Mom-Trepreneurs - how two local moms turned their creative ideas into local businesses
by Angela Cannon-Crothers
Snow Daze all natural, gourmet snow cones
"My passion is food," admits Jessica Stadt- Toner, owner and operator of Snow Daze."I wanted to offer my community something I would offer my own family. I'd take my kids to events but I wouldn't let them eat anything there because I wanted to avoid the food colorings, artificial flavorings, preservatives and stuff." That was when Stadt-Toner, whose family is in the pasta making business (Flour City Pasta,) got the idea to make snow cones.
"I always made my own fruit syrups for homemade sodas so I bought a hand shaver, a block of ice, and made my own snow cones," she says. Her twin toddler girls and husband became taste-testers for the syrups which she flavored with local fruits and organic sugar.
So the business idea for Snow Daze was born. Because Stadt-Toner wanted a truly healthy, high-end product to sell, she invested in a quality ice shaver which she says practically makes snow. She experimented with everything from local strawberries to fresh herbs and even tofu and spinach. Next she needed a way to bring her refreshing treats to Rochester area summer fairs and festivals. She happened upon a vintage, 1964 Shasta pull-behind camper on Craig's List.
For several weeks, she and her husband – with twins in tow – gutted and revamped the old camper to create a "retro-modern" look that would accommodate a snow cone machine and the traveling business. She researched permits and made phone calls to Farmer's Market and Festival Concessioners to find out what she needed to do to get a certification. "After the kids went to bed I'd stay up to test recipes and do paperwork, but it was worth it," says Stadt-Toner.
She threw a launch party with friends to finalize some of the trial flavors like organic banana, caramel apple, and ginger. The first week of July 2011 she headed off to the Brighton Farmer's Market. As she suspected, Snow Daze was quite popular with moms, kids – everyone!
"This year Snow Daze will be at the Brighton Farmer's Market again, and also at several community and art and music festivals like Grassroots in Trumansburg, and the Berkshires Art Festival in Massachusetts – my parents will help us at that one." Stadt-Toner adds, "It's a little like taking mini-vacations on the weekend and the kids love it; they get fed shaved ice all summer and get to hang out outside with people."
As a mother of young twins, Stadt- Toner appreciates being able to be home and make her own schedule, but it's not all weekend mini-vacations. "It's definitely a full-time job," she says. "I easily spend 20-30 hours a week making and packaging the homemade syrups and in summer it will go up to working about 60 hours a week." She adds that her husband helps and that she doesn't work the same pace year-round. In the winter she does fundraising and development work for other organizations like the University of Rochester.
"Right now Snow Daze is the only all-natural shaved ice company in the Northeast," she says, adding, "And our snow cones are really delicious." Stadt- Toner's best advice for other moms considering starting their own business is this – "If you have an idea, it's a good one. Just do it!"
Opal and Twig Potions and Powers a magical mercantile
Melissa Boyack's business card reads, "Chief Enchantress." When she asked her daughter (at the time, about to turn five) what she wanted for her birthday, she never dreamed that her daughter's answer would grow into a business. "I want magic potions and special powers," her little girl had replied.
Boyack thought the request was just makebelieve, but it got her thinking; maybe she could grant her daughter's wish. Boyack purchased some pretty, antique-looking bottles, a few odds and ends, a curio cabinet, and put her graphic design skills and creativity to work. She made a set of twenty-five Enchantments – from Mermaid Tears to Secret Listening Potions – complete with a document describing the magical attributes of each item.
The magic of the gift was clear. Other moms and children at her daughter's birthday party loved the concept of carefully thought out potions and virtuous powers so much they all wanted to place an order. "I had been doing branding and graphic design for another start-up company at the time and all the pieces started coming together," says Boyack. "I thought – why don't I just do it?"
So began the business of Opal & Twig Enchantments, first out of Boyack's dining room, then progressing to a separate workspace office, and now, just over three years later, it is off and running with business partner Sara Bumby who is based out of Portland Maine. The two entrepreneurs will be presenting a revised and finished product line this June at the American Specialty Toy Retailer Association trade show in Baltimore.
Opal and Twig Potions and Powers takes the sense of wonder and imagination of childhood and weaves in multi-cultural legends and fairytales to bestow the greatest gifts - inspiring attributes like love and wisdom – to others. Although the target audience has been 8-12 year olds, the business has expanded to include teens and adults as well. "Our products are truly elegant," Boyack notes. "We even have interest from corporate people who think items like our Miracle Listening Serum would work well as a business tool."
"I wrote my first business plan in 2010," says Boyack. "It was a great exercise; I also visited many websites for other templates including Crowd Funding with Kickstarter.com." Boyack says that her greatest guidance came from personal contacts and "being bold enough to pick up the phone and to tug on sleeves." Her advice to others interested in starting up their own business? Boyack says, "It's more important to get your idea out there; you can't be too protective." She's also had the help and support of her husband Michael, as well as the continued enthusiasm from her daughter.
The product line is meant to encourage both imagination and personal growth ¡V Goblin Snot for instance helps get rid of "the grumpies" and The Magic Forest Thicket "contains a tingle of magical timberland to spark your mind's eye." Mermaid Tears are actually "pearly tears of cheers" that spread pure joy. As Boyack's vision and business model expanded, so have her notions of potions being tied to trans-media storytelling ¡V converting the mythology of the products into electronic media, video, and small books to go with each item. Boyack worked with famed storyteller Jay Stetzer to capture the perfect inspirational legend or tale for several products and is working with a couple of children's writers to craft literary components for more.
Although Boyack says that when she first jumped into business she could only see a certain distance, she knew she would find a way to succeed with focus and commitment. So far it seems that equipped with a handful of charms and determination, she's managed to find her own powers, meet many helpful guides along the way, and is having a magical adventure all her own.
Angela Cannon-Crothers is a contributing writer to Rochester Area & Genesee Valley Parent Magazine. She is an an educator at Herb Haven in Crystal Beach as well as a writer and author. You can visit her website at angelacannoncrothers.webs.com