Welcome to Maven Minds, the podcast for leaders, entrepreneurs, and innovators to discuss strategies for navigating uncharted territory in modern business. I’m your host. Laura Crossley, let’s meet the mavens.
I work more now than I did before, when I had a corporate job and I was doing Sweet Kiss on the side. But it’s the labor of love because it is your passion. It is your baby, it’s your product and you believe it and you want to make it work. So you do whatever you have to do. You work as many hours as you have to, to make this.
Today, we’re diving into the heart of everything small business with Sweet Kiss Brigadeiro and its owner Jessica Harris in Kansas City. Sweet Kiss was Kansas. City’s first artisanal brigadeiro shop and they hand make these incredible truffle chocolate confections that are to die for. They are absolutely delicious in every way.
[00:01:10] And, as Jessica and her mom Regina, would tell you that is a true taste of Brazil. Jessica, thank you so much for being on the show with me today. Let’s talk about Sweet Kiss. All right, Jess, like we’ve talked about before you and I have been doing this and talking about it and running through all things Sweet Kiss for quite a long time, I have loved watching your business grow. And I haven’t gotten to be as tapped into things over the last few years. So I’m very, very excited to talk to you today about some of what’s been happening. And I think that our listeners are going to just absolutely love learning from your story and what you’ve done so far. Can you tell us about Sweet Kiss and about you and your mom and how this business came to be?
Yes, absolutely. First of all, thank you so much for having us. So it is a pleasure speaking to you. My mom and I, we started Sweet Kiss officially in 2015, but making brigadeiros we’ve been doing that since we, I was a little kid. Brigadeiro is very much part of Brazilian culture. So it’s very normal for us to just sit around and make brigadeiros for celebrations or dessert.
[00:02:32] But it wasn’t until 2015 that we decided to make it a real business. My mom and I had always ideas to start a business. We’ll try a few things, but never really serious, but it wasn’t until we decided to do brigadeiro. And after working the corporate job, we always bring brigadeiros for dessert, for pot lucks or bake sale or something.
[00:02:54] And we knew that people loved it so much. People always ask us about it. So one day had this idea and I called my mom and I say, “mom, let’s just start this business” and she’s like, “oh, just work. Talk to me later.” It’s like, “no, mom, I need to know now are you in? Or are you out?” So we’ll talk details later.
[00:03:12] And she’s like, “yeah, it’s in.” I’m like, okay, now I need to figure out what I’m gonna do with this business. How do we even start a business? And then we just, you know, start a business. And here we are. Five, six years later. Still growing.
Yeah. The “here we are” piece of that. Like you started, I I’m totally gonna interject here because I, I do, I know too much of your story.
[00:03:36] You started like grassroots scrappy, like finding a kitchen, making them in your own kitchen, like really pulling all of the pieces together. All of the work up to today, like you’re in a brick and mortar shop in one of the premier shopping districts of Kansas City. And tell us about that a bit. How is that going?
Yeah, so, yeah, you’re right. So we started making it home and then when it became official business, we knew that we had to find a commercial kitchen. So that was a struggle, because it was far away and it was too much money. And then you had to share a kitchen, but you have to make things work.
[00:04:17] You have to do what you have to do. And then we decided we had an opportunity to build our own commercial kitchen. So we build on small kitchen, but it is a legit certified kitchen. And, when we decided to just open a first shop, which was always the ultimate goal for Sweet Kiss, we looked around Kansas City.
[00:04:39] We called many places, but really when nobody was calling us back, the Plaza was really the only place to return our calls. And the Plaza means so much to us because when we first moved here, we moved to Holly Street, which is like a few blocks from the Plaza. And the Plaza was the place where we used to go to hang out all the time.
[00:04:58] Back in 1996 when we moved from Brazil. So the Plaza it’s very, it important part of our lives in the US. So it just makes sense for us to open a first store on the Plaza. It’s kinda like a full circle in a way, and it’s going really well. People love it. People still kind of learning about it.
[00:05:19] They come in and they, you know, they have the look like, what is this? And what, what is this history? What is it made of? But people really enjoying it. People really accept it. And it’s been great.
