July 8, 2023

Crafting Everyday Luxuries: Exploring the Success Story of MMELO with Michelle Allen

From Passion to Success: Michelle Allen's Journey of Building a Sweet Empire

In the bustling city of Columbus, Ohio, a confectionery brand named MMELO has been making waves with its well-crafted, indulgent treats. Founded by Michelle Allen, MMELO is a labor of love that draws inspiration from the culinary culture they experienced in Barcelona. With a mission to celebrate the art of food and a commitment to using natural ingredients, MMELO has carved a unique niche in the confectionery industry.

In an exclusive interview, Michelle Allen shares the captivating journey behind MMELO and provides insights into the challenges faced during its inception and growth. From securing funding through unconventional means to navigating a shift in the business model, Allen's entrepreneurial spirit and determination shine through. Discover how MMELO evolved organically, expanded its offerings beyond chocolate, and harnessed strategies for success in the competitive confectionery market. Join us as we delve into the story of MMELO and gain valuable advice from Michelle Allen for aspiring entrepreneurs.

Michelle Allen, The Founder and CEO of MMELO


Chris Choi: Hi Michelle, how are you? It's nice to meet you.

Michelle Allen: Hi Chris. I'm doing well, thank you. How about yourself?

Chris Choi: I'm doing well too, thank you for asking. It's great to have the opportunity to speak with you. Now, let's dive into the interview. I'd love to start by getting a better understanding of your background and the journey behind MMELO. Could you please provide us with a brief introduction about yourself and share the history, mission, and values that define your brand?

Michelle Allen: Absolutely, Chris. MMELO is a labor of love that was born out of my passion for food and the culinary culture I experienced in Barcelona. I didn't have a traditional culinary background, but I studied food science during a formative time in the gastronomy world. When my husband and I decided to start a business, we wanted to bring the sense of community and craftsmanship we witnessed in Barcelona to Columbus, Ohio. Our mission at MMELO is to create well-crafted, everyday luxuries that celebrate the art of food. We prioritize using natural ingredients and avoid artificial colors and additives. Our values center around community, quality, and making indulgent treats accessible to everyone.

Chris Choi: Thank you for sharing that. It's fascinating how your experience in Barcelona influenced your vision for MMELO. I'm curious, why did you choose chocolate as a focus for your brand?

Photo Credit: Paul Freeth

Michelle Allen: Actually, I didn't specifically choose chocolate as our focus. When we started MMELO, I considered myself a confectioner with skills in chocolate making. However, as we began creating our products, people started praising our chocolate creations, and we unintentionally became known as a chocolate company. But it's important to note that we are more than just chocolate. We are a confectionery brand that offers a wide range of treats, including marshmallows, nougats, and jellies. We embrace dietary preferences and have always had collections for vegans and gluten-free consumers. So while chocolate plays a significant role in our offerings, we want to be recognized as a confectionery brand that provides a variety of well-crafted, healthy treats.

Chris Choi: That's interesting. It's great to see how your brand evolved organically and offers a diverse range of confectionery products. On a different note, what were some of the challenges you faced when launching MMELO, and how did you overcome them?

Michelle Allen: One of the initial challenges we faced was obtaining funding for the business. Having been out of the country for several years, it was difficult to secure a loan from traditional banks. However, we managed to find support through a small Community Development Financial Institution (CDFI) called ECDI, which provided us with our first business loan. This allowed us to set up a pop-up shop in a prime location, which helped validate our concept and generate interest.

Another significant challenge came when we realized that our business model needed to evolve. Initially, we focused on opening cafes, but we discovered that our B2B sales, such as corporate gifting and catering, were more profitable. This realization prompted us to reevaluate our strategy and make the necessary changes to transition from a cafe-focused model to a manufacturing-centered approach. It was a learning process that required closing retail locations, setting up our own manufacturing facility, and embracing consumer packaged goods (CPG) as a primary focus.

Chris Choi: It sounds like you encountered some obstacles along the way but managed to adapt and find new opportunities. How has your business grown in terms of sales, and what key strategies have you implemented to achieve your goals?

Michelle Allen: We have experienced significant growth in our sales since starting MMELO. In 2019, we experienced significant growth for our third year in business  - but it was not sustainable.  That growth came with its own challenges, as we hadn't yet built the necessary infrastructure to support such high demand. It became evident that we needed to rethink our business model and focus on managing growth effectively.

