When we last spoke to Tricia Medina, co-owner of Fluff It! Marshmallows, in August 2013, she had mentioned a dream of opening her own marshmallow cafe and coffee shop. Now, barely more than a year later, that dream has come to life.
But, exactly how has she been able to take a niche product and turn it into a successful business in such a short length of time?
Check out her business strategy below on how to achieve the type of sweet success that comes much more rapidly than expected.
Taking a Cue From Customer Feedback
A successful Kickstarter campaign may have been what helped get Fluff It! Marshmallows off the ground, but it’s been Tricia’s tenacity that has kept it up and running. (The delicious marshmallow treats she makes may also have a little something to do with it.)
“I wasn’t expecting to have my own marshmallow cafe so soon,” exclaims Tricia. “It’s been a heck of a ride and a huge leap of faith but I felt it was time. After being featured on the Scott’s Marketplace blog, other local foodie blogs, and a few magazines, I kept getting the question: ‘Where is your location?’
“So we started to kinda look and everything just seemed to fall into place,” she continues. “We found a small and affordable spot in a community that already knows us from the local farmer’s market and we had just enough saved away to get us started!”
Keeping Up With Increased Demand
Expanding your business in any way can be frightening — yet, knowing when it’s time to hire your first employee or delegate tasks is essential to the growth of your business.
Tricia notes, “Longer hours are a given. I quit my full-time job when we decided it was time to find a shop to make sure every minute of my time is spent nurturing the growth of Fluff It. My partner Hazel Arce came on board full-time as well and has taken on many roles including marketing, logistics, cashier, assistant baker, and more!
“To allow us more time to focus on marketing and building relationships in the community, we’ve also hired a full-time and part-time employee to help run the floor of the café,” she explains.
“It’s very exciting because we all know this is the first [cafe] of its kind so we all work very hard to make sure everyone leaves with a smile on his or her face!”
Thinking Outside Traditional Lending
Funding is the biggest issue for those who wish to start a business and those with an existing business who would like to expand. But with a little creativity and a willingness to do a large portion of the work herself, Tricia was able to avoid the traditional lending options that would have started her business off buried in debt.
“We’ve avoided loans because we didn’t want to start our company in the ‘red.’ We just saved what we could, did a lot of the work ourselves, found other entrepreneurs to help with the building of our store features, and now we watch our costs very closely and try to improve on saving and spending every chance we get,” she notes.
“It’s was a little stressful in the beginning (OK a lot stressful!) but we know we just have to ride the tide until things smooth out. We have a lot of confidence in our ideas and our marshmallows and know things will improve as we move forward.”
Letting Fate Decide
Moving a home-based business into a physical location is an exciting time, but how do you know you’ve chosen the right spot? For Tricia, it was a blend of fate and a gut feeling that she’d found the right place for her new cafe.
“Fate has a funny way of making things happen when you want something bad enough,” Tricia said. “We had driven by our new location every week as we drove to the Gilbert Farmer’s Market every Saturday last winter so we knew the location very well. Hazel, my partner, and I had discussed a possible food truck idea since we weren’t sure we could afford a location in the areas we wanted.
“So Hazel went on the internet to research food trucks and she found, by accident, the location — and it was just posted for rent,” she explained. “After meeting the parties involved, we were very comfortable with how everything felt and how well it all seemed to fall into place.
“It was in one of the areas we talked about, it was within our budget, and it was locally owned. We wanted to support local entrepreneurs and small businesses, so it really was like it was meant to be!”
When you’re a small business owner, you’re often responsible for everything, from making the products to promoting them. Tricia has utilized many outlets to help turn her business into a big success, but one, in particular, is what she says has helped the most.
“Social media has been a HUGE tool for marketing! Our pictures and posts have gone pretty viral and we have a lot of walk-in traffic because of that. Hazel has a lot of years in marketing and she really zones in on building the brand through a lot of imagery; she lets the marshmallows talk for themselves,” Tricia explains.
“We’ve also been scooped up by local blogs, Channel 12, 10, and just recently Channel 3, local foodies groups, and even a food photographer posts pics when she buys our goodies. So the free attention has helped so much and we are forever grateful for it!”
Never Letting Them Get Bored
No matter what type of industry you’re in, never letting your customers get bored is essential to keeping them coming back for more. This is why diversifying your product line on a regular basis, as well as updating your items according to seasons and holidays is an essential part of any business strategy.
“We’re starting to expand our line of marshmallow treats by adding homemade “Mallow Pies” (they are like Moon Pies just made with a honey marshmallow fluff, homemade cookies, and chocolate ganache) and our Toasted S’mores Chocolate Cupcake (toasted honey fluff sits on top of a chocolate and graham cracker cupcake),” Tricia details.
“The holiday season is around the corner and we’re getting ready to announce some great fall and winter flavors to our menus including the S’mores Bar. We also make custom gourmet marshmallows for events/gifts, weddings, baby showers, and birthdays such as our Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle Marshmallow Pops or our MineCraft Marshmallow Pops for kids!”
When you’re as busy as Tricia, staying organized, while keeping on top of changing business trends, can be a battle.
Tricia explains, “I’ve listened to as much advice as I could from other entrepreneurs, read famous millionaires’ stories of success, and read as many articles as I could to try and find the best advice out there. Over and over again I’ve heard/read ‘know your numbers.’ So after researching we decided to sign up with Bank of America’s POS system, Clover Station,” she advises.
“It’s a register, keeps track of inventory, and manages employees and much more. It allows us to keep track of all the important numbers in one place and offers apps to help with other needed details like virtual scheduling that alerts my employees via text or email when I’ve created and edited a schedule. And its super easy to setup and use… and we like things uncomplicated.”
Valuing Your Customers
Success isn’t possible without customers, and when a business owner is truly thankful for their patronage, it shows.
“I just want to take a moment to thank all the Fluff It supporters that have allowed me to take this dream and make it a reality!” Tricia says.
“I am so grateful for the support, the encouragement and the time you all have taken to get to know me and my marshmallow dreams. I can’t express how amazing this has been and if this is only the first year of business, I can’t wait to see what happens in the future!”
“I really believe this is the beginning of something bigger and better and with all the wonderful support beside me, I have no doubt that Fluff It Marshmallows is going to take us on one heck of a ride”
Using Tricia’s Business Strategy
There’s no denying that Tricia and her partner Hazel have had an immense amount of success in an impressively short period of time, but it’s clear they’ve worked incredibly hard to get to this point.
For a recap of how they’ve been able to grow from home-based business to a physical location in a year, take a look at the key points below:
- Establish a strong presence in your local community
- Always listen to what your customers want
- Never let fear of failure stop you from aiming higher and achieving more
- Consider various lending options
- Listen to your gut
- Revise and refine your product line often
- Be prepared to take on any role within your company
- Have an unshakeable confidence in your business and products
Want to try these tempting marshmallow treats for yourself? Visit Fluff It! Marshmallows’ store on Scott’s Marketplace to buy them online.