It's been a long journey since Maggie Callahan ditched her big-firm legal career in 2013 to start Maggie Louise Confections. After training at culinary school and lots of hands-on experimentation, her Austin-based chocolate brand — one that mixes "delicious flavor and high quality ingredients with fashion-forward, artistic design" — has definitively broken the mold in a crowded industry.
"We have created a truly unique chocolate experience," Callahan says, with the portfolio of sculptural chocolates shaped like cacti, lipstick tubes, and martini glasses to show for it.
The initial challenge was mastering chocolate as a material, and Callahan remembers toiling away in a test kitchen late into the night perfecting her recipes. Once she figured that out, it was an uphill climb to accrue a constellation of vendors across North America that ensure the Maggie Louise sweets are produced, packaged, and shipped to consumers both as intact and beautiful as they star — a task easier said than done considering chocolate begins to melt at temperatures around 80 degrees.
In terms of marketing, another business battle involved figuring out ways to attract customers to a brand that aspired to be more than a small-batch, artisanal product at the local farmer's market but didn't come to the table with the resources of so-called Big Chocolate (think Mars, Hershey, and Nestlé). Callahan's answer? Instagram. Most of the brand's earliest clients were acquired via the social media platform, and Callahan now boasts retail relationships with Nordstrom, Neiman Marcus, and Bloomingdale's, with more on the way.
Despite all this success, there are still challenges. One persistent problem, Callahan says, is "managing the complexities related to cash flow that come with a seasonal business." She also cites the all-too-familiar issue of keeping an eye on the big picture of the business rather the losing oneself in the details. Perseverance has accordingly been Callahan's choice at every turn, although she's quick to remind other founders to "treat yourself with kindness" along the way.