Hi! I'm Dane Carlson, and welcome to the Business Opportunities Weblog. I've been publishing this website, by myself, and sometimes with the help of others for over twelve years now. You'll notice two things about this site right away:

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Just one quick peek into Candy.com will leave you craving your favorite sweets. Whether it is a treat from your past or a present favorite, a quick search can easily turn into a shopping cart full of candy.

For all of your newly discovered cravings you can thank Greg Balestrieri and Joe Melville. As third generation candy-entrepreneurs, it’s comes as no surprise that they would take a leap into the virtual candy business. A leap that is bound to be a success.

What is Candy.com?

Candy.com is the World’s Largest Online Corner Candy Store that started as the entrepreneurial dream of two cousins who are the third generation of a family-owned candy business – that’s us.

We wanted Candy.com to be a fun place where anyone can go to enjoy their favorite candies — even the old-favorites they remember from when they were kids

We offer great service, great prices and the greatest variety giving our customers over 6000 products to chose from. People come to Candy.com not just to buy candy bars, bulk candy chocolates, or lollipops, but to easily find one place that has it all. We want everyone, families, businesses, event planners and even new brides and grooms, or new parents to come to our site and have a great time finding exactly what they’re looking for.

What inspired it?

Our family has been in the candy business for over 36 years. We eat, drink, sleep and dream about candy. We’re in the business of sharing fun and see firsthand the joy that comes over someone’s face when we can bring back the taste of a sweet memory from the past.

What started out as a small, family-owned candy manufacturer grew when we opened up our online candy store. In less than 2 years we were able to reach many more people on the Internet and saw a boom of over 371% growth in business. That convinced us that we were on the right track and could take our family business to a new level. That was the beginning.

I have to admit that a quick look at Candy.com left me craving some of my favorite candies. Out of everything you have listed, what are your favorites?

That’s just what we were hoping for! Our mission is to inspire those great feelings we all remember and bring back the joy of old memories that sweet treats create. As for my favorites (Greg), I get a kick out of trying all the retro candy, but I really like hot sauce and things that stimulate the senses. But if I had to pick a favorite, I would say sour candy and anything Sour Gummy. Joe is a big chocolate fan, but nothing gets him more excited than retro-candy and finding an old-favorite for someone who asked us for something they couldn’t find it. We love that, so you might want to stay tuned into Candy.com because you will soon be seeing some candy you may not have enjoyed in a long time!

Although the chocolate and candy industries appear to be recession-proof, there is still plenty of competition. What do you feel helps separate you from your competitors?

No question there are a few key differences that set Candy.com distinctively apart.

For one, because of the economies of scale we’re able to beat prices on the Internet and in brick and mortar stores. We carry 6000 unique candy items. You want it…we have it, or will try to find it and, we’ve not forgotten about a wide range of categories like natural products, healthy products like gluten-free and sugarless and even baking needs or Baby-Boomer favorites.

Second, Candy.com is creating a candy community for our candy-loving customers. Candy.com is a destination site which means it’s more than just a candy store – it’s a unique shopping experience. We get to know our customers so we understand what they want and what they need. That way we have something for everyone and try to appeal to all – consumers, wholesale customers and anyone who has an event or client to buy candy for.

Another differentiator is that we have two 100,000+ sq.ft warehouses on both coasts of the United States, and soon we’ll be adding a third distribution center in Canada. This allows us to carry more items and have them shipped to our customers faster than anyone.

Tell us a little about your candy-based history. What was it like growing up with a closer than usual connection to candy through the family business?

Growing up with parents, grandparents and aunts and uncles that know so much about the candy industry has been great and there’s no better way to learn than from your family. Everybody loves candy, so it was a great way to make friends too. Studies have shown that people with candy on their desks have more friends! We know that’s true.

I imagine that alone helped you bring a wealth of knowledge with you into this start up, but what are some of the things both of you have learned directly from the planning and launching of Candy.com?

Everyday is a learning process. We are trying to listen and respond quickly to what our customers are saying. We’ve learned a lot already, but it’s a long road and just when you think you got it figured out there’s always something new to learn. One thing we’ve learned is that does take time to develop, but when you see an opportunity you must be confident and strike fast.

What goals do you hope to reach with the website before your first anniversary? What are a few of your long-term goals?

We’re really encouraged already because right out of the box we’re doing even better than we had expected. Within one year our goal is for Candy.com to be the first website that shows up when you search for candy. We’re going to work hard to be the # 1 candy source in the United States and have the highest customer satisfaction rate possible.

We also what to keep Candy.com fresh. We’ve got some great stuff coming up too, so pretty soon you’ll see Candy.com showcase new products, roll out our new candy blog, candy reviews, a community candy forum to talk about our favorite topic and even a fun section full of contests, games and prizes for kids of all ages. There will be no place like Candy.com!

Any pieces of advice that you would like to offer others as they attempt to launch businesses of their own?

Don’t ever let anyone tell you can’t obtain something, because if you start to believe that then you won’t. Surround yourself with people who are smarter then you. Finally know your market, know your customers, and know how to reach them.

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Originally posted by Angela Shupe on July 28, 2009 in Interviews.

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