Brownie Bar expanding with new location in West Omaha

Brownie Bar expanding with new location in West Omaha

Brownie Bar expanding with new location in West Omaha

Baker's Candies Nebraska box

OMAHA – If there’s anything we love more than seeing one of our members gain enough success to expand operations and open a new location, it’s when one of our members gains enough success to expand operations and open a new location because of dessert!

Michael Mitilier, co-owner of The Brownie Bar with Jim Friedman, took some time to tell us about the company’s exciting new developments, as well as provide some insight into their success. After the challenges that small businesses endured due to the pandemic, it’s especially encouraging to see such dynamic growth from one of our members!

After seeing so many cupcake, cookie, and donut shops around Omaha, Michael and Jim realized there was an opportunity in the dessert market for something different, and in 2019, the Brownie Bar was born. 

If you haven’t heard of (or visited) the Brownie Bar, here’s a quick rundown of the innovative concept:

Step 1: Choose from 3 types of signature brownies: Traditional, Blonde, and Dark Chocolate

Step 2: Choose 1 of 9 different toppings

Step 3: Enjoy them for yourself, ship them to a loved one, or make a large order for an upcoming event!

This simply delicious business model not only helped the Brownie Bar get on its feet, but kept it upright throughout the pandemic. In addition to producing a high-quality product that people love, their active presence on social media has been extremely useful in not only getting the word out, but actually expanding to a new location. 

“We were getting so many people who were coming down to our location in the old market,” said Michael. “I think a lot of those people were traveling from West Omaha, and would say things like, ‘We would have gotten down here sooner but we just don’t get downtown as often,’ or ‘We’ve been following you for about a year and finally got down here.”

So when it was time to expand, how did Michael and Jim decide where the next location would be? They took it to Facebook and let the people decide. They offered three zip codes and, after around 300 people voted, it was clear that West Omaha was the right choice.

Michael had plenty to say about the benefits of social media. “Social media is probably one of the biggest factors of our success. It gets the word out there quickly, and we can adjust it and play with it to see what’s working and what’s not working. Email marketing has been pretty good for us, too, allowing us to constantly remind clients and potential clients of our presence. That helps a lot.”

The ability to ship their brownies was a big help during the pandemic. “We do a lot of shipping. That saved us through COVID for sure, especially for the holidays and Valentine’s Day. We also have a food truck/van for private things and corporate events, which helped a lot, too.”

The fact of the matter, though, is that The Brownie Bar provides a unique, delicious dessert option that is consistent in quality and hard to forget. 

“Everything is made from scratch.” Michael laughed, “Some days I’d love to find out how many pounds of butter we go through a month! The packaging has a lot to do with it, too: cute little boxes with our logos on them. And if they order a 6 pack or 12 pack, there’s crinkly paper and an instruction sheet on how to heat your brownies. It’s the little things that make it just a little more memorable.”

Michael also believes in the power of simplicity, when it comes to success. “Keep yourself lean; don’t offer 5000 products. You need space, and you need the people to do all that work, and you need to be able to do everything well.

GROW Nebraska would like to wish a hearty “Congratulations!” to Michael and the whole Brownie Bar team. Your hard work, ingenuity, and talent has certainly paid off!

Story by Lauren Bonk, owner of the Curtain and Pen Copywriting Services, a GROW Nebraska member. Lauren hails from Kearney, NE, where she works as a freelance copywriter for small businesses, startups, and even larger corporate entities in need of professionally-written marketing content for their businesses and organizations. 

All Big Businesses Start Small: Baker’s Candies

All Big Businesses Start Small: Baker’s Candies

All Big Businesses Start Small: Baker’s Candies

 

Baker's Candies Nebraska box

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

-Greenwood, NE

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.

Baker's Candies Family

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.”

people shopping in baker's candies store 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.

All Big Businesses Start Small: JayHawk Boxes

All Big Businesses Start Small: JayHawk Boxes

All Big Businesses Start Small: JayHawk Boxes

 

JayHawk Boxes Production

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.

JayHawk Boxes

-Fremont, NE

Jayhawk Boxes originally set up shop in Fremont in 1957 to make boxes for Hormel Foods. Today, the company makes boxes, displays and other products for businesses mainly in the Midwest but also across the United States.

Jayhawk recently completed a $17 million expansion project that included adding 65,000 square feet of space, upgrading machinery and adding employees to boost its staff size to 69 people.

The company can design and create a box for any product in almost any shape, size or color. They also design and create floor and counter displays, yard signs and more and can personalize boxes with photos or names. 

Sales Representative Scott Reeson, who has been employed with Jayhawk Boxes for 32 years, works with each business owner to design custom boxes to best fit the product.

Reeson said the company has grown tremendously during his tenure: “Since I’ve been here, we’ve expanded four times, built onto the building, and we probably had about 40 employees when I started.”

He said part of the reason for the company’s success is the focus on keeping up with technology and treating employees and customers well.

“The owner of our company believes in keeping up the times,” Reeson said. “We have to continually look for new machines, faster machines and machines that will help the workforce and cut down on workforce injuries, and he’s willing to spend the money on our plant. We can produce a box faster now than we ever have.”

Reeson added that Jayhawk doesn’t experience much employee turnover, and “it’s a great place to work.”

Being a member of GROW Nebraska has allowed Reeson to connect with business owners who need his company’s product. For example, GROW members can set up a booth in the networking plaza of the annual MarkeTech conference. This year’s conference will be held July 15. Click here for more information about the conference.

