We recently connected with Martha Ware and have shared our conversation below.
Alright, Martha thanks for taking the time to share your stories and insights with us today. What do you think it takes to be successful?
I know it sounds cliche, but it takes a whole lot of determination, passion, and hard work. However, more than any of those, it takes courage and strength to get up after each fall, to overcome challenges, and to take failure as learning opportunities. You also need to be flexible and change courses quickly when needed, and learn to swallow your pride more times than you can count.
Great, appreciate you sharing that with us. Before we ask you to share more of your insights, can you take a moment to introduce yourself and how you got to where you are today to our readers
For years I’ve tried to come up with a business that would be more than a business. Something that would be fun, something I could feel passionate about. And something that would give people moments of happiness and deliciousness.
I love to see people smiling, love to host, gather my friends, share many laughs and nurture wonderful relationships. On one occasion, my husband’s birthday to be more exact, I was hosting some friends and wanted something different, kind of fun. So, I decided to make a bouquet of decorated marshmallows.
I am Brazilian-American and have always tried to embrace both cultures. Marshmallows are not really a big thing In Brazil but at some point, I found my love for them. However, the marshmallows bought at the grocery stores are bland, dry and have kind of a rubber texture… meh… so, I decided to create my own!
I began, not very confidently, to make my own marshmallows. I have tried many recipes and it took me a while to get “the one” that really worked. It is even more fun now because I absolutely love going to the kitchen and trying to create new flavors. Honestly, I have a blast!
I started simple, small. As a local business, I started to work from my own kitchen. The business started growing and I moved it to a commercial kitchen. I still love to have them picked up at my place especially because I have been meeting so many nice and interesting people. Through the Mallow Box, I am doing more than business, I am starting friendships. We are creating a Mallow-loving-community! :)
We opened our first S’mores Bar in November 2019 at Willow Bend Mall. It was a crazy adventure but it worked out well. Three and half months later, COVID hit and it was hard. I had to keep myself disciplined and motivated, so, although everything was closed, there was no one on the streets, I’d go to the kitchen every single day, even if it was for a couple of hours, so I could feel I still had a business. Some days were very depressing but I kept going, fulfilling some online orders and some local ones, which I’d do curbside or porch deliveries personally. Then I had the chance of opening a second store and with courage that I didn’t know I had. And we opened on August 2020 at Legacy Food Hall. Challenges aside, I worked 12-14 hours days, seven days a week. I am very passionate about Mallow Box and that passion keeps me going. At some point, we decided to close our first store and move all of our operations to Legacy Hall, especially because of the staffing challenge.
Lots of Mallow love, but no MSG, no preservatives (we use light corn syrup, which may be considered a preservative.) Our recipes are very original and our Malookies (cookie marshmallows) are our specialty. Have you tried them yet? They are TO-DIE-FOR! Or so our customers tell us.
Do you have any insights you can share related to maintaining high team morale?
Employee churn in the food industry is pretty high and that can make it challenging to manage teams and maintain morale. Each employee is part of the team and for the team to be successful, each part of it has to be as well and vice versa.
The first thing I try to do is to find and understand each team member’s strengths and opportunities and assign tasks accordingly, increasing their chances to be individually successful. At the same time, I frequently highlight the importance of working as a team, the relevance of using each one’s strengths to build optimum results, and how complementary skills make a successful team. I also coach the team frequently, praise and reward every achievement, small or big, while keeping them accountable for their actions.
I use a virtual platform to praise them and give the opportunity for the team to recognize their achievements too.
Keeping a high level of communication is vital, it keeps everyone on the same page. And asking for their opinion or feedback, what kind of assistance or tools they need to be successful and make the business successful is very important. When they come up with ideas, we many times try them together and discuss the outcome.
We’d really appreciate if you could talk to us about how you figured out the manufacturing process./
We make all of our marshmallows from scratch.
I was searching for a fun dessert to make for my husband’s birthday party and, as many other people, browsed Pinterest. I found these cute marshmallow bouquets. The marshmallows were put on a stick, dipped in chocolate and sprinkles and assembled as a flower bouquet. It seemed simple enough, so I made them.
I am not a cook or a baker, but I’ve decided that I would make my own marshmallows and make them with more flavor and better texture. I tried and changed my recipes, tried and changed again, tried until I got to a recipe I felt comfortable with. I started making my marshmallows from home and posting pictures on Instagram.
Then a small big thing happened. I got an email from my local Nordstrom asking if I wanted to have a pop-up inside their store (I’ll be forever thankful to Shalisa for that.) I did pop-ups inside Nordstrom once or twice a month for about one year. And that has opened many doors to Mallow Box. From there we started to make all sorts of marshmallow treats such as fudges and cookies with marshmallows, cookie truffles, s’mores pies-in-a-jar and more and (don’t ask how because not even I know the answer) opened the s’more bar where I came up with a full menu of treats such as s’mores, bowls, skewers, drinks and shakes, ALL with marshmallows.
I challenge myself every day to be better, to create fun and delicious flavors and treats.
I’ve learned that once I got to my perfect core recipe, I should stick to it, but that creativity has no limits and I can always use this recipe to create new flavors and treats. I’ve also learned that we can never know so much that there is nothing new to learn from someone more experienced, someone from a different industry or type of business, someone who has a different point of view. I love brainstorming and listening to new perspectives.