Carrie Abbott found herself in an interesting situation as a business owner when COVID-19 hit Indiana and brought with it new social distancing, shelter-at-home, and work guidelines. She not only owns Newfangled Confections, maker of the famous Frittle, but had also recently acquired The Best Chocolate in Town just before the pandemic.
We checked in with her to see how everything’s going and what advice she has for fellow entrepreneurs.
First off, how are you doing?
Personally, I am doing fine. It’s odd having everyone home and kids in e-learning, a new pet, and my husband working from home. We are thankful everyone we know is staying safe and home.
How are things at Newfangled Confections?
These times are strange. I’m taking one day at a time. We toggle between city shutting down, friends shutting down businesses, online orders really increasing, but is it enough to cover full staff? Most of our partners have had to close for now. Is everyone safe at work and at their homes? There are so many emotions!
What kind of adjustments to the business have you had to make given everything that’s going on?
Nothing safety-wise had to change because we are a manufacturing facility and have most of the recommended safety practices already in place. The six-feet apart [social distancing] is new, but we have a large space and it’s easy to designate work areas. Beyond that we have to get really creative with online sales and are taking a lot of time to plan for when the world returns to “normal”.
You also just acquired The Best Chocolate in Town just before the coronavirus hit the U.S.—what’s that been like to be the owner of a new small business right now?
Just owning a small business right now is ever-changing, scary, cautious, and facing the unknown every day. Owning this new small business has been eye opening. We bought the manufacturing and wholesale side of the business, and not the retail. For instance, instead of one location downtown to find the goodies, our goal is to bring them to every neighborhood in the surrounding area.
The Best Chocolate candy makers worked here for 2 weeks before COVID. Because we are essential (chocolate is essential—just kidding, manufacturing is essential), everyone who felt safe and comfortable was authorized to stay on. We decided as a group to take a paid break to remain as healthy as possible and return in a couple of weeks. We’ve been back for just under two weeks and are still getting to know each other and put processes in place to help scale this business. Small business, in general, has a unique set of challenges in the areas of financial, payroll, inventory, suppliers, customers, and industry. It’s so different for each type of small business and a big factor is how long you’ve been in business and what did cash reserves (if any) look like. I’m afraid many small businesses will not survive this and we are fortunate to be able to keep forging ahead.
What do you have planned for that business? Have your plans changed since February when the acquisition became public knowledge?
Plans for the Newfangled brand (including Best Chocolate) have not changed, but the timing of everything has. I knew online and web sales had a large potential, but it became a priority when we had almost no other options. Best Chocolate took our existing five to six item line to dozens of possibilities. It’s been fantastic in terms of online. Also, sales strategies have shifted to really hyper-focusing the holidays.
Sorry to say, because summer isn’t even here yet, but that’s the world of retail/wholesale. This has been an unplanned time we have to look at the holidays. I’m really grateful for the Best Chocolate opportunity because Frittle sales would have ceased on the national side because distributors, buyers, and trade shows came to a screeching halt.
What have been your biggest challenges?
Sales and safety decision-making has been our biggest challenges. If you are in wholesale businesses with hospitality and retail shops, revenue came to a hard stop as soon as the stay at home order began. Luckily a few specialty markets remained opened and have committed to selling sweets.
Your biggest successes?
One of our biggest successes is training and meeting this new team of candy makers. They are superstars and have the best attitudes a business owner could ask for. Secondly, some fortunate projects came our way. Many healthcare workers are being gifted free goods from so many amazing businesses, but Eskenazi hospital has placed a number of large orders with us with the intent of keeping our business going in this time and awarding their team with treats. We thank them hugely.
How has the Indy small business community banded together during this time?
Indy’s small business community has always had a special bond. Our industry is filled with people who care and share and have an unspoken understanding of all challenges a small business goes through. I’m not seeing a breaking of the bond, but it’s necessary to be sensitive to the different challenges people are going through. Whether it be safety, financial, anxiety, or a rewiring of the brain, we need to take care of each other and understand that someone else may have other problems at the moment and that’s okay.
What would be your advice to any business owner, big or small, right now to ride out this crisis?
Think long term. Remain hopeful. Don’t diminish other business owners’ issues. Not to sound cliché, but with so much out of our control, focus on what you can control in your business.
How have you been relaxing/spending your down time when you’re not running your businesses?
I’m loving spending more quality time with family. Some of you can relate, but there seemed to be more “downtime” pre-COVID. With everyone home all the time (me at work) there’s more that needs to be done when I get home. It’s probably just me.
Newfangled Confections is an Indy Maven partner.
Abby Gardner is Indy Maven’s executive editor and biggest candy fanatic.