Microsoft and Apple started in garages, and Facebook started in a dorm room.
Meanwhile, Dorothy Lynch started selling her famous salad dressing at a Legion Hall in St. Paul, Nebraska. Todd Booth began his successful automotive business by working in the wash bay at a local car dealership after he graduated from high school.
While GROW Nebraska businesses haven’t reached the magnitude of Facebook, Apple and Microsoft, many have grown from small businesses to successful enterprises that are continually increasing sales, creating jobs and bringing Nebraska to the world.
GROW Nebraska members Dorothy Lynch, Jayhawk Boxes, Baker’s Candies, Platte Valley Auto and Fat Boy BBQ are all successful businesses that started small and have grown tremendously in the past few decades.
Success didn’t happen overnight for these small-town Nebraska businesses. From creating quality products to treating customers well and keeping up with technology, each business has created its own unique path to prosperity. And, for many, GROW Nebraska has played a part in their success.
Baker’s Candies is a relatively new Nebraska business founded in 1987 after Kevin Baker, an aerospace engineer, decided to venture into the candy-making businesses. He applied his engineering skills to design an efficient way to automate the candy-making process. That combined with the mouth-watering unique flavors of Baker’s Candies created a popular candy business that is still family-owned and operated today.
“Our company is really run by a family of engineers rather than chocolatiers or businessmen,” said Kevin’s son, Todd Baker. “We’ve never been great at business, but we’re really, really, good at making (mass producing) chocolate. So, we keep our heads down and do what we do best: Making Nebraska’s chocolate. As long as Nebraskans continue to be proud of our family business and the products that we make here, it has been our experience that they will take care of most of your problems – advertising, marketing, sales, opportunities, etc.”
Baker said their formula for chocolates is “ridiculously simple.”
“We buy the best ingredients on the planet and then make the best chocolates possible for far less cost than our competition,” he said. “We like to think that ‘we make world-class chocolates for regular people,’ a goal that resonates with Nebraskans and others from here in the Midwest.”
During the fall of 2019, Baker’s Candies opened the largest candy factory outlet store in Nebraska’s history. It contains almost 6,000 square feet of candy along with other Nebraska food and retail products. All of the store’s products were either made on-site or purchased and resold directly from their manufacturers. Many GROW Nebraska members’ products are also sold in the store.
The new outlet has more than doubled the company’s direct-to-customer retail sales.
Baker’s Candies continues to sell products online and through a variety of other wholesalers.
“Sales, even during the pandemic, have continued to grow exponentially,” Baker said. “We now ship our chocolates regularly to all 50 U.S. states and to just about every country that this downhome Nebraskan can pronounce. This year, we expect to produce close to 40 million chocolates here in Greenwood, Nebraska.”
Baker credits Nebraskans for his company’s success.
“Nebraskans are uniquely proud of the things that are made here,” he said. “If you take good care of them, give them something to be proud of, they’ll take your business to the ends-of-the earth with them wherever they go!”
Bakers Candies has been a member of GROW Nebraska for a couple of years.
“We wished that GROW Nebraska had been around 35 years ago when we were getting started,” Baker said. “Launching a new business is overwhelming at times, but knowing it’s here now, working for Nebraska entrepreneurs, was all the incentive that we needed to join!”
For more information about Baker’s Candies, click here.
Story by Kristine Jacobson, GROW Nebraska member and owner of KRJ Public Relations, a business that helps non-profits and businesses tell their stories and gain momentum through blogs, newsletters, annual reports, social media and other publications.