Why Am I Doing This?


It’s been about a couple months since I launched BonBonBar. And it’s about time that I should write a glittering post to promote my products and my newly-released Valentine’s Day confections (you only have until Saturday at Noon to order!), but I’m feeling a bit introspective at the moment, if not a bit melancholy… maybe tired, too. This blog is about sharing my feelings towards food first and foremost, and my recent quick posts to the contrary, is not simply a sales pitch for my products.

So, I will admit that when I got to my commercial kitchen this weekend, I didn’t really want to make anything. Of course, I did, and of course, am grateful that I’m able to, but I also thought a lot about my situation. What is motivating me? I absolutely want to make a secure living from BonBonBar, but I’m not especially motivated by the thought of, say, becoming a millionaire. I’m not a very good materialist. I don’t especially like having a lot of things and having the duty to look after them, and I don’t dream about buying things that I can’t afford now. I’m happiest when I have just what I need and like, and I already have a lot that I need and like. I think even part of my concern for biodegradable packaging materials stems from my desire to not have stuff lying around.

Maybe that’s part of why the business has been a bit of a shock to my system. I buy more than I ever have before for the business, and I have to look after every single thing. I have spend a lot of time organizing, and making space, and cleaning, and restocking, and calculating savings and wastes. If one critical thing is missing, I could potentially not be able to send something out.

Incidentally, on the flip-side, my personal credit card bill for the past month was probably the lowest it’s ever been since I first got a credit card as a teenager without a car, so I guess there is a little balance there. I hardly even buy much real food anymore because I don’t have the energy or savory creativity to make much now, but I’m not bored with what I eat because I’ve found that the challenge of combining what I already have into a fast meal is kind of fun, and leads to combinations that I think rival the most avant-garde cuisine. 🙂

So, what is motivating me? Why did I go on to make my sweets, aside from a market-driven legal duty? For one thing, I truly want people to be able to eat good food. There’s so much food out there that either tastes bad or is made with bad ingredients, or both. I know that candy bars and marshmallows are ornamental to the reality of day-to-day survival, but when I think about foraging for food in places like airports, food courts, supermarkets, or even around town, I know that good food –with flavor!– can be hard to find. At this point, I’m probably among the pickiest of tasters and consumers, but I don’t think that I’m the only one who’s ever felt forced to buy, for example, a turkey sandwich on a white roll, and proceeded to eat it knowing that there was very little nutrition and even less flavor. I can’t presume that all of my products are perfect for everyone and I’m always concerned over whether they’re good enough, but I like to think that they’re poised in the right direction for what they are.

I’m also hugely motivated by the people who I’ve come into contact with, including my readers who comment and who have made purchases, all customers, fellow entrepreneurs, suppliers, retailers, and so many others. It’s incredibly exciting to be in so many people’s worlds who I otherwise wouldn’t have known. I suppose that talking to and helping customers and networking is part of any job, but it really is an adventure to interact with people based on this little handmade candy bar scheme that I have. It’s fun making people happy, and I especially aspire to the ideas of hospitality in business that I read about in Danny Meyer’s book. Sure, when I meet people, I sometimes I get a little tired of hearing myself launch into my handmade candy bar spiel, but it’s always interesting when I hear someone else’s take on it, and when I get to hear about what they do and what they’re passionate about. I find that people are really excited to be around an entrepreneur, and working in chocolate doesn’t hurt. Sure, not everyone is genuine and not everyone follows through, but it’s all part of the adventure.

My interactions with people are especially important to me because I am a one-woman show now, from PR to packaging. I use “we” on the BonBonBar website more in the royal sense, and also as a nod to all the people who do help me, including a very caring and helpful boyfriend and supportive family and friends. But if something has to get done, I’m going to do it, or possibly instigate others outside my company/me to it. There’s always that feeling of having a lot to do, with the occasional feeling of nothing to do, if I actually want to relax, but that’s a dangerous feeling that slows down the present, and even more critically, the future. Everything takes its own time.

