We had the good fortune of connecting with Chana Wood Entrepreneur and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Chana Wood, what was your thought process behind starting your own business?
Starting Sugar Wood/Sugar Wear was a touch of happenstance, a dash of fate with a spoonful of determination. We were living in the Twin Cities 9 years ago and my husband was laid off from his job. In an effort to renew our spirits and start fresh, we decided to move to my hometown area in Cumberland Wisconsin where I grew up on my Grandparent’s farm. We wanted to be close to my grandparents again as well as other local family in the area.
We were planning to re-start of lives when we needed some extra cash that Christmas. I decided to throw together a beautiful gift box full of all of the delicious desserts and candy my Grandma Ricci and I would bake together when I was growing up. We were hoping to “guilt” a few friends and family into buying them from us so we could have some extra money for Christmas presents for our girls who were just 5 and 3 years old.
Somehow our caramel shortbread (an item in the gift box) became a huge hit and a buyer from Louie’s Finer Meats in Cumberland asked us if we would be interested in selling it at their retail location. This was an offer that changed the trajectory of our lives. Once our product hit the shelves at that successful retail location- our brand became “known” and we realized we had a small business on our hands.
The years following have been a joyful and challenging strings of lessons and experiences we are so grateful for. We have now sold our brand in nearly 40 retail locations nationwide. And we have shipped to every state in American through our website. We’ve even had customers bring our products to Italy, Germany, Spain, England and Australia!
This summer, we opened our first retail shop called “Sugar Wear” on main street in Cumberland. This shop supports our newest brand which is a clothing line as well as our Sugar Wood candy products and a lot of other lovely brands and gifts! The location is at 1312 2nd Avenue and we have loved getting to meet and see our customers in person!
What should our readers know about your business?
I believe what sets our brand apart from others is our innovation and creativity. We have been able to fluctuate with the times and serve our customers from a place of excitement and creativity.
My husband and I have both worked in business for years, having been managers as well as employees for other small business owners. We have gathered up many skills from our time learning from other successful brand owners over the years. We took the lessons and tools we gained from those years working for others and applied them to our brand once we started to see sucess within our company. It was not easy in the least. It has taken years and years to streamline our processes and create a widely known company. Our challenges have been overcome by remaining open to change. I believe as a business owner, you have to be ready to pivot and shift as the market needs. We have been open to advice from mentors, studied other successful business owners and soaked up their wisdom and have always been open to growth.
One of the lessons we’ve gained has been one of confidence. You have to believe in what you are selling and what y0u are creating more than anyone else. In the beginning, I would set our price points according to what I thought people would pay. I never factored in our time, or the proper numbers for creating each product. We were underselling our items in hopes that folks would appreciate them more. This was a huge mistake. We had to learn that having confidence in our brand wasn’t a selfish or arrogant trait. It was necessary in order for us to gain the proper brand recognition we needed to have a lasting effect on the marketplace.
What I would want the world to know about our brand is that we are ever flowing and always innovating. Creativity is our cornerstone and we see ourselves as visionaries and artists whose paintbrush happens to be treats and desserts at this time, but it has also included fashion and a gift shop and in the future may embrace more ways to tap into our talents and creativity. We are a small town brand with our roots deeply planted in family, and we welcome our customers to enjoy and experience what we have to offer which is served with nothing but love and gratitude.
Let’s say your best friend was visiting the area and you wanted to show them the best time ever. Where would you take them? Give us a little itinerary – say it was a week long trip, where would you eat, drink, visit, hang out, etc.
OH my goodness! How fun! We would have to grab coffee and a scone at Roots on main street. We would grab an outside table (it’s July in my fantasy here folks!) and watch the traffic for a bit before we headed off to do some shopping.
We would have Himalayan salt cave sessions and facials booked at Salud Salt & Spa and enjoy a beautiful massage as well.
Next would be some shopping, we would hit up Tevin, an adorable gift shop right on Mainstreet as well, and then Dancing Bird, White Willow too. Sugar Wear would be a stop on our list too because I’d make my friend support my store! haha!
Lunches would be had at Louie’s on the Lake, Peter & Annies and Nezzy’s for sure.
I would have to make sure we stopped at Bona Casa, Bistro 63 and the 5 oclock club for dinner!
A trip to the Cumberland Dairy Queen would be a must and we’d head up to Louie’s Finer Meats after that to grab some steaks to grill out after we spent the day at Beaver Dam lake on the pontoon.
Hopefully the ETC theater would have a production going and we could catch a show and enjoy some local talent. If nothing else, we would make sure to stop at the music on the lake series that happens weekly in the summer.
On Saturday we’d hit up the Farmers Market and then stroll back down main street where we’d hit up our very own rock shop called Lingen Tree to learn about crystals and snag come sparkling goodies. Dani from Magic Touch would be in the same building for us to enjoy a nice foot detox or another massage.
We would also make sure to find time to rent some paddleboards and enjoy as many sunsets on the lake as we possibly could!
Shoutout is all about shouting out others who you feel deserve additional recognition and exposure. Who would you like to shoutout?
We wouldn’t be where we are without the love and support of our customers who have believed in us from day one. When we first moved to Cumberland many of our Twin Cities friends said “Why would you move to that tiny town?” We had a pull and intuition that something great could come out of us taking time to reflect and head back to my roots. We have spent nearly nothing on marketing over the years and word of mouth is how we have become a well known brand in the area. Getting into Louie’s Finer Meats opened our product up to a group of customers we would have never met and this is the reason we have gotten to the level we have. Customers know our story. They believe in us and know we came from nothing in regards to this business. They’ve watched us every step of the way try new things and put ourselves out there. They are the ones who have purchased our items and gifted them to friends and family and have shared our brand story with others. They are the ones who have helped us believe in ourselves. We never take lightly the fact that these incredible people have spent their hard earned money on our products and we consider their support the highest compliment.
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