What’s the most important ingredient at confectionary company Brandini Toffee? Passion.
It all began in 2006, when high school sophomores Brandon Weimer and his best friend Leah Post went on a class trip to Italy. Weimer was an aspiring candy-maker who specialized in making toffee. Little did Weimer know that his toffee recipe would not only help pay for his class trip, but also allow him to make the leap forward into entrepreneurship. His family owned business, Brandini Toffee, had its delectable sweets featured on The Food Network and The Martha Stewart Show. Brandini Toffee is also the first toffee company to receive a gold sofi Award, honoring the best in specialty foods.
What does it take to start a candy company and go into business with your best friend? Weimer spoke with me about what it’s like to get started as a young entrepreneur and run a toffee business for more than 12 years.
DS: How did you get into the business of candy, and toffee specifically?
BW: In 2006 my good friend Leah Post and I wanted to go on a high school class trip to Italy, at the time we were 15. Our parents (whom are also good friends) committed to helping pay for the trip assuming we could earn half the funds ourselves. Years prior, a family friend taught me how to make almond toffee from home. At the time I had no clue what toffee was and I was blown away that one could create such an incredible texture/flavor by simply stirring butter and sugar over the stove. The recipe evolved over time and I began to gift it to friends and family. The objective to go to Italy made for the ideal opportunity for us to start selling this almond toffee.
With a few hundred dollars for supplies and a website, we were off! Most sales were solicited online and at local street fairs. Within a few months we paid off our entire trip and quickly realized that Brandini has the potential to be much more than just a school fundraiser. It has been 12 years since inception and while we’ve expanded many times over, we stay humbled and energized by the fact that we have a long ways to grow.
DS: What kinds of products do you offer and what sets your recipe apart from others?
BW: Our core product is still almond toffee, but toffee popcorn has grown to be almost half of our production volume. Our retail locations also thrive with a menu of toffee based ice cream products. We keep our menu simple and strive to be your favorite within our category.
DS: Where did the name “Brandini Toffee” come from?
BW: Brandini has been a nickname of mine since a kid. In spirit of fundraising for a trip to Italy, we thought Brandini sounded Italian and would fit our mission.
DS: You got into entrepreneurship at a fairly young age, so what kinds of challenges did you face and how did you overcome them?
BW: From an age perspective, our first few years were challenged with juggling growing up at the same time as growing a business. This included school, extracurriculars, pursuing college, and trying to make time to still have a life. A lot of growing up occurs as a teenager and we certainly were on our own when it came to being teenagers trying to run a business. Our early years in business were presented with many of the same challenges that any small business has like growing sales and growing a brand. Managing working capital and reinvesting in ourselves has always been the trickiest component.
DS: Thus far, what Brandini Toffee accomplishment are you most proud of?
BW: Surviving and thriving for over 12 years. We are a word-of-mouth brand that has our zealous fan base and some dumb luck to thank for this. Operationally small business has a lot of head wind and we have had many bet the company moments. Each time we come out stronger and I believe we are as prepared as we have ever been for the future.
DS: What’s in store for Branini Toffee in the next year and beyond?
BW: Opening more retail stores is our focus moving forward. We have three stores in the greater Palm Springs area and we’re currently working on opening our first out-of-town this fall, which will be in Los Angeles. While timeline is hard to predict, I hope to be able to replicate what we have created here in our hometown throughout California. If that works then I don’t see why we would stop there. No matter how far we grow I hope to see us continue to stay rooted as a family business that thrives on human connection.
DS: What advice would you have for other entrepreneurs that get started at an early age?
BW: Age might feel like it matters or it might even feel like a limiting factor. In retrospect our youth is what made a lot of Brandini Toffee possible. We naively jumped into this with the optimism that we could accomplish our simple goal of fundraising $2,000. Our age gave us a lot of needed support to grow a company and make a name for ourselves. As a kid the excitement for the future always muffled the fear of lacking knowledge/experience and to this day I try to stay true to this.