Success Tastes Sweeter with Work-Life Balance
By Kitty French, Manta Content Editor — December 7, 2016
Time management, commitment to quality help young couple build a successful nationwide specialty foods business while raising a family.
Amanda Henke’s pregnancy craving was very specific: caramel. But not just any caramel. Henke wanted to make her own caramel with natural ingredients. That’s when she and her husband, Justin, discovered Annie B’s Popcorn and Caramels. The family-owned confectionary company just happened to be up for sale.
The couple purchased the 40-year-old company from its founders in 2012. In 2015, they acquired B.T. McElrath, a 15-year-old family-run chocolatier. The Henkes merged the companies into a one-stop shop for handmade caramels, chocolates and specialty popcorn.
The couple has stayed true to the quality standards that made the companies successful under their previous owners. Annie B’s products are made with locally sourced, natural ingredients. Candies are made in small batches by hand.
For the health-conscious, each product’s ingredients are listed on a special page on AnnieBs.com. The company website serves multiple purposes. It’s an ecommerce platform; it’s also a customer-engagement and storytelling tool.
The Annie B’s blog features all kinds of recipes made with their signature caramels, popcorns and chocolates. The company has a strong social media presence on Facebook and Twitter. But most tempting are the photos of gooey caramels and rich chocolates on the company Instagram account.
That online marketing has helped Annie B’s develop tremendous reach among wholesalers and consumers. The Minnesota company’s products are available in more than 970 retail locations across the country. The company also sells candies, gifts and corporate packages online, shipping them across the U.S. and to some international destinations. Oprah Winfrey even declared the candies one of her “favorite things.”
Amanda handles marketing and product development; Justin manages day-to-day operations as CEO. The couple juggle the demands of running a small specialty foods business while raising their toddler, August.
“It helps to have a great team in place,” said Henke of balancing business ownership with family life. She and Justin hire people who will add knowledge and organization to the company, especially in areas where the Henkes feel they could use improvement. It’s a humble approach that allows the owners to trust their employees to handle things on their own and contribute to the company’s success.
Henke has s worked hard to become an efficient time manager. She lives by a very disciplined schedule that meets the demands of her business while fulfilling her personal needs. A big part of that is setting aside time every day to spend with her son. That’s a computer- and smartphone-free window devoted strictly to quality family time.
“I need to schedule it so I can have that time each day to recharge, otherwise it would be easy to get burned out from work,” said Henke.
It’s a smart approach to an area many small business owners neglect. Work-life balance is necessary to keep up the stamina it takes to own and operate a small company. Owners who are consumed 24/7 with their business risk mental burnout and poor physical health. In that way, severe overwork actually hurts the long-term prospects of a company.
“After time with my family, I always feel ready to work again with a renewed approach,” said Henke. “When I make personal time a top priority, the quality of my work improves,”
Henke has advice to share with small business owners whose work and home lives are so closely intertwined: Time management will help you find more fulfillment both at work and at home, she said.
Henke’s work-life balance begins with the five minutes she takes every morning to write out a schedule for her day. She recommends the tactic for every business owner.
“Try your best to stick to that schedule. Have certain time frames set aside to check emails, work on specific projects, et cetera. When you’re working on specific projects, also keep your email closed so you do not get distracted,” she said.
This time management technique keeps Henke on task. It also provides her a feeling of accomplishment when she crosses something off of her daily to-do list. Small business owners have to look for those little moments of pride and pleasure everywhere. It’s those little things that keep you going in the long run.
Henke said the toughest thing about running her own company was learning to be more deliberate. The pace of running the family business is intense. Henke has to fight the urge to respond to that fast pace by rushing through things that matter — like getting a new recipe just right or maintaining production quality.
“When it’s well thought out and properly planned, however, it is easier and more successful in the long run,” said Henke.
That lesson, learned through the trial-and-error of her early days in business, has helped her grow as an owner. Having the patience to plan has also led her to have a more meaningful personal life.
“The greatest life lesson I learned is that it is very important to take the time to sit and really plan things out,” said Henke.