This week, we’re highlighting the wonderful folks who will be presenting workshops and leading discussion groups at the Rural Commonwealth Ag Summit on Sunday, February 11. This free, one-day event will be held at Mohawk Trail Regional High School and is made possible with a grant from Greenfield Savings Bank. The ideas for sessions at the Summit came from the farmers, foresters, and wood product producers we met and interviewed for our Western Franklin County Business Report.
Small-Batch Food Production (9:30 – 10:30)
with Michelle R. Olanyk, Owner and Fudge Artist at Mo’s Fudge Factor
I started Mo’s in 2005, I had worked at Yankee Candle for 12 years where I was able to climb the ladder to a position as a corporate buyer but decided to leave after the company went public and I found it was no longer a good fit for me. I then worked for 2 years as a Merchandise Manager for a stuffed animal company on Long Island, which also proved not to be a good fit.
I had imagined having my own business for as long as I can remember but never really knew what I might want to create. While on a trip to China I really connected with the idea of creating something that was my own, I did not like the businesses I was working for and I wanted to create a company where people wanted to come to work in the morning. I knew the specialty food and confections business from working at Yankee Candle and I found that I really loved that business environment, and I thought fudge and candy would be a business my kids might even be interested in helping me with.
I decided I would give it a try while still working for the company in New York, so I bought a water jacketed kettle and set it up on my kitchen table, found a few local stores who would buy from me at wholesale and off we went. I then created a fundraising program which I offered to the local school district and quickly booked 4 programs, although very small this was beginning to cause stress for my family as our entire house became an explosion of boxes, and ingredients, and we were getting enough accounts I really needed to become certified and work in a commercial space.
I learned that my neighbor had installed a commercial kitchen in his house so he could bake from home and sell wholesale, and he let me rent a 6 foot space in his kitchen where I could put my kettle and make candy when needed. I did this until 2007 when I found the space in Shelburne Falls and we decided to go all in and try and make this my full time focus.
We built an 8 x 8 commercial food preparation space where we made fudge exclusively, but we also sold candy and ice cream in the shop. We have since expanded our food preparation space to 500 square feet and we now make our own chocolates, bake from scratch, make brittles and hard candies as well as manufacture fudge.
We sell on Amazon as well as our own website, we offer a wholesale line and have over 40 accounts, we fundraise and sell at fairs and festivals, we sell locally made ice cream, bulk and packaged candy as well as hot chocolate and coffee. We are open 7 days a week and stay open year round.