamped with orders. Better feast than famine, right? 🙂 I’m planning a confection day with my siblings when I’m back in Massachusetts for Christmas. Last year we did various filled molded chocolates, but for all the interesting white-chocolate mint buttercream and dark-chocolate rosemary caramels, everyone just ate the milk-chocolate vanilla caramels, so I might keep everything a little more accessible overall this year.

    I had a Theo chocolate recently, fig-fennel ganache, that was shockingly good. Maybe I’ll try fruit infusions!

  7. Amy Says:

    Wow…so glad I found your site, and congratulations on your now 1-1/2+ year old endeavor! I’m starting up a custom cake business in Northern California, and I’m so thankful for blogs like yours that are forthright about starting a business. Especially any business related to sweets and located in California! This is a beast of a state to be an entrepreneur in, and I applaud you for what you’re doing down in LA. (We moved up from Culver City two years ago.) I look forward to trying a BonBonBar soon!

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