Has it been a challenge to bring a Brazilian confection to the Midwest?
You know, not really. I think the biggest challenge is for people to learn how to pronunciate the name of the dessert because you once that’s try it.
[00:05:48] Right. And I have this thing that I say the brigadeiro is one of those things is one of those sweets or the chocolate, if you will, that you will fall in love before you learn how to pronounce. So, and it’s, it’s not, it hasn’t been really a challenge as far as getting people to learn about it because it is so good.
[00:06:05] It’s so creamy and delicious as you know, but I think the biggest challenge to we love and have a lot of fun with the customers is to get them to pronounce it. You know, Briga data. Like Brita, what?
Totally fair. That makes a lot of sense, especially I think in the Midwest, we have some challenges with pronouncing a lot of different things, but especially a long word like that.
[00:06:30] That has a lot of just like very nuanced ways of pronouncing it. We definitely stumbled through it. I’m not gonna lie. I’ve always loved that your culture is so much a part of your product and your brand and what you’ve built with Sweet Kiss. Like where, where does that come from? I mean, I know that like it’s a Brazilian confection and it is part of your childhood and your life.
[00:06:57] Like, what does that mean to you to have that all connected in that?
So it’s the funny thing is brigadeiro was created in the forties and it was created a man was for… So if you translate the word brigadeiro it’s brigadeer. He was running for office and to raise money for his campaign, a group of women came up with whatever they had at the time to create a candy to sell. And all they had at the time was condense milk, butter and cocoa powder.
[00:07:33] So they put something together, put chocolate sprinkles and named it after him. Brigadeiro. He never won the campaign. Never won the election, but brigadeiro became won everybody’s heart since then. So growing up, I like, I have pictures of my first birthday party with a table full of brigadeiros. I have pictures of like cousins weddings with the cake and brigadeiro so to us, it’s more than just a dessert.
[00:08:01] It’s what kind of brings people together. If you come over to a house. We’ll make brigadeiro dessert, but we don’t even hand roll it. We just waited, wait for it to cool off. And each of us will grab a spoon and share a plate and double dip guys eating brigadeiro. So to us, it’s, it’s what brings people together. It’s a celebration, just it’s something fun.
[00:08:22] So it’s more than just eating a piece of chocolate is just spending time together as family and friends. And it, it just, it means so much to us.
That’s amazing. And I love even more that it has brought you and I together as well. Like I genuinely don’t know that what avenue we would have met in other than colliding over what you’ve created.
[00:08:47] And we’ve had so much fun together just like exploring the different avenues of your business and working on things creatively. You’ve been such an inspiration in small business and like just the tenacity of making it grow and being creative about it. That, I just respect what you have created so much.
[00:09:09] And I again appreciate you being here to talk with us about it today. like, let me get really cheesy about it because I love you friend. Thank you for being here.
Oh, thank you. Thank you so much.
In that same vein of things you were on Good Morning America. Yes? I would love to know, what is it that you’re doing and telling the world about brigadeiro. How was that experience?
I’m bribing everybody. Now I, girl, I knock on everybody’s door. I’ve learned one thing that everybody can and deserves publicity. You just have to do the work. And as you know, as an entrepreneur, you wear many hats. And as week is we wear every single hat. And one of the hat we wear is PR. So I knock on doors.
[00:10:11] I do a lot of social media stalking, and I knew I, I saw that there was an opportunity I saw an opportunity for us to pitch our product. So I sent an email to Tori, for gift boxes, which is partnered with deals and steals from Good Morning America. They loved the pitch, send a product, they loved it. So we partnered with them.
[00:10:38] And it’s funny, because I knew that it was gonna be a promotion for the holiday season, all that, but I never knew there was gonna be on goodmorningamerica.com until someone sent me a message saying, “Hey Jess, congratulations. You and your my on first page!” I’m like, what is she talking about? So I’m like, stop what I’m doing.
[00:10:55] Grab the phone, like, oh my God. Oh my gosh. And then we call my mom. Everybody’s freaking out. You’re on the main page!
