We had the good fortune of connecting with Justin Charboneau and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Justin, we’d love to hear more about how you thought about starting your own business?
When I started SugarTats Cookie Company in April 2020, I didn’t really know it would turn into what it is today. I started making cookies because I enjoyed it, and even more I loved seeing the joy on people’s faces when they received custom treats made specifically for them. That feeling is what drove me to start this business because I realized I had an opportunity to bring happiness to people through my cookies.
Can you open up a bit about your work and career? We’re big fans and we’d love for our community to learn more about your work.
Cookies are definitely a passion of mine that I never would have expected if you had asked me two years ago. I have spent almost the last decade working for my dream company outside of the baking world and I was happy with that, until one day I made cookies for some friends and my life took a delicious turn. I am always inspired when I find out that some of my favorite entrepreneurs and business owners are still working day jobs. Countless working hours and little sleep, yet they seem happier than those of us who are just working one job. I started to realize that when you are passionate about one thing, that passion and joy can spread into everything you do.
For my day job, I work full time as a Sales Trainer for a Colorado-based phone case company called OtterBox. I have been at Otter for the past 8.5 years and it has been a fun journey learning how to navigate a full-time job while running a full-time business on the side.
My experience in my day job has definitely played a big role in my success as a business owner. At OtterBox I have held several positions from Customer Service, to Sales, and now as the Sales Trainer. Through all of this I learned the essential skills to run SugarTats including building relationships to understand my customer’s needs, and educating them on my product offerings. I also gained experience in managing my expenses to maximize profitability.
Having a head start on this business knowledge gave me the confidence to hit the ground running with the launch of SugarTats. That confidence opened a couple pretty cool doors for my brand including an appearance on Season 4 of Food Network’s Christmas Cookie Challenge show in November 2020. I had a successful audition shortly after I launched the business and getting to be on the show was one of the coolest experiences of my life!
Appearing on national television not only increased my brand awareness, but also the amount of orders I was getting. I started receiving more orders than I could handle, and like any new business owners, I said yes to all of them!
The following two months were the most stressful months I have had. By taking on more than I could handle I began falling behind on my orders, and on tasks in my day job. I had to have a realization that if I do not manage my time better and take care of me, I could lose my job, and my business. This was a hard pill to swallow since I put myself into this position, but it was also the most valuable lesson I could have learned. From that moment on I put more effort into my day job and, in turn, more effort was applied to my business. I started practicing better time management in my business which then made me better in that area with my day job. All of the little bits of effort I was putting into one area was starting to spread into everything I was doing and I started to experience what I saw in so many entrepreneurs. Fast forward to today, I am busier than I have ever been and I couldn’t be happier!
I know that I am on my way to being able to have SugarTats be my only full-time priority. And until that happens, I aim to be the best I can at both, be grateful for everything OtterBox and SugarTats has provided me, and hopefully inspire new entrepreneurs who aren’t sure how to start a business and work a full-time job at the same time.
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.
Denver is an awesome city and there are so many great spots to go! If I were to be your guide, here is our itinerary:
First things first, we would stop at my favorite breakfast burrito place called Mercedes. It’s on Pecos just a few miles north of downtown. Definitely a hidden gem with incredible food!
Following that we would grab a bicycle and head down the Platte River trail and hit up some breweries downtown. I am a big fan of Denver Beer Co as well as Epic Brewing but there are so many breweries we would never run out of options.
For lunch we would hit up my favorite restaurant spot called Avanti Food and Beverage. It is a trendy spot with multiple restaurants and a couple cool bars inside of the building. Plus, the upstairs patio has the best view of the downtown skyline at sunset!
After that we would head over to a fun cider bar called C Squared that has jumbo-sized yard games inside. I mean HUGE sized games like beer pong with full sized trash cans and a basketball, CornHole where you throw a full-sized beanbag chair, and the biggest connect four board you’ve ever seen. This is a fun bar to go to with friends!
To close out the night we would head towards Union Station and get tacos at Machete, then head to Larimer street to my favorite speakeasy called the Green Russell.
Who else deserves some credit and recognition?
My shoutout has to go to my wife Brittany for her unconditional support of this hobby that is filled with late and sleepless nights, her ability to adapt to the kitchen being messy more often than not, and rarely questioning me wanting to buy new toys and tools for baking.
Brittany is known as The Funny Runner (@funnyrunner26.2 on Instagram) and is a professional runner with The North Face. She is my biggest supporter and best friend! She continuously finds ways to spread joy into this world and inspires me to do the same in everything I do!
The photo of me standing with my arm on the railing was taken by Benjamin Woodley-Rifen (Hyphenated Images)
Steve Doran (IG: @_stevedoran_)