Soldotna business finds success from sugar rush

Sweet alternative to flower bouquet

Posted: Thursday, February 14, 2002

A Soldotna business woman expects to find her candy and gift franchise in a sweet predicament by the end of the day today. Hoping to capitalize on the change of pace from the ordinary floral Valentine's Day gifts, she is looking forward to realizing success on what could be her biggest day.

"An alternative. That's what we give people,"said Kathy Waterbury, the owner and manager of Candy Bouquet in Soldotna.

Waterbury said the past several weeks leading up to Valentine's Day have kept her young candy and gift franchise running at a constant pace. And she said expects business today to be "crazy-wonderful."

"This has been our busiest season," Waterbury said. "All the holidays have been really good to us."

Those holidays began with Mother's day last May, shortly after Candy Bouquet opened. A resident of Soldotna since 1991, Waterbury said she owned an insurance agency before taking on the candy business, and has enjoyed the difference she's found in her new venture. That difference is selling candy and gifts arranged together for varying occasions like a floral bouquet.

"I wanted to do something fun," she said. "I wanted to do something creative. Something that makes people smile. Insurance doesn't make people smile."

Waterbury said she hunted for franchise opportunities on the Internet, looking initially to open a popcorn store. That's when she found the link that led her to Candy Bouquet International Inc. She said she was determined to make the idea work.

"When I saw the idea for the franchise, I knew we needed something different in the area," Waterbury said.

CBI is a Little Rock, Ark., franchiser that distributes candy, gifts, licensing, accessories and decorating material to business owners. Founded in 1989 by Margaret McEntire, the company has more than 530 franchises worldwide, including stores in Anchorage, Wasilla and Fairbanks. Would-be entrepreneurs pay the company about $2,000 and attend a week-long training class in order to set up shop.

The company allows franchisees to establish their own protected geographic territory, which eliminates the chance of more than one franchise vying for the same business. Waterbury said her territory covers the entire peninsula.

"I have everything from Moose Pass to Homer," she said.

She admitted to being anxious about going into business in a niche market, but said her customer base has gradually grown since opening day.

"I was nervous in some ways," Waterbury said. "But if you firmly believe in what you're doing, and you're excited about it, it goes a long way. Business has been picking up. It's something the community has grown to really like. There really is a market for candy."

Waterbury said she has done well in spite of not having her business listed in the phone directory. Word of mouth has helped her, she said.

"The more people know about us, the more they like what they see," she said.

She also mentioned that doing a large project for Nikiski Middle-Senior High School's homecoming, themed Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory, didn't hurt business any, either.

"We did top hats covered with candy for the boys and candy-filled canes for the girls," Waterbury said. "Now, they travel all the way here for gifts."

Waterbury said she receives a lot of help from her family. Her mother-in-law, Storm Waterbury, works in the store often and helps with designing bouquets. Waterbury said her father-in-law also lends a hand when she needs it, as well as her husband, Rocky, and her children Tanner and Tasha.

"You really can't go into small business without involving your family," she said.

But how successful has Candy Bouquet been since opening on the peninsula? Waterbury would not give a monetary amount to describe how well her business does, but she said her ambition is not too high for her to reach, so she is able to find success easily.

"I have kept my goals very level," she said. "I set my goal at being enough to pay my bills. I can count on one hand how many times I haven't hit my goal in nine months. I've talked to other franchise owners who can't say the same."

Waterbury said whenever she is in her store, she is open. And she plans to be there late this evening.

"If I'm here late, my sign is on," she said.

"I'm not against someone stopping in and saying, 'I've got a last-minute order.'"

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