Whenever I think I have just way too much on my plate during the holidays, I treat myself to a reality check by calling our good friends at Divvies, the local purveyor of all things sweetly delicious and allergen-safe. This family business that started with the creation of a chocolate chip cookie that was not only made without eggs, nuts and dairy, but was actually yummy, has exploded in five years to sell (and make and bake) cupcakes, six different flavors of cookies, gourmet popcorn in three flavors, gourmet novelty chocolates, chocolate bars, candy…and then every possible combination of gift offerings of all of the above. We’re talking SKU’d to the max. And when the holidays hit, that management of people, ingredients and manufacturing could, under the control of any lesser man, just whirl out of control and go splat against the walls.
I spoke to Mark Sandler, the man in charge of driving Divvies and the husband of Lori Sandler the one who dreamed big and started this company.
KR: How do you prepare for the holidays? How do you even guess how much sugar to order?
MS: You have to pull from the data you have from last year and gear up with inventory, making the stuff with longer shelf life ahead so all you can concentrate on the fresh-baked items. You have to grow your staff. And train your staff to be leaders and mentors for the part-time people. It’s helpful to set goals so that you can reward your employees because they exceeded expectations and because of that the money is there to reward them.
KR: As usual you are as calm as a cucumber Mark. I don’t hear anyone throwing baking trays against the wall in the background. Are you really working over there?
MS: We triple our business for these seven weeks over the holidays. We are so busy. But a surge like the holidays always exposes your weaknesses. So I use each holiday as a learning curve to just get better at this. You have to be really disciplined to make this work. But try as best you can, there is always something that comes up that throws you off a bit.
KR: I always picture you guys over there during the holidays like that scene from I Love Lucy where Lucy and Ethel are on the assembly line and eventually resort to stuffing chocolates in their mouth because the whole process gets away from them.
MS: Funny you should mention that. We are in full tilt over here and these two women who have their own cable show starting in January called The Yak Yak Girls arrive and totally charm and disarm everyone at Divvies.
No matter how crazy things get, Divvies never passes up the opportunity to share the cheer.