09 Feb Not Your Grandmother’s Recipe
Have you ever gotten a recipe at Thanksgiving and made that dish into a successful side business? Stephanie Golden, a Wall Street financier, did just that with the help from family and friends. Making a toffee treat so delicious even Oprah recognized it as one of her favorite things in 2016.
Toffee with Attitude
Golden grew up in New York City and had dreams of being an actress when she was little. Not wanting to wait tables all of her life, she made the move to Wall Street in the 1980’s and spent time at large financial institutions such as Merrill Lynch and JP Morgan Chase. She took a quick break from the financial industry and pivoted back to her passion for acting, albeit behind the camera, and produced the Grand Jury Prize film Urbania at the 2000 Sundance Film Festival.
It was after returning to Wall Street that Golden went to a Thanksgiving dinner one year and tasted a friend’s mom’s homemade toffee.
“I asked for the recipe and started experimenting with different ingredients,” Golden said. “I like the bits that were thin so I removed the corn syrup from my recipe. I also preferred dark chocolate and sea salt and started playing around with flavors.”
For example, for Valentines Day, Golden has put together two toffee creations. One includes pomegranate, crispy corn flakes and sea salt while the other is a dark chocolate mix with sour, Bing and Rainier cherries.
“I was never married to anything with toffee but I learned that people think of olde English toffee or their grandmother’s toffee recipe,” she said. “I don’t have any preconceived notions about toffee.”
From the name to the packaging, this toffee has some attitude.
Building a Brand
Putting together a brand of toffee proved more far-reaching than she first anticipated. To come up with the name, Biggie’s Crack Coffee, she referred to something Spanx founder Sara Blakely said when she was coming up with her brand’s name.
“When she was coming up with the name for Spanx, she was doing comedy and she said that people always laugh at the ‘k’ sound,” she said. “I thought about that and how toffee translates to hard crack.’
Golden also needed a professional label but the companies she was speaking with were just too pricey. A friend of hers had mentioned the website 99designs.com where consultants compete to create your design for a much more cost-effective price.
“One of the designers happened to capture exactly what I wanted for a label, before I even knew what I wanted and I went with him,” she said. “I’ve never met the guy before. In fact, he lives in Gana, Africa and is a miner by trade but I still use him to this day.”
Oprah’s Favorite Things
“I was giving toffee out to friends and family and one of my friends happened to give it to Oprah,” she explained. “My toffee got picked as one of 10 of her favorite things. Five were highlighted on GMA while the other five were featured on the View. Biggie’s Crack Toffee was featured on the View and orders flew in from the exposure.”
Still working full time, Golden would go to her day job from 9-5 and then go to a working kitchen space until about 2 am every day. She was getting about 4 hours of sleep a night but says “you do what you have to do.”
Before the Oprah exposure, she was making 10 to 150 pounds of toffee and after, she had to produce more than 10,000 pounds in two and a half months.
“I always knew we could do it but there were some days during those two and a half months that I was pulling my hair out,” she said. “I had a friend that said everyone has three great ideas but the challenge is getting those ideas off the ground.”
Learning As You Go
“I hired really great people and they were extremely helpful but you don’t know what you don’t know,” she said.
One of the lessons learned was that chocolate can be very temperamental.
“If you don’t heat chocolate to a certain level you need to cool it at a specific degree, otherwise the chocolate can look very ashy,” she said. “I didn’t know this when I was making it my own way but experienced this when we started using big machinery.”
She also said that she re-thought the design and packaging of the toffee after the Oprah exposure.
“I would tie ribbons on the packaging for one person but you don’t want to do this when you are creating 1000 packages at a time,” she explained.
Biggie’s Crack Toffee
As one of the first and only thin, crunchy toffees on the market, Golden is proud of the business she has grown on the side. She has a gluten-free product with no added preservatives that make for great holiday gifts. Her best sellers include toasted almond, toasted pecan, pistachio, crunchy peanut butter and crispy banana.
And according to Oprah, “They don’t call it crack toffee for nothing. Crunchy and buttery with toppings like white chocolate with pistachio, cranberry and coconut-once you start you can’t stop.”