So, when I get to my rented kitchen, I’m alone, unlocking the triple-lock, carrying in supplies like my chocolate melter, sheet pans, tools, bowls, and freshly bought ingredients from my Beetle (at least I didn’t get that Miata I wanted six years ago). I have my iPod that I put on occasionally, and the luck to work with ingredients that I respect and like, and to only make things that I like. Chocolate is one of the more wily ingredients that a person can endeavor to control, but I try to understand it and work with it the best I can. I’m still terrified of discovering a batch of bloomed candy bars, and I have had my share of rejects through bad luck or recklessness. But I’ve had a lot of good luck, and there have only been maybe three times when I wished I had a second opinion in the kitchen. Only once have I called Chad to google something for me. And yes, if there’s a build up of dishes that I need and the chocolate is in perfect condition to use right away, I’m going to get it all done (and will always be more cleaning to do). And I go home, usually escorted by Chad after I got spooked a couple times, at around 2am.

I’m not exactly sure how much harder this is than a challenging job working for someone else, but there’s nothing that I’d rather do, and I’m excited that so many people have met the project with such enthusiasm. It helps keep me going, and I still have a long way to go… I dream of building this into my own chocolate store, and in addition to the immediate concerns, I have to strategize for the future based on the data so far. At least I’m small ‘n agile, and try to analyze every aspect within reason and at some point, and figure out wholesale, and PR, and ganache formulations, and packaging, and financials, and organization, and on and on… The game continues… The ebb and flow… The excitement, the anxiety, and the work…

9 Responses to “Why Am I Doing This?”

  1. brian Says:

    Thanks so much for sharing, Nina. Sometimes the most challenging and demanding jobs are the most rewarding. Friends say I should start my own business, but I know better than to fall prey to a romanticized vision of the daily life of a chocolatier–it’s got to be hard work, much harder than I can imagine!

  2. Nina Says:

    Brian – Yeah, I think now that the novelty has worn off a bit, the hard work factor feels greater! Just about everyone I talk to says that it must be so much fun to do what I do, but it’s a job like any other… and when I tell them about tempering chocolate and how long it takes to make the bars, their eyes glaze over a little. 🙂
    I sometimes think about how much nicer it’d be to have employees and my own commercial kitchen, but something tells me that will only be more work, not less. 🙂

  3. susan Says:

    hi nina, congratulations on all your progress! it’s great to hear about your experiences. i find them motivating.

  4. elarael Says:

    The fun thing about making a few million is that you can hire others to take care of the things you don’t want to, including someone to manage all the others. Then you are free to concentrate on exactly what you love about what you do.

    This is especially true if you don’t require much personal cash flow, because then you are able to direct the flow of cash towards properly paid employees who love working with your company!

  5. Nina Says:

    Thanks, Susan. 🙂

    Elarael – Yes, that’s part of my hope for the future — employees who are treated well and have fun! I think the working alone part of it all is one of the harder things, just in terms of needing other people do things and suggest ideas based on their perspective within the company. I’m more than fine being alone, but another voice and another set of hands would be so helpful.

  6. dreamsicle Says:

    Thanks for letting us know about the story behind your BonBonBars and what motivates you to do the wonderful things you are doing right now. Keep up with the great work; I love reading about every bit of it. And honestly, I’m not stalking you or your chocolate bars, but they are featured on “Candy Blog” today if you don’t know already. 😀

  7. dreamsicle Says:

    Thanks for letting us know about the story behind your BonBonBars and what motivates you to do the wonderful things you are doing right now. Keep up with the great work; I love reading about every bit of it. And honestly, I’m not stalking on you or your chocolate bars, but they are featured on “Candy Blog” today if you don’t know already. 😀

  8. dreamsicle Says:

    Thanks for letting us know about the story behind your BonBonBars and what motivates you to do the wonderful things you are doing right now. Keep up with the great work; I love reading about every bit of it. And honestly, I’m not stalking on you or your chocolate bars, but they are featured on “Candy Blog” today if you didn’t know already. 😀

  9. Nina Says:

    Dreamsicle – Thank you so much. It helps me a lot to have such great support! And yeah, thrilled about “Candy Blog.” 🙂

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