John & Kira’s is a Philadelphia based confection company owned and operated by John Doyle and his wife Kira Baker-Doyle. John talked with me about his rise from creating chocolate delights in his studio apartment to his current muti-million dollar chocolate manufacturing facility. Through the good fortune of a meeting with a magazine editor, John & Kira’s growth exploded.
The candy business is seasonal. John tells me that John & Kira’s does half of their yearly sales volume in the November-December holiday season. We have a revealing conversation about manufacturing chocolate for a peek sales season of just four weeks a year.
Marketing is a big part of the confection business and John & Kira’s does marketing really well. John talks about differentiation in the chocolate business. With beautiful packaging and extremely creative, earth and nature inspired chocolates J&K product stands out in what could easily be argued is a commodity industry.
This interview is a really good lesson in good business practices that can be applied to virtually any industry.
Here’s their story from their website:
John & Kira’s is a socially innovative chocolate company dedicated to both making and selling world class confections and promoting positive social change.
Co-founders John Doyle and Kira Baker-Doyle both felt the itch to start an entrepreneurial venture back in September, 2000. John, after a short stint in banking, made a career switch into the kitchen at various restaurants in Manhattan and Philadelphia. Kira was completing a Masters in Education at the University of Pennsylvania and working closely with an urban school garden project.
After over a year of research and experimentation, the pair developed an all natural line of chocolates so delicious and unique that Gourmet Magazine placed them on the front cover of their publication in 2003, and praised them as their ‘favorite chocolates’. John & Kira’s quickly became nationally known as a premiere gourmet chocolate company in the United States, both for their fresh confections and their pioneering social mission.
The signature line of chocolate ganache squares features ingredients from sustainable artisan food growers local to their Philadelphia chocolate studio, across the country and around the world. They highlight:
– fresh mint grown in urban school garden programs in Philadelphia that teach students about nutrition and agriculture
– honey from family-run Draper’s Apiaries in PA paired with organic lavender
– lemongrass from a biodynamic & organic farm preserving heirloom crops in CA
– ginger from a biodynamic & organic farm on Molokai, Hawaii
– shade grown coffee from a worker-owned Fair Trade cooperative in Chiapas, Mexico
– pistachios grown, harvested & roasted on family owned & operated Eagle Ranch in NM – organic earl grey tea from a Sri Lankan employee-owned cooperative.
Since the 2003 Gourmet Magazine article, John & Kira’s concept and the company have grown steadily. They have expanded their chocolate line to include chocolate ladybugs and chocolate filled figs from an organic, family-owned farm in Spain. Their chocolates, recently featured on the Martha Stewart Show and in Oprah Magazine, are available online at www.johnandkiras.com or by calling 800.747.4808.