It didn't take long for her to notice the need for allergen friendly, delicious treats; she decided to take the opportunity to both pursue her passion for experimental cooking, and provide the much-needed reprieve from the uninspiring sweets available to those with wheat, soy, dairy and egg sensitivities.
Her handcrafted candy (all of which is based on a family recipe which she committed to memory as a teen) caught on fast. Soon enough she had to quit her day job, rented a commercial kitchen, and hired help to keep up with the demand.
In the time that Sweetsmith has been in operation, Dannah's candy has made its way into every market from Cochrane to Okotoks. Her sweets can be found at the Spruce Meadows International Christmas market, and various summer markets.
True to her curious nature, Dannah continues to expand on the original recipes so keep an eye out for new flavours to hit the shelves!
If you are near Strathmore, Alberta, we encourage you to make a trip to our store in Strathmore where we make the candy.
Here is a note from Dannah, which is also a part of our blog,
I'm new to this blog thing, but here goes... It has been an exciting journey selling candy in the lovely city of #yyc and surrounding areas- but what most people don't know is how this whole thing started!
In September 2008, my family moved from the beautiful, lusciously green town (now city!!) of Spruce Grove, AB to hot, brown, dry Arizona (Phoenix area). Of course, I had to join my family because I was a teenager, still living at home finishing High School; otherwise I would have stayed! I had a great job at a photography studio in Edmonton, in the post-processing department. (They hired me at age 14, I was self-taught in photoshop already and I loved photo editing! It was my dream job at the time, and it broke my heart to have to leave)
As many people know, 2008 was the year that marked the beginning of the 'recession' in the USA. Because of the sluggish economy, jobs were hard to come by, and often my mom warned that we may end up homeless if a miracle didn't happen.
I'll spare you all the stressful details, because in the end it all worked out! My grandma and grandpa came to visit us for a holiday at the end of 2008; and my dad asked my mom if she had any peanuts to make fresh peanut brittle for my 'Nana' and 'Poppy', as we call them.
Amazingly enough, my mom actually had saved some peanuts that we had in Spruce Grove, and moved them with us all the way to Arizona!
I'll never forget it- I hadn't eaten our family recipe Peanut Brittle for over a year and the sight and smell of the fresh Peanut Brittle sitting on the counter was so wonderful! We didn't have money for treats, so it was a very special day.
My Nana, noticing our struggles, asked my mom if she had ever tried to sell the peanut brittle to local businesses to help pay the bills. My mom was astounded at the idea, and with the small amount of peanuts we had left, from Spruce Grove, we started a fledgling candy business in the middle of the recession.
People warned us: "No one will buy peanut brittle in Arizona if it isn't cold out", "It's too hot to sell candy here!" "You are wasting your time trying to sell candy in the summer! Its a Christmas dessert!" and much more...
Despite all the 'naysayers' we went ahead and started selling candy at our local church and a couple Farmer's markets to start.
It was a hit! We paid the rent! We weren't homeless! (I am very familiar with food banks and charitable institutions though; I am very grateful to all the people who helped us through those very tough times. It taught me the value of allowing others to help you. I don't remember ever going to the food bank without volunteering for a few hours- at my dad's insistence- and it was a great experience!)
A friend of my mom owned a restaurant and offered to let us use her kitchen at night so we could start a legitimate business! Without her, I don't know what we would have done, because we could not afford to rent a kitchen. If you are ever in Avondale, Arizona, check out "Flavors of Louisiana" I recommend the fried catfish "Po' Boy" sandwich or the "Shrimp Ettoufe". http://www.flavorsoflouisianacajun.com/
We started to sell at 3 different farmer's markets on the weekends, and festivals whenever we could. My dad was working on growing his business at the same time, and still helped out whenever possible.
To be very very honest- my 16 year-old self was frustrated that I had to work so hard to help pay bills, when I should be 'having fun' and 'being a kid' My mom felt awful for needing my help so much, and I didn't have the heart to protest, because it would have made her feel worse.
Somewhere along the line, after a full summer of markets probably, I realized I actually enjoyed the work. I loved making the candy with my mom, it gave us great quality time, I loved sampling the candy to customers and seeing their reactions, I loved being involved in a business and crunching numbers to ascertain exactly how much candy we needed to bring for each event- and most importantly; I also loved eating the candy.
Before long, I realized I couldn't imagine doing anything else and began planning my future around having my very own candy business as soon as I could move back to Alberta... home....