Bequet Confections produces a full ton of caramels each week all year long. But that wasn't the original plan for founder Robin Bequet; she originally came to Montana for a job at a high-tech firm.
After doing so she bought a home in the Gallatin Valley and thought she'd made her mark. Then came 2001.
“I’m in one of five rounds of layoffs. Now instead of retiring early I'm unemployed,” she recalled.
As it turns out Robin makes pretty good candy - her co-workers at that high-tech firm told her - so when life hands you lemons, make caramels.
“So we started small, very much a bootstrap business. Very small. My Dad moved out here to help me and I taught him how to make caramel and we did everything on a small scale until we could see what was repeatable. What patterns there were. What market niches were most successful for us,” said Bequet.
Making caramel is one thing, to sell it is another. Robin literally went door-to-door. Montana is not a hot-bed of fine confections, but that doesn't mean Montanans don't appreciate them.
“What stands out to me, remarkably, was the reception I got from Montana businesses and Montanans. I couldn't believe how open-minded everybody was to let's give it a try,” said Bequet.
Fifteen years later, 68 seasonal employees will turn out 100,000 of these sweets each day from the building west of Bozeman.
“Our goal is to keep raising the bar on great caramel. When we started in the specialty food industry there were very few companies making high-end gourmet caramel. Now, there's a countless number of them at the same trade shows that we go to. Making some pretty good caramel. But if we keep improving our recipe...that's our strategy for staying on top,” said Bequet.
That and remembering how all this happens, Bequet employees have a full benefits plan, and some have been here for more than 10 years. So the employees love it, and after 15 years so do the consumers, what about the founder?
“I eat our caramel almost every single day. Matter of fact, not eating too much caramel every day is my challenge. I love what we make, I love fine confections, it's my passion,” said Bequet.