GLIDE — After years of sharing her homemade toffee, Donna Holm was encouraged to sell her signature candy.
She’s now completing her sixth year of being the owner and operator of Holm Made Toffee Co., a small business that she’s developed in the kitchen of her Glide area home.
The 62-year-old said developing the business has been challenging, but increased sales of the toffee each year since 2007 have made the business a success. She said making the candy is easy compared to the business side, but then she’s been making the toffee regularly for 25 years. For many years, her family and friends looked forward to receiving it as a gift.
“It melts in your month, literally,” Holm said. “My toffee is not hard. It doesn’t break your teeth, nor does it stick to your teeth.”
From first selling the toffee at a couple holiday fairs in 2007, Holm has grown her business to the point at which it has 19 retail outlets combined in the Roseburg, Eugene and Bend areas. It also appears at booths at farmers markets in Roseburg and Bend and at several annual festivals throughout Oregon. Most of the outlets are gift and specialty stores. Some are tasting rooms at wineries.
“I think I have a good product and a good reputation,” Holm said. “It’s been clamored after for so many years. Friends and relatives begged for it at Christmastime. That’s another reason I’m not surprised. I’ve received so much encouragement from different people.”
Holm’s daughter, Kristen Newell of Eugene, said she’s not surprised by her mother’s toffee success.
“She’s such a driven and passionate person in every aspect of life,” Newell said. “She doesn’t do things halfhearted. She does things 100 percent. It’s been neat to watch her grow the business.”
The final push to start a business came from Holm’s sorority sisters at an annual reunion in 2007. Holm took toffee with her to the reunion to share.
“They said, ‘Donna, you have to market your toffee. It’s the most amazing toffee we’ve ever had,’” Holm said.
Holm wouldn’t reveal the cooking process, but said the ingredients are semisweet dark chocolate, cane sugar, real butter and hazelnuts. She promotes the hazelnuts as being an Oregon product.
The toffee is a cooked mix of sugar and butter spread on cookie sheets. The toppings are then added.
Holm got the recipe from a college friend while attending the University of Pacific in Stockton in California in the early 1980s. Holm modified the recipe and cooking process over time, one change being the use of hazelnuts instead of almonds. That happened after the Holms moved to the Glide area in the early ’90s.
Jeff Mornarich of Roseburg said he’s been enjoying Holm’s toffee since it became available.
“That’s the best toffee I’ve ever eaten,” he said. “It’s 100 percent homemade. I can’t find anything that compares to it.”
Kruse Farms Market has been selling Holm’s toffee for four years.
“It’s an extremely popular product,” said Karen Kruse Corpron, market manager. “With the hazelnuts, it’s a great representation of what’s available in the Northwest.”
Once Holm decided to go into business, she had time to develop it. She had retired from a 22-year teaching career, the last 14 at Glide Elementary School, in 2006. She retired with the intention of helping her husband, attorney Bill Holm, in his business. But he died of a heart attack before the two could work together.
To get help with her start-up, she contacted Umpqua Community College’s Small Business Development Center. She said the hard part was learning about marketing, sales and accounting. She learned about those aspects through the UCC center and becoming involved in the business management program. She created a website, “one of the hardest things I’ve ever done.” She also developed friendships with other small business owners and learned from them.
“Running a business is very challenging, but I know I can call on anybody at the Small Business Development Center and if they can’t help me, they’ll guide me to who can,” Holm said. “I don’t worry too much about stumbling and falling because I know they can pick me up.”
The increase in sales for Holm Made Toffee resulted in Holm asking her grown children and spouses to help. Daughter-in-law Randi Holm of Bend is a Holm Made Toffee employee, working in sales and marketing. Daughter-in-law Amber Holm of Bend works part time as the business’ bookkeeper. Their respective spouses and Donna Holm’s sons, Billy and Charlie, have helped with sales at festival booths. Kristen Newell and her husband, Curt, help with distribution in Eugene and with booth sales.
“When I need help, I just holler,” Donna Holm said. “They’re all very supportive, all of them.”
Holm is gradually teaching Kristen, Randi and Amber how to make toffee because as sale outlets are added, she sees herself not being able to cook and package enough to keep up with the demand.
“It is fun because it always brings a smile to people’s faces when they taste my toffee,” Holm said. “And it’s been fun watching a little business grow.”
• News-Review business reporter Craig Reed can be reached by calling 541-957-4210 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.