“It’s allowed me to meet some very interesting people throughout the years and it’s allowed me to help a lot of people where they wouldn’t know where to go to get a box to package their product,” he said. “We can modify the box and make it the exact size for your product. That means less damage when GROW members are shipping their product.”

He also can refer his clients to other GROW Nebraska members who can help them with anything from labels and bags to where to buy locally-raised beef.

“I think GROW and everything they are doing is fantastic,” he said. “I’ve never met anyone with GROW who hasn’t been helpful and courteous, and I’m proud to be a member.”

For more information on JayHawk Boxes, 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.

A Gourmet Hot Chocolate From Nebraska is Taking the Nation by Storm

A Gourmet Hot Chocolate From Nebraska is Taking the Nation by Storm

A Gourmet Hot Chocolate From Nebraska is Taking the Nation by Storm

When Jasmin McGinnis worked at Barista’s Daily Grind in college, she discovered the “best hot chocolate in the world” was served at that Kearney coffee shop. She and the other baristas enjoyed the drink year round.

Jasmin purchased that coffee shop (with two locations in Kearney) in 2014. Two years later, she worked to enhance the recipe and rebrand the hot chocolate as Cup of Coa™. She is now traveling the country promoting her product at trade shows and is already selling it wholesale to coffee shops, boutiques, gift stores and grocery stores in 10 states.

Jasmin’s gourmet milk chocolate powder is unique because it’s made with less than 1 percent artificial ingredients and flavors. Although it’s made by mixing it with water, it’s creamier than milk-based hot chocolates. The powder won’t settle to the bottom, and it can be mixed into a hot or cold drink with the same base.

“When you taste it, it creates an experience, and you will remember that experience,” Jasmin said.

Cup of Coa can also be turned into a chocolate sauce. Purpose Roasters, a chocolatier/coffee shop in Washington, creates specialty bon-bons using Cup of Coa as a main ingredient.

The retail Cup of Coa product is packaged in 10-ounce tins designed by Jasmine. In addition to being popular at coffee shops, the creative tins are grabbing customers’ attention in grocery stores and boutiques.

“What’s shocking me right now is the retail line,” Jasmin said. “People want it in their homes, and they are coming back over and over again.”

Jasmin said she didn’t set out to become a promoter of hot chocolate, but this product has fired up a passion in her.

“Probably 80 percent of my success can be attributed to this being the right time,” she said. “The other part is pure passion. I think people are usually more successful if they are passionate. I didn’t know I was going to be passionate about this, but I really do think it’s the best hot chocolate anyone’s ever had.”

GROW Nebraska® Foundation is a statewide non-profit training and marketing organization. Serving over 400 Nebraska small businesses, the organization provides marketing opportunities, education, and training to launch and connect Nebraska businesses to the global marketplace. GROW Nebraska’s educational programs receive federal and state funding, along with generous support from foundations and individual donors.

J & J Wire Adapts to Changing Business Climate and Thrives

J & J Wire Adapts to Changing Business Climate and Thrives

J & J Wire Adapts to Changing Business Climate and Thrives

All businesses face adversity. It’s how the leaders deal with adversity that shapes a company.  J&J Wire, Inc., a Beatrice manufacturing company, has seen its fair share of ups and downs over the years.

Growth Stage

J&J Wire Inc. dominated the giftware business in the 80s and 90s designing, manufacturing and shipping high quality wire and wrought iron decor to stores across the country. At one point, J & J Wire had its products in almost all gift shops coast to coast. 

J&J Wire had trouble keeping up with demand. The company mass produced its own products and custom products for large companies such as Yankee Candle and Longaberger. Hiring more employees and purchasing new equipment was the norm. 

Decline Stage

By the mid-1990s, foreign competitors began replicating J&J Wire products and selling them for half the price. That could have been the end of many jobs and a Nebraska business.  

Born Again 

John and his staff adapted their wire-working expertise to create other products. Manufacturing companies realized J&J Wire’s great reputation in wire forming and metal fabrication and began asking for help creating fan and mower guards, wire racks and parts for center pivot systems.

“We had to recreate ourselves, and we are still in the process,” John said. 

Today, John and his team are on the verge of major growth as they add staff and new equipment to keep up with demand for manufacturing orders.

“We are in a position to grow immensely, and we are also of a mindset to grow immensely,” John said.  “As we speak, we are growing with new and exciting equipment being delivered. It will put us in the position to be very competitive throughout the Midwest with manufacturers of wire products. In the fall, we will continue our growth at J&J Wire with additional new equipment expanding our capability even more.”

J&J Wire continues to create wire and wrought iron gift products, such as baskets, wine holders magazine racks and plant holders. But 80 percent of the company’s work now involves direct selling to other manufacturers.

John is looking to hire three to four more employees right now and several others in the near future to keep up with this demand, which he said is fueled by the current manufacturing economy.

“Right now, manufacturing is enjoying much better days that it had in the not too distant past,” he said.

Marketing Today

While he focuses on growing his staff and business, John has also had to change marketing methods several times during the course of his business. In the 80s and early 90s, J&J Wire sent sales reps on the road to meet with gift store owners or to attend gift markets. In the late 90s, he needed a website to compete. Today, having a great website is the norm for any business and learning SEO to show up in searches is becoming more important.

“We are positioning our sites in this process of marketing J&J Wire” John said.

For more information about J&J Wire (gifts) and J&J Wire Inc. Custom Manufacturing, please visit: http://jjwireinc.com (wholesale) http:// jnjwire.com (retail) http://jjwirecustom.com (OEM or Manufacturing)