Pictured: Jane Heller with her daughter Carley at Swiss Maid Fudge, image used with permission
My business is fudge.
Growing with the business
When I was just 14, I started working summers in my father’s candy shop, never thinking that one day this would become my career.
As I grew up and continued to work there throughout college, it became my passion.
By the time I was 26, I decided to work full-time at the family business. In 1997, I decided to buy the company.
Success = Adaptation
While fudge may seem like a traditional product, I believe the reason it is successful is that
I’m able to adapt my product to the ever-changing business landscape while still maintaining the core values my father taught me when I was a teenager.
Sticking to core values
Our motto at Swiss Maid Fudge is “Quality from Scratch.”
My father believed in making all of our homemade candy in small batches without artificial ingredients to extend shelf life.
Everything is made from scratch. No pre-made mixes or bases.
He believed in hand mixing our ingredients on special candy tables, using European candy making methods that are still in use today.
Transparency = Authenticity
Additionally, customers are able to see all of our from-scratch candy being made in our open viewing kitchens so while they shop they can be entertained.
Dad’s tradition of “try before you buy” is carried on today in our store by offering customers samples of everything we make.
Making distribution relevant
Although the company has continued to make its signature fudge in the traditional old-world style, I realized that in order to really grow the business, I needed to update the company’s distribution model.
We had a great product that our Wisconsin Dells residents and tourists loved.
But in order to take the company to the next level, we needed to expand nationally.
Thankfully, the Internet provided a cost effective way to do this, while allowing me to continue to ensure the product quality by being right here where the products are made.
Now, I rely heavily on Internet sales to drive the company.
And in the current Internet climate, having a website is not solely enough—social media tools need to be utilized as well.
Staying true to tradition, yet 21st century smart
I needed to overcome one problem, though:
How to keep a brand traditional and convey the homemade quality of its products, while updating its image to include these new marketing tools?
The solution was to use online platforms to showcase the products through contests, company news and videos.
These platforms also encourage national customer interaction, which Swiss Maid has lacked in the past.
We’ve started boosting this national presence by communicating to our online customers the same way we do with our in-store customers, and by listening and responding to their needs.
On Facebook, we run a monthly giveaway of one free pound of fudge, which helps engage our fans and also gives us great feedback on our products.
Our goal is to bring good, quality fudge to the masses, and to have fun with the people who love our fudge just as much as we do!
The blog, started in February 2010, focuses on company news as well as industry news.
It’s a little different from our Twitter and Facebook accounts, which encourage instant customer feedback through contests and company announcements.
For YouTube, I decided to personally make some of my favorite family recipes, some of which are also featured on the blog.
So far, I have seen a positive response to the changes and I hope to continue to use them as well as expand to other emerging social media tools.
Now our focus is to build out the personal experience customers have in our retail store on our website, so they can get to know our employees and our products in a more interactive way online.
Since it began in 1962, I believe Swiss Maid Fudge has thrived because we produce a quality product made from scratch in small batches with the best ingredients.
Now, I hope it can be an example to other small businesses through its use of social media.
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Jane Heller is the president of Swiss Maid Fudge and has been involved with the company since she was 14. Swiss Maid Fudge was started in 1962 by Heller’s father and was bought by Heller, who continues the old-world way making fudge, in 1997. This award-winning company has been featured on many news outlets including the Rachel Ray show and CakeSpy.com. Swiss Maid Fudge is located in Wisconsin Dells, Wis., but is shipped nationwide through their website. Contact Jane on Twitter.