Dedication, passion and pride: three key ingredients of a great entrepreneur – or, as the case may be, soldier. Nobody knows this sweet combination better than 26 year-old Ryan Klassy from Aurora, Colorado.
At the age of 22, Ryan founded KLASSY Toffee during late nights after 10-12 hour workdays on a Colorado Air Force Base. The company is devoted to making high-quality treats and giving back to charities and soldiers. For every box the company sells, they ship a box to an American soldier stationed overseas absolutely free.
To find out more, we asked Ryan to indulge us in some good old-fashioned Q&A.
– The company’s devotion to delivering care packages to soldiers is notable. Where does your inspiration come from? I have personally seen what mail can mean to soldiers. I haven’t deployed overseas yet, but I have been in fairly long training scenarios where you have no contact with family. Mail time is without a doubt the best part of the year. I work with thousands of soldiers who have been deployed and they will all tell you the same thing. I have been in the Army for nearly eight years now and have always wanted to find a way to give back. This is it.
– You must keep late hours to run the company. Describe a day in your life. I work 55+ hours each week in the Colorado National Guard as an AGR Member (Active Guard Reserve). At my busiest time I get up for work around 5:30 a.m., head to Buckley Air Force Base for duty until about 6:00 p.m., then head to the kitchen and start making toffee. I make a few batches which takes until about 9:00, then I head home. There I set up orders, respond to customers and reconcile all business matters… anything from purchasing more supplies to shipping receipts. I’m hopefully in bed by 11:00 so that I can get up and do it all again the next day. Once things really get moving I’ll be able to hire someone to handle the record keeping and shipping, and I will focus on toffee production only.
– Did you learn anything about your vision for the company while running a contest on 99designs? I definitely learned about branding. I saw so many different ideas and creative trains of thought that I realized how strongly a logo can affect the feel of the company.
I wanted something different than what you typically see from chocolate or toffee companies. This recipe for toffee is my own. It is from 2010, not 1910, so I needed a logo that was more modern. I also wanted something that reflects my values as a US soldier. This logo has a strong visual impact with bright colors that really jump off the page.
– What role does social media play for your company? My Facebook page has been a huge part of this company’s start up. In fact, besides a few small festivals, it’s the only way I’ve really talked about the company.
We haven’t advertised yet. The last three years have been a learning process and I wasn’t set up to handle large order volume. Now I have all the machinery and kitchen space that I need and can handle quite a bit more. I plan on giving away a lot of toffee to the Facebook fans and really inspiring them with our charity work, hopefully while getting them to share my posts!
– What makes KLASSY Toffee so unique? KLASSY Toffee is 100% owned by a currently active duty soldier. I don’t know any other company that gives so much of their product away to soldiers overseas, and that focuses their entire business model and marketing strategy around overseas military personnel. I have a very intimate connection with the military. Everything I do is military-related, so why not have a company that reflects that?
– What’s your advice for others looking to start a business? Everyone says do something you love. Well, if that doesn’t work out then learn to love what you do! Eventually you will get a huge sense of pride in what you have done and the passion will follow. Be ready for a lot of hard work and a lot of unexpected changes. Don’t be afraid to change course on something!
Try to keep overhead as low as possible. If you want to be a success then you need to BE the business. Live, eat, breathe and dream the business to success. Most of all, do not stop! Always think, “Ok, I accomplished this small task… what’s next?” and constantly take the next step. Don’t stop, and eventually you will get very far.
There you have it… the ingredients to a successful business: dedication, passion, staying true to your values, and of course, a sugary sweet logo design!