Shop Talk is a weekly column featuring locally owned and operated businesses. This week, we talk to Ian Lamont, owner of Slickepott Fudge Sauce in Delhi.
How long have you lived in the area?
My family moved to Delhi in 1993.
Tell me about your business:
Well, fudge sauce has been an institution in my family for well over 50 years. It started with my dad's mother, Nana, giving away fudge sauce every year at Christmastime; my mother continued the tradition, and my recipe is a variation of hers. The business has slowly but surely grown and developed, but the ingredients remain simple and old-fashioned: just fresh cream, cane sugar, butter, unsweetened chocolate, vanilla and salt (Slickepott is one of the few fudge sauce makers that refuses to use corn syrup or preservatives). Every jar is from a small batch, hand-made by me. About 20 stores carry my velvety-smooth chocolate ganache-style fudge sauce. I do food shows and festivals all over the Northeast throughout the year, and customers from across the nation order regularly from the website.
Describe a typical day in your business:
Every day is completely different: production days I am in the kitchen for eight hours stirring and listening to lectures on my iPod; office days are spent making phone calls and responding to emails, shipping orders, keeping my books in order, and other miscellaneous tasks; event days you will find me at a food and wine festival or maybe a farmers market giving samples and selling fudge sauce to enthusiastic foodies.
How did you get started in this line of work?
Shortly after I completed my first twelve years of education at home, I wanted to continue my education, but did not want to accrue personal debt. My areas of interest were business and law, so I decided to start with the maxim, "If you want to learn about business, start one!", in the hope that my business pursuit would eventually help to fund my law degree. At first it was like wrestling an octopus; trying all at once to perfect the recipe, get the proper permits and licenses, find a kitchen to use, etc, etc. Deciding on a name was the easy part: 'Slickepott' (pronounced slick'-uh-put) is a Swedish idiom that I learned from Nana, who was from Sweden. The word refers to the index finger or a rubber spatula; Nana used it as a verb to describe licking something delicious from a bowl, spoon, or beater.
Where do you see this business in five years?
By then, I hope to have added at least two more products to my lineup. A caramel sauce is currently in development, and there are some other ideas floating around in my head. From a distribution perspective, I want to grow my wholesale network to cover more of the Northeast, especially the metropolitan areas.
What have you learned from your work?
Since I had very little experience coming into this business, every single aspect has been an education in itself. I would say that one of the most prominent lessons has been that you can't solely rely on having a fabulous product and expect success; how you present your product, how you treat customers, and how actively you are getting the product in front of people are all of utmost importance.
What is the most challenging part of what you do?
The biggest headache is bureaucratic red tape. But the biggest challenge, in a good way, is making sure that my customers are satisfied and well-served.
The most enjoyable?
By far, the most rewarding and satisfying part is watching someone taste the fudge sauce for the first time _ I've seen some priceless reactions!
How do you define success for your business?
As a committed Christian, I define success in every area as loving and obeying God.
In business, this means treating my customers the way I would want to be treated, being honest and fair, and finding joy in every minute I have in this business.
What are some advantages as well as drawbacks of doing business in this area?
Local and old-fashioned foods are on the rise right now, so that fits right in with Slickepott's whole mission. People love chocolate, and sweets as a category are pretty recession-proof.
There are few drawbacks: New York is one of the few states that charges sales tax on fudge sauce, and since I use no preservatives, I have to be careful that my product doesn't sit around too long in hot weather.
What sets you apart from your competitors?
As mentioned before, I refuse to add corn syrup or preservatives to my fudge sauce. This makes for a smooth, clean, old-fashioned flavor. People tell me all the time that it reminds them of their grandmother's recipe.
What advice would you give to someone trying to enter your field of work?
Pay attention to details; small things often make a huge difference.
Shop Talk interviews are conducted by Terry Hannum. For information, call The Daily Star at 432-1000, ext. 217, or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.