A year and a half ago Hayley Bennett quit her job as an educator and started making candy.
It all began with the caramels she makes with apples from her family orchard. People started commenting that she should sell the sweets, which prompted the Gabriola Island resident to open a booth at her local farmers market. After building a following on Gabriola, Bennett started attending farmers markets and sales across Vancouver Island. She said her business is off to a good start.
“I’m very liberal with my samples at market so my interactions are always really positive because I hand people candy, they smile and say, ‘Thank you,’ or I hand people candy, they smile, say, ‘Thank you,’ and then hand me money,” she said.
“So no matter what I’m doing I’m always having positive interactions with people and it’s a project that I love that other people are really enthusiastic about, which is encouraging and it’s just been, surprisingly enough, a lot more fulfilling for me than the arguably more important work that I was doing before.”
This month Bennett will attend her second Kris Kringle Craft Market at Beban Park Social Centre. Last year’s market was Bennett’s first major event and she said the experience was “amazing, exhausting, overwhelming.” She nearly sold out.
“From the vendors’ perspective, Kris Kringle is a really intense event because it’s four-days long there are … I think over 10,000 people going by and it’s just such a sensory experience,” she said.
“There’s roving performers, there’s music, there’s characters acting things out, there’s so many people, there’e so many vendors, there’s so much food. It was just overwhelming and fantastic so I’m excited to do it again.”
Bennett said she will be better-equipped for this year’s sale. In keeping with the Christmas theme Bennett will have seasonal candy on offer, including apple cider caramels, pumpkin caramels and a new creation: eggnog lollipops. She said for every successful new recipe there are 25 failures that end with her house covered in sugar and Bennett throwing her oven mitts across the room.
Bennett said she has “delusions of grandeur,” which is why she calls her business The Candy Empire. Next year she’s aiming to expand beyond farmers markets into specialty and retail sales.
“To put it bluntly, I essentially sell drugs because it’s sugar and it’s really habit-forming and most of the world is already addicted to it,” she said.
“So I wish I could say that I hatched this plan from a business perspective, but it’s really just been coincidence after coincidence that has allowed me to build this. So here we are about a year and a half into me doing this project seriously and it’s turned into my primary thing, really. Calling it a job feels strange because it never feels like work.”
WHAT’S ON … Kris Kringle Craft Market comes to the Beban Park Social Centre on Nov. 16 from noon to 9 p.m., Nov. 17 from 10 a.m. to 9 p.m., Nov. 18 from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., Nov. 19 from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Daily passes are $10, four-day passes are $15, $10 two-for-one evening tickets on No. 16 and 17 from 5 to 9 p.m., $8 admission for students and seniors, children get in free.