As anyone who likes to cook or bake knows, family is often the best place to get feedback on new recipes. A few years ago, avid home confectioner Lisa Dreher made a batch of toffee for the holidays, and when her family just couldn’t get enough of the nutty, crunchy candy, an idea was born- what if she could build a business by selling her treats to others?
“I’ve always wanted to be an entrepreneur, and the toffee was such a hit, I wanted to give it a go,” she said. "But it was difficult finding a workable space in Sussex County. I had to do all my research so I could get the business off the ground properly.”
Because New Jersey is the only state that does not have cottage food laws, Dreher had to undertake a search for a commercial kitchen rental. While it’s a bit of a drive from Sparta, which Dreher has called home for the last 22 years, a satisfactory rental was found in Hawthorne and in September 2018, For the Love of Toffee became a reality.
Dreher, who works full-time in pharmaceutical sales training, travels once or twice a week to Hawthorne to create and package her toffee products, whose tempting flavors combine dark chocolate with coconut and almonds, salted peanuts, and spicy pecans. When seasonal orders pick up, as near the holidays, she can spend three or four nights a week making candy.
Aiding Dreher in her endeavor is long-time companion Phil Martinez, a Newark firefighter who’ll soon be retiring from public service.
“We do everything ourselves,” Dreher said, “and it’s so fun working together. This toffee business has taken us in a new direction in our lives.”
Dreher said they both work on cooking the toffee products, and split the sales and marketing aspects of the business. Her favorite part, she says, is meeting people at festivals and trade shows and seeing their faces when they first try a sample.
“It’s such a joy to share my toffee with people,” she said, “I love engaging with the public and it’s been really fun and fulfilling for me. I’ve been able to make connections and it’s just taken off and exceeded our expectations.”
Looking forward, Dreher said she’s excited about the future and being a bigger part of the Sparta business community.
“I’d love to do this full-time,” she said, “and the way things have begun to snowball, it may be possible. I’d definitely think about opening a shop near home, where I could rent the kitchen to others as well. There’s a need for rental kitchen property here.”
“For now, I’m just looking forward to working on my growth plan and spreading some toffee love in 2020.”
Find For the Love of Toffee online at www.fortheloveoftoffee.com, as well as on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. Toffee is available to purchase for shipping, and custom orders and corporate gift packages are also offered. To find the toffee on shelves, visit Brick + Mortar Marketplace on Rt. 15 in Lafayette or Kilhainey’s Pickles on Main Street in Hackettstown. Redshaw’s Florist in Sparta also offers the toffee as an add-on gift with floral purchases, and a full list of regional retail locations can be found on the business’s website. For the Love of Toffee is now accepting Valentine’s Day orders.