For 2019, I'm making a lot of changes to my business. For one, I started legitimately doing business. For another, I'm blogging! I'm sure you know this already, as there's a legion of fans waiting with bated breath for my next sporadically timed post (that's what I imagine, anyway. In reality, it's mostly my dogs waiting for me to close the laptop and fill their bowls. But I'll take it).
I'm trying to post Mondays and Fridays, and once a month I plan to do a feature post on a local female entrepreneur and her business. To kick off January and the first of such posts, I chose a business that is near and dear to my heart: mothertootin' chocolate.
Katherine Wilbur, a transplant originally from Illinois, has started a candy company called Woodland Confectionary, and IT. IS. AMAZING. This was meant to be a post about Katherine's process and not a review, but I would be horribly remiss if I didn't let everyone know that the candy at Woodland Confectionary is like nothing you've ever tasted. Katherine said candy making is somewhere between a science and an art; "a craft" is how she described it, and after tasting her artisan chocolates, I'm inclined to respectfully disagree.
Not only does Katherine run Woodland Confectionary, she and her family operate New Sun Farm, also of Rogers City. Sounds like a lot, I know, but Katherine is clearly a multitasking machine. Watching Katherine alternate between stations in the Three Heart Bakery with all the calm of a a grizzled kitchen veteran who fears no boiling pot gave me a little bit of anxiety--especially when she began telling me the many steps to making a good chocolate. Did you know about tempering? And the six kinds of crystals that form in chocolate? And about fat contents creating a swirl and how caramel has to be at an exact temperature and you can't scrape the bottom of the pan DID YOU KNOW?
It's okay if you don't, because Katherine knows. She's like Willy Wonka, if Willy had done the work himself without enslaving the Oompa Loompas. My point is, she's a professional candy maker who knows her craft. Not just the how, but the why. And you can taste that understanding and appreciation for quality ingredients in the final product. You know those fruit buttercream filled candies, the ones that you take half a bite out of then leave in the box? Those are actually delicious when they're made with real, natural ingredients! Yes, seriously!
I know, I was surprised, too. We've been getting screwed for years, and we didn't even know it. But no more!
Getting to know Katherine was actually the coolest part of the day (although sampling her candies wasn't exactly hard on me, you know?), and I'm so happy I have the chance to help spread her mission and message.
What made you and your family move to Rogers City?
Our dear friends lived in Rogers City and in visiting them we fell in love with the area. When an opportunity to purchase a 50 acre farm here came up, we had to take it. We moved here from Lansing in May 2017.
What do you enjoy most about Northeast Michigan?
Living so close to a great lake. It's amazing to be able to take a break from work and go to the beach a minute away. The people are also great, and make Rogers City a special town to live because the people care about it.
What sort of challenges do you face running a farm as well as a candy business?
Overall, it works well. Farm work is primarily done in the summer, when it's too hot/humid for candy, and candy is done in the winter, when it's too cold for farming. However, we farm year round, and just the other day, when I should have been spending time making candy, I was helping my husband fortify our pig shelter to help our three pigs withstand these artic temps we are getting.
What products at Woodland Confectionary feature products from New Sun Farm?
Since I started Woodland Confectionary in late fall of 2018, there weren't a lot of ingredients to obtain (though I did make some spectacular apple cider caramels using Knaebe's apple cider). In the future, we will grow and then use in our candy: strawberries, raspberries, apples, pears, ginger, lots of herbs, and bacon.
What's your favorite product to make and to eat?
I really love caramels. Both to make, and to eat. They are so versatile and also tricky, like you need to know the secret password to get it right.
What sort of steps do you take to keep artificial ingredients out of your products?
High quality food of any sort shouldn't have artificial ingredients. In candy making, those things are usually in the form of flavorings, colorings, and preservatives. The heart of Woodland Confectionary is making sweets from nature, so the flavors and colors come from natural sources only. If I can't get it naturally, I just won't make it, and even though there are natural flavorings out there, I prefer to have the main component be something that came from around here. As far as preservatives go, I just don't use them. It does mean that some of the candies have a shorter shelf life (for example, truffles are like 40% heavy cream, so they only last about 2-3 weeks), but that just means I have to have good time management.
What sort of products do you offer?
Right now, I offer chocolates. I plan to expand to gummies, hard candy, and cotton candy in the future. Three Heart makes the baked goods.
What role does social media play in your business, and what sites do you use?
Facebook and Instagram. They play major roles. Not knowing many people in the area, these pages are vital for reaching a lot of people.
Where do you see Woodland Confectionary in the next 5 years?
Making candy year round, and selling it, out of the stone house that's behind Three Heart.
Having the opportunity to speak with Katherine about her candy business and her farm opened my eyes to the intense level of dedication required when an entrepreneur really, truly believes in their product. Katherine believes that every cute town needs a cute candy store, and I'm with her on that. I know Woodland Confectionary will soon become a candy destination, one the locals of Rogers City can boast about to vacationers and out-of-towners.
You can visit Woodland Confectionary's website here and read more about their commitment to natural and local ingredients, quality, and sustainable practices. You can also order your chocolates for Valentine's Day, or even a monthly candy subscription! Use the code VDAY19 at checkout for 14% off your order, and let me know on Facebook what your favorite candy is! Personally, I love the cayenne chocolates. Yup, you heard me right.
What are you waiting for? Chocolate awaits!