Kiplinger's spoke with Daricus and Daryl Releford (pictured left), both 26, of Red Lion, Pa., about starting Twigedies Berries one year ago to sell chocolate-covered strawberries via the Internet. Here are excerpts from our interview:
Twigedies Berries? How did you come up with that name? In high school, our friends gave us the name “twigedies”—a play on “twins.” When we named our business [www.twigedies.com], we knew we wouldn’t infringe on anyone else’s trademark.
Did you have business experience? We’ve run businesses since age 12. We started by mowing lawns and made $3,200 our first summer. At 15, we bought a hot dog cart with money from our lawn mowing. In high school, we ran a concession stand at festivals and made about $6,000 per show.
Why chocolate-covered strawberries? We wanted to buy some for our mom for Mother’s Day. First we tried a sample at a local gift shop, and the chocolate tasted awful. Next we went to the grocery store, where we found chocolate-covered strawberries packaged in a meat tray with plastic wrap. It didn’t look like a gift. We finally ordered some online, but when the package arrived, the strawberries were destroyed. We thought we could do better.
Did you know anything about making chocolate? No. We learned through trial and error and burned a couple of pounds of it in the process. But we know what tastes good. We created a custom blend of dark and milk chocolates, so it isn’t too dark and it’s still smooth and creamy.
What else makes your berries special? We get fresh berries for each order and use them within a day. We don’t just dip the berries in chocolate. We always add a design and can even add custom colors for weddings and other special events. Our packaging looks upscale and keeps the berries safe and cool during shipping. And we guarantee they will be fresh for four days after delivery.
How did you fund your start-up? We needed $20,000 to $25,000 to design and produce the packaging and get our Web site up and running. We used some of our own money, and our mom invested, too.
Where do you work? In our stepfather’s home in Red Lion, Pa., outside York. This is our full-time work now, and it’s really outgrowing the house. We’re living on our savings, and everything we make goes back into the business.
What’s your biggest challenge? Marketing our product. This is a gift idea. You don’t need it. We have to reach the right customers and explain why our product costs what it does [$20 to $35 per box of six to 12 berries] and why it’s a better gift than, say, flowers.
Where do you go from here? We’d like to offer roses with the strawberries, so for $30 or $35 you’d get both. We hope to find more investors so we can grow, and someday we’d like to franchise the business. Plus, we pitched a reality-TV show about running our business to the TLC network. A production company shot a sizzle reel [like a screen test], and we’re waiting to see what happens.
Do you ever get sick of chocolate? When you start the day, you think, That smells good. But after a couple of hours...
How do you measure success? The day we can take care of our mom, we’ll feel successful.
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