Words: Katie Lew
Photos: Colorado Crafted
When Dulcie Wilcox decided to purchase a gift basket of Colorado-made products for her out-of-state relatives last year, she was disappointed with the lack of selection and quality she found. “It was about the sentiment,” she says. “I wanted something that said, ‘Here’s a little bit of Colorado for you.’” The basket she ended up sending felt lackluster and so the seed of an idea was planted. “I wondered, ‘Can we do this and make it feel nice and stylish with really great food?’’’ Dulcie explains. After discussing the idea with her friend and business partner, Sarah Welle, their answer led them to founding Colorado Crafted.
Coloradocraftedbox.com is an online purveyor of beautifully packaged gift boxes, each filled with locally sourced, artisanal foods. With names like Mount Evans and Hanging Lake, each Colorado Crafted box gives the recipient a taste of Colorado’s best small-batch foods. From RedCamper Whiskey Peach preserves, made with Paonia peaches, to Chile Crunch, a unique garlic-chile condiment, Dulcie and Sarah have scoured the state to provide a tasty variety of products.
Sarah and Dulcie first collaborated on their popular food blog, Two Tarts, after meeting three years ago at their local library in Longmont. They discovered a shared passion for photography and great food, but the blog didn’t quite fulfill their entrepreneurial drive. “It’s pretty tough to make money from a blog,” explains Dulcie, “and we’re always thinking about different business ventures and ideas.” Sarah chimes in, “We were wanting to spin what we’re good at, and what we enjoyed, into something. We would literally stand at the park, pushing our kids on the swings and tossing ideas back and forth.”
The creative energy between Sarah and Dulcie is impressive, and they’ve channeled this energy into creating a product that highlights what is unique about Colorado, while also appealing to a broad base of consumers. “Our boxes are this collection of what’s special and cool about Colorado, which makes an interesting gift,” says Sarah, “A lot of our orders are from people in-state sending the boxes to friends and family out-of-state”. Dulcie’s original vision of a stylish, delicious collection of Colorado foods is finally being realized, but these two entrepreneurs aren’t content to leave things there. They have recently added a bath and body box to their lineup of luxury gift boxes, as well as a chocolate tasting kit. Also, their website now has a Marketplace page where customers can order their favorite products a la carte.
I sat down with Sarah and Dulcie, in Dulcie’s gorgeous historic home in downtown Longmont over a cup of tea, and a little bit of Tuffy Kickshaw’s Brown Butter ‘n Whiskey popcorn. We talked about Colorado Crafted and their experience with the artisan food community in Colorado:
How did you go from having a food blog to founding and running Colorado Crafted?
Sarah: We knew we liked food and we knew we liked photography. We ended up coming up with the idea for Colorado Crafted and we decided to dive in and try it.
Dulcie: The overhead was so low and we thought, at the very worst, if we end up buying cases of various delicious foods, the very worst thing that could happen is that we would end up having to eat it all!
What is the hardest part of running this business?
Sarah: Anticipating inventory is always a balancing act for us because we stock products from really small artisans who make things in really small batches. You can’t just call them and say, “Send me five more cases today”, they can’t do that. Sometimes they’re only in the kitchen on Tuesdays, so there’s this whole scheduling thing behind the scenes.
Dulcie: It’s what makes us special, but it’s also a challenge that we’ve created for ourselves.
Sarah: You know, we sometimes sell out of stuff, but that’s okay because it’s small-batch stock, and that’s what makes our products special.
How do you find the vendors and products that you want to feature?
Dulcie: The best way we’ve heard about people is word-of-mouth from our existing vendors. They’ll say, “We share a kitchen with this person who makes amazing chocolates”, or whatever it is, and you know at that point that it’s going to be something that’s worth looking at. But at the beginning we spent a lot of time just Googling around trying to find things.
Sarah: We really like to carry products that are small, hard-to-find, really special.
"We don’t want to have a box that someone could just go to Whole Foods and put together themselves."
Dulcie: Because we don’t want to have a box that someone could just go to Whole Foods and put together themselves.
How do you think your company is benefiting the artisanal food scene in Colorado?
"It’s opening up a new market for artisans other than the farmer’s market where they’re selling to individuals."
Sarah: We’re another way for artisans to sell their products in a unique way. A business wouldn’t normally give just a jar of jam to their clients, but they do give a whole box that has a jar of jam included in it. So it’s opening up a new market for artisans other than the farmer’s market where they’re selling to individuals.
Dulcie: Plus, our boxes mostly leave the state, so it’s great for exposure and for people outside of Colorado to learn about these products. And they might say, “This jam is really delicious and I want to buy more of it”, and they might come to us, or directly to the artisans.
Sarah: We’ve definitely heard stories of our customers going directly to the artisans to restock because something was a particular favorite.
What are each of your favorite products from the gift boxes?
Sarah: I’ve had a huge Chile Crunch obsession. It’s sort of like a hot sauce, but it’s garlicky and crunchy and suspended in oil, and you spoon it out of a jar. It’s like a crunchy pile of hot sauce! It’s really spicy but it’s great on everything: quinoa, sautéed vegetables, in soup or on salad.
Dulcie: For me it’s probably Whiskey Peach Deliciousness. I wish I had some to share with you, but we eat it so quickly that we’re always running out!
What do you hope to see happen in the artisanal food community in Colorado in the next few years?
Sarah: I’d like to see more collaborations. We’ve seen that happening because I think all these people are inspiring each other and have relationships with each other that are sparking new ideas. But just more growth. More of these existing companies getting bigger, and new, smaller companies starting out.
"Colorado seems to be changing and attracting more young, creative people."
Dulcie: Colorado seems to be changing and attracting more young, creative people. So I’d love to see more of that, and the artistic community growing.
What’s next for Colorado Crafted? What are your plans for the future?
Dulcie: The Marketplace is what we’re thinking about most right now. We’ll be working on finding more artisans for our Marketplace, especially some more non-food artisans. We love the idea of doing home and food products like dishtowels or cutting boards--things that we could sell individually or mix into other boxes.
Sarah: Also, we love the design aspect of the business and we have some ideas for things we might design ourselves. And we are going to need space at some point because we’re outgrowing the tiny office we have here!