The Nation’s First Hand-Cut, Hand Decorated Simply Divine Brownies
Shannon Grauer the newdirector of manufacturing
Photos and article by Ramona du Houx
It’s not just the fact that the thirty varieties of brownies melt in your mouth stimulating your taste buds with real Belgium chocolate and creamy butter, topped with blueberries, cherries, nuts and other treats. It’s not just the fact that the company is the first in the nation to hand-cut, hand-decorate brownies, many with photographic images in the frosting — made to order. It’s also about the working team atmosphere generated at Simply Divine Brownies that has taken the mother and daughter, Trina and Meggen Beaulier, to heights of success most companies only dream about. After three years in business Simply Divine Brownies, a member of the Maine Products Marketing Program, is among the five finalists in the Forbes.com "Boost Your Business" contest.
"Our growth—and now Forbes—has exceeded all our expectations. It’s all gone beyond our wildest dreams," said Meggen.
The company advanced to the semi-finals in August, and through the combination of the panel judges and approximately 8,000 online reader votes, was selected for the last round, which took the Beaulier’s to New York City in October, where they presented their business plan. The winner will take home $100,000 to "boost" their business.
Meggen and Trina Beaulier, daughter and mother, owners of Simply Divine Brownies show off some of their holiday brownies
On November 7th at The Gelato Fiasco, on Main Street in Brunswick, there will be a free tasting of Simply Divine Brownies and Gelatos to allow customers to vote online for Simply Divine. They need 20,000 votes to win a Forbes - Boost your Business contest. Vote there or go to: www.simplydivinebrownies.com and click on the forbes.com icon.all Nov
Governor John E. Baldacci encouraged all Mainers to support Simply Divine Brownies by voting on Forbes.com. He said, "Entrepreneurs like the Beauliers invigorate the local economy with their passion and creativity."
Meggen said that before they started the business they had no idea that there were agencies in the state that would offer assistance. "That has made the difference. We always asked a lot of questions and everyone has been extremely helpful. The entire community really has been a great support. We are extremely grateful for all the assistance the state has given us and the town of Brunswick. Every step of the way, when we had questions they had answers and pointed us in the right direction. We received two Maine Technology Institute grants, we are currently applying for a third, and the Department of Economic and Community Development has been great."
The specialty food company owners said that they would use the award money from Forbes, if they win the contest, to manufacture frozen, ready-to-bake brownie trays, open new wholesale venues, and expand their business. The Beauliers are planning to move ahead with this expansion in Freeport, no matter how the contest works out.
"We recently introduced a brownie truffle line, and now we are excited about the new frozen line," said Trina. "A lot of stores told us that they would love to carry our brownies, but couldn’t because they don’t have refrigerator space, and for specialty shops the shelf life wasn’t long enough. Since Simply Divine Brownies are natural products with no added preservatives, limited shelf life has restricted the wholesale venues where we can market our brownies. Testing has documented that our uncooked brownie batter, prepared frostings, and toppings can be frozen more than a year without compromising flavor, texture or appearance. This innovative frozen, ready-to-bake format will open new arenas in upscale gourmet and natural-food markets and international venues."
Answering the marketplace needs is another thing Simply Divine accomplishes well. That may have a lot to do with both Beauliers’ backgrounds. Trina was a 5-6 grade lead teacher, and in 1998 was runner up for Teacher of the Year. She was used to brainstorming with other educators in order to give her students the best education possible. Meggen has a double degree in business and worked as a concierge for famous hotels, including New York’s Waldorf Astoria.
The combination of talents makes this a powerful team.
Simply Divine Brownies opened its ovens and doors in November 2004 and chocolate lovers who craved gourmet brownies helped them explode into a national force in less than two years.
It wasn’t just the fact that the Beauliers had winning recipes, tested and invented in their home kitchen, and that the ingredients were all natural. According to them their success has a lot to do with the people they hire. "We like to think of ourselves as a family," said Meggen. "When someone needs time off we make sure we give them that time. Everyone is trained to do multiple tasks. We all brainstorm together in regular meetings. I’m always surprised at the ideas people come up with, it’s always a great help."
The Beauliers have yet to take a salary, preferring to put all profits back into the company.
"It’s more sensible for me to hire someone that will take another task off my hands, so I can focus on other areas of growth," said Trina. Currently they are looking into healthcare providers for their employees because "it’s the right thing to do." They are socially responsibly employers who help with projects in the community. They send care brownie packages to troops stationed in Iraq and have made specialty brownies to help charities, like their pink ribbon breast cancer awareness brownie.
Trina’s mother who died from breast cancer is remembered with love and dedication by the Beauliers. "My grandmother always would say everything was ‘simply divine’ and everyone here at Simply Divine wears a pearl necklace because she did," said Meggan.
Quality control is a top priority.
"We have to ensure that we have a consistent mouthwatering product," said Trina. "You only get one chance. If the first bite isn’t perfect, we’ve failed." The Beaulier’s put their trust in their employees to make the right decisions, empowering the ladies in a special way. "We hired extremely bright competent people. They know what they are doing and what our expectations are. We trust one another."
Shannon Grauer, who worked for another bakery before being employed at Simply Divine, was recently promoted to become the company’s first director of manufacturing. "We all work together here, like a family," said Grauer. "It’s a fantastic place to work."
"It was all serendipitous," said Trina, describing how Simply Divine emerged. "After two months of retirement I was taking my daughter back to grad school at Columbia. We stopped at a local bakery in Maine, it only took us one bite each and we started brainstorming. I am a real chocolate lover and always on the hunt for a great brownie, but they’re hard to find. I always brought in homemade brownies in for my students, and they loved my recipes. By the time we hit New York, we had the whole idea put together."
Simply Divine Brownies has been featured on the Today Show, selected as a Snack of the Day on the Rachel Ray Show, and included in the Academy Award gift bags.
For businesses help and information from the DECD call 1-800-541-5872 or go to:www.maine.gov/businessanswers