[00:11:03] So anyways, it was really exciting. It, it was really awesome to see our product on the main page. And of course that as a result generated a lot of sales for us. So we had an extra, extra busy holiday season. We, when we talk about family business girl, everybody was in the kitchen helping making it rolling it.
[00:11:26] Packaging. Shipping it. We had everybody mom and dad’s sister sister-in-law husband, like dad, everybody, but you, you, it was great. We, we developed a business relationship with them. They called us back again for Mother’s Day. So we did another promotion with them during Mother’s dDay. And, again, keeps bringing more business to Sweet Kiss for us.
[00:11:52] So, yeah, but basically that’s how we just knock on doors. We just send pitches and somebody hopefully call us back and they did.
I respect that so much. Like it really takes that sometimes just the boots on the ground. I’m gonna go do this myself and I’m gonna make it happen. And. Yeah, it is definitely the small business owner hustle, for lack of a better term. Oh, I’m so proud of you. That is incredibly awesome.
Yeah, you have to, if you can’t afford an agency for this, you gotta do what you gotta do.
Yep. That makes perfect sense. So the, obviously the exposure is a huge win. The sales are a huge win. How did that impact the business moving into the new year?
Well, it allowed us to open a first store. Yeah, yeah, yeah. So we were able to finalize a few goals that we had, and one of them was to finally get a first store. So thanks to the sales that we were getting. We’re able to accomplish one, one of many things that we still have on the list. Uh, I’m not saying that, “Hey, we’ve made it.”
[00:13:07] No, we still have a long way to go, but we’re able to check one thing off the list.
It’s a beautiful store at that. The brigadeiros, the coffee you’ve had flowers in through the summer. Like. A full experience and you have definitely set the stage for making those connections and having those gatherings and like being able to come in with a couple of friends and relax with a treat and have a coffee and just relax and chat.
[00:13:36] And it’s a very cool space that you’ve created there.
Thank you. And you said it perfectly the experience, and this is exactly what we wanted to offer. We wanted to give the customers an experience. So when you come in, you hear Brazil music in the background, you have Brazil treats, Brazilian coffee, a little bit of everything.
[00:13:56] You have a little bit of the history down the wall, so you can learn about the sweet while there. So yes, this is exactly what we wanted. We wanted a place where we can create a community, provide the customers. Curious, it’s kinda like we wanna give you a little taste of Brazil without you having to go to Brazil.
[00:14:16] Mm-hmm, you know, without breaking a bank, basically. And that’s exactly what we wanted to create. So we were happy that we were able to do that, that to give the, the full experience to your customers. We still have other things that we want to do, but that was the first thing that we wanted. Make sure that when people come.
[00:14:33] They get a full experience.
I noticed on your Instagram that especially with the opening of the new shop, you’ve expanded from like the brigadeiro, the small truffle creamy, like delicious treat to now having – oh, I’m not even gonna say it, right. I’m not even sure. Tarts? There we go. Tarts. And I’ve even seen cakes before and breads and you really are taking it beyond the small bite to much more.
[00:15:06] It looks like more desserts.
Yeah. Yeah, because we wanna give more of Brazilian confection, more Brazilian sweets. So we, yeah, so we do, obviously we have one full case of 13-15 different flavors of brigadeiro. And then with that, we offer mini tarts. We’ve been doing juice, tropical juices. Passion fruit, guava juice juices.
[00:15:33] A very typical in Brazil, very trouble like growing up in Brazil. I, I had a guava tree in my backyard, so I was just able to walk in the backyard, grab a guava and eat it. So a lot of, a lot of people still learn about guava. So we offer guava juice, passion, fruit, pineapple appointment. So we just wanna give, we wanna take things that we eat in Brazil.
[00:15:55] A typical from Brazil and bring it in here. So again, people can have the full experience, so yes, and we are still expand the menu. There are other things that we’re gonna bring it in pretty soon, too.
Oh, how awesome. I can’t wait to see the new stuff and it’s the experience you’re creating. It is such a unique thing here in the Midwest to be able to walk into a space and experience an entirely different culture and like try and sample all of those flavors.
