If you’d asked 10 years ago what I saw myself doing today, candy-making would never have occurred to me. Back then, I never really gave much thought to food at all, much less to candy. I passed the time going quietly off to work every day as a lab technician, not really knowing where I was steering my life other than toward a nice retirement at the end of a very long calendar. But when I wasn’t at work (and sometimes when I was) I often wondered why all the hours and weeks and months and years leading up to retirement couldn’t feel a little more exciting. A little less like being in auto-pilot.
Then my mom passed away. I still went off to work every day, but inside my head and heart, there wasn’t much quietness anymore. Instead there was a constant internal noise and the only thing that seemed to turn down the volume was working in the kitchen—rolling pie dough, putting together a pot of soup, doing the very things my mom had loved doing best. Making food. I began to spend a lot more time in my kitchen.
I was still working as a lab technician when my work facility underwent a series of large-scale and rapid developments. The entire site was suddenly a 3-D scene of bulldozers, cranes swiveling loads mid-air in slow motion, caution tape mazes, and crews in hardhats and neon yellow vests.
The new lab building was one of the first projects completed. It was given the green light for occupancy, but shortly after my group moved in, I started experiencing health issues that I’d suspected were related to my new work environment. I wasn’t the only one. Each day I grew more worried about my health and more unhappy. When these serious issues went unresolved for months, my trust was gone and this put me at an excruciatingly difficult intersection in life. Do I continue at work, miserable but with all the comforts of financial security, or do I veer toward the territory of the unemployed, sparing both my health and peace of mind a daily beating?
I agonized over this for days. Then, after passing one of my break times at work crying to my husband over the phone out of frustration, I came home and agonized over it all that night. It’s surprising how the quiet of darkness can strip a seemingly complicated thing down to its simplest form, because suddenly it all boiled down to this one basic question: what was truly important? By the time morning came, I’d made my decision.
The next day, I gave my two-weeks’ notice. I had saved enough money to buy myself about half a year’s worth of comfortable living, but beyond that, I had no plan in place. My one certainty was I knew I would not sacrifice my health for a job.
I spent a few months feeling more than a little lost. What do you do when you suddenly find yourself without a daily agenda? Or a regular cast of co-workers, or a steady paycheck? I enrolled in South Seattle College’s Pastry and Baking Arts program. I was still spending a lot of time in the kitchen at home, and I knew I would enjoy going to school to learn about baking. I wasn’t sure if it would be the solution to any of my immediate problems, but I figured there was no better time for exploration.
It turned out to be my Hogwarts. Every day was magic as we learned baking theory and then spent the next five hours in the kitchen putting theory to practice. I had two amazing chefs for teachers, and eager like-minded people to share the adventure. I was one happy Harry. I decided my new direction in life would be centered around food.
About halfway through the 18-month program, my financial situation at home changed unexpectedly and drastically. I regretted dropping out before getting to the sugar and chocolate module, but I could no longer justify spending my days going to school instead of working and helping to earn income. I got a job as a pastry cook at a bakeshop in Seattle.
I wish I could say that it was a job I loved and could see myself doing for a good, long time. It wasn’t. The frantic pace had me feeling like a factory worker and it wasn’t what I had envisioned of my new journey in food. What I wanted was the kind of job that would allow me to craft food products as if I were preparing them for good friends in my own kitchen—thoughtfully, lovingly. No constant rushing. Was I being unrealistic? After a few more bakeshop jobs, it seemed so. But it didn’t mean my dream job couldn’t exist. It just meant that I would have to create it myself.
In early October of 2016, I made the scary but exciting decision to start my own business. I spent all my time thinking about possible products and experimenting with recipes in the kitchen. There were so many things I loved making and baking. What to focus on? I wanted something I could pour my personality into. Something that would let me be the big kid I am. Something that would be all about celebrating innocence and embracing the simple joys and old-fashioned values I love so much.
I decided on a candy business. It would be called Little Dipper Confections, and I would offer handcrafted specialty chocolates made always with the proper amounts of time, attention, love, and care. There’s been no looking back since.