One of the key strategies we have implemented is structuring the business for scalability and efficiency. We have invested in technology and automation to streamline our production processes, allowing us to increase capacity and meet customer demands more effectively. Additionally, we have expanded our B2B offerings, such as corporate gifting, which has been a significant revenue driver for us. As we continue to refine our operations and expand our consumer packaged goods presence, we anticipate further growth and aim to be in hundreds of stores by the end of this year.

Photo Credit: Paul Freeth

Chris Choi: It's impressive to see how you've managed to achieve substantial sales growth while also addressing the challenges that came with it. Taking risks is often a part of entrepreneurship. What would you say has been the biggest risk you've taken in your career?

Michelle Allen: The biggest risk I've taken was starting MMELO without having a background in the food industry. Coming from a different professional background, I had to learn the intricacies of the food business as I went along. It was a leap of faith to pursue my passion and turn it into a business, but it has been an incredible journey of growth and learning.

Chris Choi: That's truly inspiring. It takes courage to venture into a new industry without prior experience, and your success is a testament to your determination and adaptability. On a lighter note, what do you enjoy most about running MMELO, and what keeps you motivated?

Michelle Allen: The aspect I enjoy most about running MMELO is the process of recipe design and product development. I find it endlessly fascinating and inspiring to create new flavors and experiences. However, it's important to note that as the CEO, a significant portion of my time is dedicated to strategic planning, managing the business, and building relationships with partners and clients. This is necessary for the growth and success of the brand. The upcoming changes in our business model will allow me to spend more time in the test kitchen, where I can focus on recipe development and product design. This balance between creative work and business management keeps me motivated and excited about the future of MMELO.

Photo Credit: Paul Freeth

Chris Choi: That's wonderful to hear, Michelle. It's evident that your passion for recipe design drives you, and finding the right balance between creative pursuits and business management is crucial. Lastly, what advice would you give to someone starting their own business?

Michelle Allen: I have two pieces of advice for aspiring entrepreneurs. First, be prepared to live with discomfort. Starting and running a business can be incredibly challenging and stressful. Embrace the discomfort and find ways to manage it effectively. Surround yourself with a support network of smart and trustworthy individuals who can provide guidance and support when needed.

Secondly, build your network and seek out mentors. Having a strong network of people who can offer insights, advice, and connections is invaluable. Don't be afraid to ask for help and learn from others' experiences. Running a business requires continuous learning and growth, and having a supportive network can make a significant difference in your entrepreneurial journey.

Chris Choi: Thank you, Michelle. Those are valuable pieces of advice that aspiring entrepreneurs can learn from. I appreciate your time and insights. It was a pleasure speaking with you.

Michelle Allen: Thank you, Chris. I'm glad I could share my experiences with you. It was great talking to you. Take care!

Photo Credit: Paul Freeth

Key Takeaways:

  1. Embrace organic evolution and adaptability: MMELO's success lies in their ability to evolve organically, expanding beyond their initial focus as a chocolate company to become a diverse confectionery brand. This flexibility allowed them to cater to different dietary preferences and find new opportunities for growth.
  2. Embrace discomfort and build a support network: Starting a business can be challenging, but embracing discomfort and surrounding oneself with a supportive network of mentors and peers is essential for success and continuous learning.
  3. Strategic shifts for sustainable growth: MMELO's strategic shift from a cafe-focused model to a manufacturing-centered approach, along with investments in technology and expanding B2B offerings, enabled them to achieve substantial sales growth and position themselves for further expansion.
  4. Passion drives innovation: MMELO's CEO, Michelle Allen, finds inspiration in recipe design and product development. Balancing creative pursuits with effective business management keeps entrepreneurs motivated and fosters innovation.

MMELO's journey offers valuable lessons for aspiring entrepreneurs, emphasizing the importance of adaptability, building a support network, making strategic shifts, and staying passionate about their craft.

Photo Credit: Paul Freeth

If you want to stay updated with MMELO's latest creations, product releases, and behind-the-scenes insights, follow them on social media. Connect with MMELO on Instagram and Facebook to join their vibrant community of food enthusiasts and confectionery lovers. By following their social media accounts, you'll gain access to mouthwatering photos, exclusive promotions, and exciting announcements. Don't miss out on the opportunity to indulge in their well-crafted, everyday luxuries and be part of the MMELO experience. Follow them today and embark on a delectable journey that celebrates the art of food.

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