The Art of Community
Rhonda Hamlin, entrepreneur and business owner of The Art of Crunch is on a mission to convert biscotti haters one crunch at a time. Her hand-crafted, artfully made, and lovingly constructed biscotti treats are adored across the Pacific Northwest and sold in over 30 locations.
Rhonda has been a self-starting entrepreneur since she was a youngster. At first, she leveraged her seamstress skillset to produce sachets and other small items to sell at school. She then moved on to clothing, bags, home décor items and more. She tried on several different business plans throughout the years, and after re-enlivening her baking skills she fell in love with biscotti.
The Beginnings of a Beautiful Thing
“It started with a simple biscotti recipe I found. After I developed my own recipe for cranberry white chocolate biscotti, I decided to take it to the public,” says Rhonda. She entered a baking contest at the WA State Fair and won the blue ribbon and $100. That was in 2002 and she’s been hooked ever since.
“My friends and family kept pushing me to sell the biscotti. At first, I wasn’t sure. But then I decided to go for it,” recalls Rhonda.
Rhonda dove headfirst into the food industry. There was a lot she had to learn and fast. “I baked the biscotti in a commercial kitchen and was lucky to connect with others in the food community who provided a great sense of mentorship and comradery. They looked out for me, too, filling me in on little things I didn’t know that could have been detrimental to my operation.” That community gave Rhonda the inspiration and support to keep baking. The best advice she ever received still rings true: “Keep getting back up and keep moving forward,” Rhonda says.
That advice came in handy when the road got bumpy. Rhonda recalls a time she didn’t make the wisest decision. “This opportunity came up for me to be on a show in Seattle. My intuition kept bucking the idea, but I didn’t listen. I went into the opportunity with something in my head that ended up not matching the reality. I sunk $3,000 into the effort and didn’t get any return on the investment. That was a big lesson. You have to listen to logic and your gut when you’re making decisions.”
If she were to give advice to another entrepreneur or business owner, she’d recommend making connections with other business owners in their industry. “Friends and family won’t always understand the challenges small business owners face. It’s important to have someone who gets it be able to listen and provide support.” Rhonda also recommends people looking at going into business for themselves be extra sure they’re ready financially. She adds, “Every business has its own timeline. Don’t measure your business against other businesses that are like yours. Know your business is unique and has a unique path.”
The Heart of Crunch
That positive experience in the local, small business community impacted Rhonda so much so she has become involved in a variety networking groups, sits on the Board of the Pro Start program for the Tacoma School District, volunteers for the Coffee Oasis program for homeless youth, and participates in the MultiCare ENRICH program which helps people with developmental disabilities find employment, and Women in Business online support group. While she considers it a success to have her product in 30 stores, her biggest success is empowering other business owners to succeed and supporting her community to thrive.
Making A Difference
As a business owner, that’s what gives Rhonda the greatest satisfaction: she chooses how to impact the community. Whether it’s through direct volunteerism, monetary donations, or a simple nudge to a budding entrepreneur, Rhonda is making a difference in her community. One creation, one crunch, one connection at a time.
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