I was born to Peruvian/American parents. I spent almost the first 8 years of my life in Peru surrounded with family members immediate and distant. When I was 8 my family moved to Wetumpka, Alabama. That was a huge change. But it was my move to Birmingham at age 22 that brought me to where I am today. While working at the Highlands Bar and Grill I learned about gourmet food and wines. I fell in love with wine and wanted to learn winemaking after meeting Kermit Lynch. With his encouragement, I moved out to California and worked for Josh Jensen at Calera Wines deepening my love for the art of winemaking. Later, under the tutelage of master sommelier Larry Stone, I past my level 1 exam. I moved on to further my career at the newly opened Jardiniere where I met my wife.
Eventually, we both moved on from the restaurant when we had kids. However, our love for food never wained. With my wife’s experience in the pastry kitchen at Jardiniere, we started a line caramel products. We named it CC Made after her initials. With much love, time and personal capital, we have grown the product line to a well recognized product line that is carried in some of the most recognizable specialty food and gift stores. Stores like Dean & Deluca, Bloomingdales, and Bi-Rite Markets.
When we started CC Made, we wanted to make something that we could not find on the market. A really flavorful and quality caramel. What Cassandra learned is that to develop a deep rich flavor from the simple ingredients of just sugar and water required an open flame, patience and perfect timing. This is the reason why mass manufactured caramels lacked the depth of flavor that I was craving.
We started first by making the sea salt caramels and a basic caramel corn in a communal kitchen that we rented by the hour. As demand for this grew, we added 2 more flavors of candies and 3 more flavors of popcorn. We then started making our sauces, which is our fastest growing product line.
Initially, my wife would take the products in a big box and walk into stores and just ask if she could meet with the buyer. Our first customers were Tyler Florence’s store in Mill Valley, The Pasta Shop in Berkeley, and Draegers. Soon the word about our treats started to spread and markets were reaching out to us. Now we have permanent kitchen and 9 employee.
The biggest challenge has been our sales force. My wife and I have been the bookkeeper, HR, etc. Sales have been the one thing that we had not been able to focus on. This is where we want to put our energy in this year. Currently the majority of our customers have been specialty gourmet markets that focus on artisan handmade products mainly in California and East Coast. Our goal is to reach markets that have a growing artisan food movement.
We are also looking to develop our corporate gifting line. Last year, we customized customer appreciation gifts for several well know companies like “I Heart Radio”. Adding their logo to our gift boxes.
Our collaborations with event planners have taken our products into many prestigious corporate events and parties, like Facebook and Yelp.
With the growing numbers digital companies in the Bay Area, I am confident that this would be a profitable growth channel for our specialty business.
This loan will make it possible for us to get a sauce filling machine and a jar capping machine. This loan will also allow us to start building and train a sales team before the Winter Fancy Food Show. Having trained sales people will help us push our products into more markets.