[00:16:23] I think you have truly found such a cool niche bringing that here, but it like, it has been so embraced. I didn’t realize there were 13 flavors to be completely honest. That is amazing. Tell us about your favorite ones.
So my favorite will always be milk chocolate just because there’s a, this special bonding relationship we having from, you know, when I was a little kid, but I’ll tell you what, another one that I really, really love it’s it’s gonna sound weird is the it’s called Rome and Juliet, which is white chocolate Parmesan, cheese and guava paste.
[00:17:01] It’s phenomenal. Every time I tell people that they look at me, like I’m a crazy , but when they take a bite. They love it. It is amazing. It is so good. And you know, the, the little lovers, which is half white chocolate, half dark chocolate, it’s another Brazilian classic. Um, they also creamy, so delicious. I love them all.
[00:17:20] It’s, you know, it’s hard to pick just one.
I believe that for sure. Are you in the kitchen working on new flavors all the time? How do you come up with something like Romeo and Juliet?
So Rome and Juliet, as much as I love to take credit, say that it’s my idea. My mom’s idea. It is, um, it’s a typical Brazilian dessert.
[00:17:42] Oh. So in Brazil, at least in my house on a Sunday afternoon, we go to my, we used to go to my grandparents’ house and after lunch we just grab a piece of cheese and a piece of guava paste cutting in half, put it together and take a bite. So that’s very typical for Brazilians to do that. So we put that into a brigadeiro recipe and created that, that flavor, but it is something that we eat in Brazil.
[00:18:06] However, my mom and I spend a lot of time in the kitchen just working on developing new recipes. So right now we are working on holiday season recipes. So we always, you know, a few months ahead to make sure that things are waiting for that for the, for lunch day. But yeah, we, we spend a lot of time in the kitchen when I’m done here.
[00:18:22] I’m going to the kitchen.
Of course like that’s, that is the day to day of a small business and entrepreneur of like, I’m gonna go do some PR and now I’m gonna go back to the kitchen and we’re gonna tackle all of these things. Exactly what you were saying before. Yes. What’s next for the business. What are the big goals you have on the horizon?
Next, I would love, we love to find a permanent space, like sign a permanent contract. Right now. We are still a specialty lease on Plaza just because we wanna to wait a full year to see what the yield is gonna look like for us. Uh, you know, being that is a first store. Totally. So we, we want to, to do that.
[00:19:07] I think that’s gonna be the main goal for us so we can settle, build our own kitchen. Cause right now the kitchen is separate from the store. So we cook at the kitchen and then we bring it to the shop. So I think the main goal for us to be, to have everything under one roof, something where the customer be need to see production as well.
[00:19:24] And some other things that, you know, still working on that we don’t wanna share yet. totally that’s fair, but I think that’s the main, the main goal for us right now.
That makes a lot of sense. Like that sounds like a typical growth and scale path where you’re, you’ve got all these. Pieces that you’ve been working with and starting to roll those together and make ’em all work in harmony.
[00:19:46] It seems like an amazing stage to be in as far as like, just wins, like win one, win two, win three. And, uh, I’m so glad to see that you guys are, are doing so [00:20:00] well.
I mean, it hasn’t been easy. Right. I mean, you know, it’s, it’s a lot of work. Yeah. You know, people come into the story say, oh, this all looks beautiful.
[00:20:08] That’s great. Yes, it does. Thank you. But you know what? We did all the work too. All the painting, all the hardware, everything we do, all that work. So. It’s a lot as an entrepreneur, it’s a lot of work. You work more. I work more now than I did before when I had a corporate job and it was really Sweet Kiss on the side.
[00:20:25] But it’s the labor of love because it is your passion. It is your baby, it’s your product and you believe it and you wanna make it work. So you do. Whatever you have to do, you work as many hours as you have to, to make this grow. So, yeah, it’s a lot of work, but we love it. But you, you know that…
Oh, I do know that I do know that I have seen your passion poured into this so much.
