Celia and Courtney, Caramel Caravan
Several months ago, Celia and Courtney purchased a vintage 1957 CalCraft trailer, brought it down from the California mountains and started revamping Caramel Caravan’s new mobile storefront. Retail Atelier caught up with them recently to hear about their adventures in the kitchen and beyond!
Retail Atelier: How did you and Courtney meet?
Celia: Courtney and I met through the Food & Agriculture Institute at Santa Clara University while doing our MBA's there. Here's a bit more about us: https://caramelcaravan.com/our-story/! You can also follow us on Facebook and Instagram.
Retail Atelier: I’m sure my readers would love to know how you’ve leveraged your MBAs to found your own business. Could you share more about your journey after business school?
Celia: Courtney was working at a beer producer here in the Bay Area after graduating from her MBA - she even launched a new beer brand! However, she had an inkling that she wanted to do something on her own. I had just graduated, and Courtney and I ran into each other. She had already started the caramel biz as Courtney’s Caramels - but wanted to grow it. That’s when I came on board! Of course having an MBA doesn’t mean you know everything about business, but you have a good foundation - and learn skills and confidence to be able to help yourself - to find and understand the info you need.
Retail Atelier: Did you collaborate on a new and secret recipe? How did you come together and form such a great team?
Celia: Courtney and her mom have been perfecting this caramel recipe for years! It is something that we wanted to share with a larger audience. We both had a shared love of caramels/baked goods, a joint passion for sustainability, and interest in joining the maker’s movement- it seemed like a natural fit.
Retail Atelier: We’d love to hear more about your caramels!
Celia: They are completely handcrafted, small batch caramels and caramel treats, using local suppliers. Fresh ingredients like Gilt Edge butter and Clover cream create a rich, less-sweet caramel like days gone past. We sell to boutiques, small markets, flower delivery companies, gift box companies, and more. We find that our caramels are often used as gifts.
Retail Atelier: They sound yummy! Do you spend a lot of time in the kitchen? What is your day-to-day life like as a founder/business owner/baker?
Celia: It varies. We might be in the kitchen making, cutting, wrapping, or packaging caramels. We might be doing sales calls, getting our accounts in order, or looking into the regulations needed for our vintage 1957 caramel caravan (which is currently being renovated).
Retail Atelier: What is the story behind your brand name, Caramel Caravan? What was the strategy behind popping up around the Bay Area in a mobile storefront i.e. your caravan? How easy was it to get your caravan on the road?
Celia: We loved the idea of cute mobile trailers or trucks from the outset (a la Instagram, Pinterest, etc), not only to reach our customers, but to better tell our story. However, regulations are a wild mix! For example, our trailer needs to be certified by Santa Clara County (even though we aren’t serving open container food), as well as the CA Department of Housing. You have to register a vehicle dealing with food, whether that be a full-on food truck with a fryer - to a super limited food trailer - in every county you plan to operate. Check with your local county to see which specific regulations are required. And forget about parking your food truck / trailer anywhere, anytime! Regulations determine where you can park for how long as well.
Retail Atelier: How else do you show up to customers when you aren’t driving around in your caravan? Seems like you are in stores all over the US!
Celia: We’re still testing to see which retailers might be the best fit for us, but we feel we are getting closer; the gift market looks very promising. We’ve also been fortunate to work with a few E-commerce platforms, like Faire (previously called Indigo Fair) that show our products to retailers across the country - which gives us the opportunity to sell to stores and geographies we would not have been able to target yet. We also sell directly to customers online via our website.
Retail Atelier: What has been the most exciting part of founding your own business?
Celia: The ability to have your fingers in so many pies! From shooting content for social media, to production, to financials - you get to learn a lot and see so many aspects when you are running a small business.
Retail Atelier: Any words of advice for other female entrepreneurs who want to follow their passions?
Celia: Do it but do your research! It’s nice to have an idea, just follow that idea down the road a bit and see what your reality will really look like on a day to day basis.