Melissa Snover’s business, the Magic Candy Factory, can 3D print any shape, message, logo or image your mind can imagine. She gives us her entrepreneurial heritage.
Tell us about your business, what does it do?
Katjes Magic Candy Factory have developed the first 3D printer for food to reach the consumer market. We have set an unprecedented standard for customization in confectionary as candy lovers can choose to print a 3D shape, message, logo, drawing or even a ‘Sweet Selfie’ in one of nine, delicious vegan flavours. The 3D printer is also one of the fastest in the world as each A5 sized candy takes just 5 minutes to print. All of the ingredients are vegan, natural and allergen free so almost anyone can enjoy them.
What did you do before you started this business?
I was born in New York and came to the UK on a study abroad for my Masters degree in Business Management at Lancaster university. When I was 23 I founded my first company, Burton Financial, which was very successful and reached triple figure growth in its first 3 years. I decided to turn my focus and expertise to the confectionary industry in 2009. As a passionate vegetarian, I was frustrated by the lack on confectionary made without animal gelatine and so founded Goody Good Stuff to fill that gap in the market. GGS became the world’s first vegan, natural and allergen-free gummy candy and one of the fastest selling brands in Europe. When I sold it to Cloetta PLC in 2014, I had developed a sales network of 30,000 sale points in more than 33 countries worldwide.
What inspired you to start up?
My dream for The Magic Candy Factory came from the desire to allow anyone from any walk of life to make something totally unique and special for them. I wanted to make ground breaking technology accessible to millions, and to inspire people to be creative by allowing them to essentially design their own product in minutes.
Before Magic Candy Factory, there was no way to personalize confectionary for consumers in a fast or easy way. For example to make a special shape of sweet by the normal manufacturing methods, you would need to commit to at least 25 tonnes of ingredients and the product would take around 3 days to dry. By using our 3D printer, a customer can print a candy in a 3D shape, message, logo, drawing or photograph that is totally personal to them, in under 5 minutes.
How would you describe your business to a novice?
Katjes Magic Candy Factory have developed a 3D printer which prints customised confectionary in a matter of minutes. Using a special app, the customer chooses which design, flavour and topping they wish to create. A mixture of natural vegan ingredients is then heated up and then applied using a nozzle to produce the different shapes and unique choice of combinations. The shapes were developed by the Katjes UK team with the help of 3D modelling software, and turned into G-code instructions that tell the printer where, at what speed and what frequency it needs to apply each of the layers. The candy is printed live in front of the customer, who then gets to take it away to either eat or keep!
Where do you get advice, support or help?
My business partner, Bastian Fassin who is the CEO of Katjes in Germany, is a constant source of support and guidance to me. He is an incredible believer in people, innovation and passion. His expertise, experience and unwavering belief in me is invaluable.
When I first started this venture, I knew very little about 3D printing, and so I did a lot of my own research by reading books and essays on the technology, attending seminars and events such as Maker Faire until I got a decent amount of knowledge under my belt. In regards to the business, I have also worked closely with government bodies such as the Chamber of Commerce and the Department of International Trade who have offered me advice on how to break into new markets and supported me with exporting.
Finance is one of the most common barriers to starting up. How did you access the finance you needed?
The Magic Candy Factory was funded by the money which I made from the sale of my previous company, directors loans and support from our partner Katjes.
What has been your biggest achievement so far?
Since I founded Magic Candy Factory just under 24 months ago, we have achieved many things I am extremely proud of. My small team and I work incredibly hard to spread our magic all over the world and it is remarkable that we have launched our 3D printers across Europe, the Middle East, the USA and China in such a short space of time. However, one of our biggest achievements is having just launched our concept in John Lewis in our home market of the UK for Christmas. John Lewis is renowned for being one of the most prestigious department stores in the world and I was honoured when they asked us to partner with them.
I am also very proud of some of the recognition we have received. We have won several awards such as Innovation of the Year at ISM in 2016 and Best UK Start-up by Disruptive Pitch 2017. A few months ago we were also asked to be the face of the Invest in Great Britain campaign by DIT, who came to our offices to film and interview me for their case study.
How do you differentiate your business from others?
We are currently alone in our market as we are the only company in the world to be able to 3D print food live for consumers. The fact that all of our ingredients are natural, allergen free and vegan also makes us extremely unique. I truly believe that the key to maintaining success is through innovation and I am constantly looking at ways in which we can optimise and develop our patented software, hardware and ingredients. Despite the fact that our 3D printers are less than 2 years old, we are already working on the 6th model because innovation is at the heart of our business and we always want to be at the top of our industry.
What’s it like to be your own boss?
Being the Managing Director of a start-up allows me to really be creative; I often get our small team together to have brain storming sessions where we come up with new concepts and ideas and it really helps to make the team feel involved and important. Being the ‘boss’ also means that I can make decisions quickly and implement them efficiently so that they have an immediate effect on the business, without having to go through a long stream of approvals like some larger, corporate companies do with a more complicated management structure.
Where do you see your business in 5 years time?
Now that KMCF has excelled in the events and retail industries, we have the potential and plans to expand into new areas. We are exploring ways in which to 3D print with different types of food and how we can make the shapes we print even bigger and with more detail. We also are researching ways in which to develop a more advanced 3d printer and hardware to produce a next generation of food 3D printers.
In 5 years time I would love to see Magic Candy Factory in department stores and candy shops in every major city around the world, printing different types of food simultaneously and in larger, more unique shapes. Our desire and determination to always be at the forefront of the technology in confectionary will hopefully see us break into new industries and markets and spread the magic of 3D printing!
What advice would you give to aspiring entrepreneurs?
I would tell aspiring entrepreneurs that in order to succeed they need to above all else be passionate about their business. If you don’t love what you do and believe in what you are trying to achieve, neither will anyone else. It takes an extraordinary amount of dedication, passion and vision to run a successful business and you must also not be afraid to take risks.
Why did you enter the BQ Emerging Entrepreneur Awards?
I wanted to enter the BQ Emerging Entrepreneur Awards as I would truly love for my team and business to be recognised for all of their hard work by such an incredibly respectable and prestigious awards. BQ seem to look for individuals and businesses who are making a difference in the world and are running unique and innovative concept, which really does apply to Katjes Magic Candy Factory. The exposure we would get from winning the award would be huge for our start-up and I would be incredibly proud to shout about it!
What would it mean to you to win an award?
It would be an absolute honour to win this award and be recognised by my incredibly talented and impressive peers. Behind our success are countless sleepless nights, 20 hour working days and extreme bouts of jet lag, so winning this award would really be a celebration of not only my hard work, but the dedication, passion and diligence of my truly excellent team.