[00:20:49] I, I feel exactly what you’re describing. Tell our listeners how they can connect with you, how they can support you, where they can maybe buy some brigadeiro to sample for themselves.
Yeah, so you can definitely follow us on social media. We are on Facebook and very active on Instagram. Our website is sweetkissbrigadeiro.com.
[00:21:13] We ship everything nationwide. We ship everything second day air. So you get a super fast and just follow along, you know, just follow us.
Absolutely. Okay. So here’s where we get to the super fun part of having friends on the show is that we’re gonna try a little innovation podcast moment if you’re up for it.
[00:21:35] Yes, of course. The production team and I have been discussing some like new content that we could be putting in front of listeners and you know, in the spirit of what Maven is, everyone gets to see this innovation happen live . So just, this is where we wanna invite you to, ask a question about maybe a problem that you’re having, or a challenge that you’ve faced or are facing.
[00:22:00] And myself and our listeners are going to try to help you out. So. I’ll try to give you any advice or tips or ideas that I might have. And we’re gonna open up your question to all of our following on social media and see what answers might come from there. So do you have any thoughts on what that might be?
[00:22:22] What are some challenges that you could use them help with?
I actually, we could use some help on bringing more traffic to our website. How can we make that happen actually?
So yeah, the first step that I would usually take for a small business with trying to bring in more traffic is to take a hard look at what you have in a digital space to drive traffic in the first place.
[00:22:51] And like when we’re at fast and running small business, it’s pretty typical that people default to, “I’m just gonna do a social media post here and there and hope that people find the web link to get back to their site.” And that works for a little, little bit of time. It, it works well, as long as you’re getting engagement, as long as you’re getting new followers and social media is, is growing and people are engaging where it doesn’t work so well as if, and I, I like haven’t, I would have to look way deeper into your social media specifically to know if this would be the case, but I, you know, I kind of doubt it with the following that you have.
[00:23:29] A lot of times as engagement starts to drop. And as like maybe, you know, we miss a post over two or three days and things go radio silent, and then we try to engage ’em and, you know, people don’t really follow as that social media engagement starts to drop. So does some of the traffic to the website and it’s harder to get people to keep like going through two or three clicks to make it to the site.
[00:23:53] So what I start to do there is. Look at where else we can be online to be driving traffic. [00:24:00] Some of that is through a content strategy. Exactly what you’re talking about with PR. So pushing to be in other places that would generate traffic and generate awareness. It might be a paid sponsor post on somebody else’s blog or website.
[00:24:15] It might be, you know, running a press release to say, this is our product line or this is the new brigadeiro we’ve added and trying to get local newspapers to pick that. Sorry, not newspapers. Goodness. I mean, newspapers are fine, but you would rather appear on their website, right? That’s my like old journalism person sinking back in there.
…you wanna be on their website. So yeah, like they might have a paper, but that’s not our priority. Um, you wouldn’t be on their website, uh, any kind of partnerships with other local businesses where you’re a complements. So, um, Maybe [00:25:00] there is a coffee shop down the road and you can drop a, like a link on their site and they can drop a link on yours and like, Hey, maybe there’s a coupon or a deal.
[00:25:11] If you hit both locations, or they can link back to your site and say like, Hey, go place an order over here. And you know, our friends are gonna offer you a deal. That kind of thing. Some partnerships, some PR those would be great expansion opportunities. And then if you’re really going for web traffic, and I assume then like the, the conversion, like a web purchase.
[00:25:34] Some paid advertising will always help. So, uh, getting into the right avenues of like some paid advertising on Facebook, some paid advertising in search. So we’re boosting your SEO and making sure you’re ranking on the right terms and that kind of thing. It’s a lot. I’m not gonna lie. It’s it’s a whole lot when you start talking about a well rounded, um, online push mm-hmm , but.[00:26:00]
[00:26:00] Step in with consistent and regular social media, because that is your organic community. You can be tapping them. Right. Um, and then pick one, pick one next step. So maybe it is like, We’re gonna put some paid advertising on Facebook. We’re gonna make a very nice graphic or a very nice video and put a little money behind it and test that and get that working to a good degree.
