After spending 37 years in a corporate career, starting a small business probably isn’t the first item on the agenda for retirees. Golf, grand kids, traveling… of course. But starting a business from scratch? Most would probably pass. Not Nan Marcus, though. In fact, it’s Nan’s experience in the corporate world that’s really helped her manage her business.
Nan owns and operates a gluten free bakery called Sweetopia in Newport, Delaware. Sweetopia isn’t a cafe. You can’t walk in for a slice of cake or a cookie. Instead, Nan’s model focuses on working with other local businesses such as coffee shops, organic stores, and even other bakeries. The sales pitch is quite simple. Many small shops don’t have the resources to cater to gluten free needs. Nan partners with other small businesses to market to a wider audience, and in turn, grows her own business.
So why Gluten Free? You might be surprised to know that Nan isn’t gluten intolerant herself. Gluten aside, she wasn’t even much of a cook for a large part of her life. Growing up, her mother never let her touch the stove. She didn’t even know how to boil a pot of water when she was first married. After getting married, she fed her family pork for a year. Now, they can hardly stand the sight of it. At the very least, a year of pork was enough to learn how to bake. Now, several decades later, cooking has become her life and livelihood.
Nan’s always up for a challenge, and that’s how the gluten free idea began. While working at DuPont, she worked on a team with a gluten intolerant attorney. Well, Nan saw it as an opportunity to learn something new. She wanted to create a dessert everyone in the office could enjoy, including the attorney. The dessert was a hit, and after retiring from DuPont, she decided to keep running with her gluten free idea and start Sweetopia. Starting a business comes with some challenges, but Nan’s life and career experience enabled her to overcome.
A few examples stick out. Nan and her husband had worked together in a home building company. Together, they developed two subdivision. When it came time to pick a location for Sweetopia, Nan knew she wanted to set up shop in her childhood home. Together, she and her husband remodeled the home to be up to production standards and code. The house is in a residential neighborhood but inside it is a full-on kitchen and packaging assembly. Without her background in home building, this would have been a much more difficult task.
Another example of Nan’s work experience paying off was a trademark lawsuit in 2015. Because of her work as a paralegal, Nan was able to do all her own research in the lawsuit and together with her attorney won the case without going to litigation.
Nan probably didn’t think she’d be making gluten free desserts at this point in her life. But she’s no intention on slowing down. In the upcoming months and years, Nan plans to get more involved with the community and start building a relationship with bigger partners like hotels, airlines, and corporations. In the community, Nan is looking to connect with the local college’s culinary school to help students gain experience running a small business.
What has she learned with JJUMPP? For starters, the importance of information. Consumer’s need quick info and appreciate speed. In addition, Nan’s learned how crucial a social media presence is to success. Nan posts photos of all her products on Facebook, along with some fun facts about the dessert like its origins, recipe, and other dietary facts.
Nan’s journey learning how to navigate a business online is just like her journey in learning to cook. For her, JJUMPP literally means a jump – leaping, bounding, and bolting into action rather than stumbling and crawling through the stresses of running a small business.