[00:26:27] And then pick one more next thing and test that and get that going and get that running. And so you start expanding that step by step, instead of trying to take the whole picture all at once and like kind of panic promoting, right. Lack of a better term, like, yeah, we’re doing a little bit everywhere and we don’t really know what’s working and what’s not like, right, right.
[00:26:47] Be calculated with it, but know that there are tons of options, tons of options for how you start to expand that. And honestly, I’m always down to brainstorm around that with you, because I actually really like that topic. Thank you for that question.
Yeah. So we, we should do that. Yes we should. We should, we should connect again on that.
Done, done sold, but you know what more than anything, I actually, I would really love to open that same question up to our listeners to see what other ideas they have for you, because I’m sure that they have tested and checked and tried their own things, that they may have some stuff. That works really simply out of the gate.
[00:27:25] And if they can bring those answers to you, I think that that would be something you could apply right away while wearing all of your other hats.
yeah. yes, that would be fantastic though. That would be a great help.
Awesome. Love it. Oh, Jessica. Thank you so much for being on the show today. I am always grateful and really enjoyed talking with you.
[00:27:48] Uh, we are gonna put your social media on our site so that everyone can catch you and connect with you. And I hope that like six months to a year from now, we can follow up and have another conversation. And I can hear all of the amazing progress that you’ve made on these new goals.
Yes. Absolutely. Thank you so much for inviting us.
[00:28:09] It’s always a pleasure to speak to you. You’re such a creative person. I love being around you. It’s it’s great. So thank you so much.
Okay. Mavens, on this episode, we really went deep into small business and the ownership story. I think a lot of what Jessica was talking about was very relatable for many of us.
[00:28:31] So that have been in the earliest stages of running a small business. We’re gonna run through a handful of thought starters that I want you to take one or two of these questions and consider how you would answer it, consider how you might apply some of her techniques, some of her ideas, some of her Gusto for getting out there and getting things done to what you’re doing in your own business today, let’s start.
[00:28:58] Sweet Kiss has scaled rapidly. They have over the years gone from a very small, uh, in my own kitchen concept to a full professional kitchen certified kitchen, able to offer confections via shipping worldwide and inside of their own brick and mortar stores consider what it takes for you to take something from concept to execution.
[00:29:26] Where in that process, are you with your business today? If you’re in those earliest stages, what is it going to take you to get to that next step? What is the goal? What would you look at and say, yes, I’ve made this step?
[00:29:55] Just talked a lot about PR and the role that PR has played in helping them to grow. By appearing on Good Morning America. They were able to scale their online sales by scaling the online sales. They were able to have a brick and mortar location in Kansas City. They’ve been able to further expand the number of sales that they have also like having a professional kitchen, having those other resources available for them to continue to grow their.
[00:30:22] What is the role that PR could play in your company? How would additional exposure help you? Is your product accessible online, where there’s an opportunity to boost sales through that exposure? Are there other opportunities, would there be additional benefit? Let’s talk about culture. One of my absolute favorite parts of this conversation with Jess is learning more about the Brazilian culture and the inspiration for this product.
[00:30:58] What role does culture play in your business? Are you telling that culture story is that culture reflected internally as well as externally? And does that culture create a niche or some differentiation in how your product is conveyed to customers? Lastly, let’s talk about marketing. Jess asked the question.
[00:31:26] How do I get more traffic to my website? And that’s fair. That is a challenge for many business owners, but especially for small business where the opportunities to expand your marketing are plentiful, sometimes expensive, and you really need wins at an efficient investment of time and investment of costs.
[00:31:49] So marketing, what are you doing to market your business? Have you taken an audit of your marketing? Do you know how it’s performing? Do you know that you’re currently making the most efficient decisions or that whatever you’re investing your marketing dollars in, you’re getting a return. Are you tracking conversions?
[00:32:12] Are you aware of what it costs you to bring in a new customer? Mavens. If you have answers to any of these questions, hit me on TikTok or Instagram or Facebook for that matter. And let’s have a conversation about it. Tell me some of your ideas or some of your hurdles, and I will brainstorm with you.
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