2007 Alumni

Northeast Young Entrepreneur

Chantelle Gorham
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Chantelle Gorham Chantelle Gorham refuses to stick to conventional recipes, be it in her thri-ving fudge business, or her own career.

The 32-year-old owner of the Northwest Fudge Factory has taken the road less traveled throughout most of the last 10 years. From the Sudbury police force to her current home-grown factory business in Levack, Gorham has led a swath of community projects and fund raising events, not to mention some national accolades, several entries in the Guinness Book of World Records, and now the 2007 Influential Women’s Young Entrepreneur of the Year award.

Despite a lack of a business background and bank loans, Gorham has taken her fudge company from its humble beginnings as a side project to a full-fledged fudge wholesaling company. It is precisely this “ground up” approach that gives this cop-turned-candy-maker the most pride, as her persistence and passion have driven her success.

“You couldn’t look to another business in the area and see what they were doing to get any hints,” she says. “It seems everything I was doing was untested, and I’ve definitely had a lot of failures, and I think that was about the only way I could grow as a business.”

Gorham’s unconventional ca-reer path began in 1998, after obtaining her English degree. She joined the Sudbury Police Service force as a constable, primarily to prove to herself that she could do it.

After a few years on the force, she purchased the Northwest Tra-ding Company in Espanola with her brother, Vern in 2001, selling a variety of items such as souvenirs and home decor. After working both jobs simultaneously for a year, she discovered the sales of fudge using pre-made mix were strong enough to support an independent business, and the Northwest Fudge Factory was born.

However, pre-made recipes were not sufficiently cost-com-petitive, and after handing in her gun and badge, she spent the next year devising her own fudge concoctions. “Something had to give. I liked policing, but the business was doing so well that it either had to move forward or not at all. It was a natural choice, as it allowed me to be creative.”

This led to the creation of nearly 100 new recipes including her famed cream-and-butter style fudge. Twenty five other flavours make up the core of her business. Seasonally-themed favorites such as pumpkin pie fudge and blueberries-and-cream are made by special request, along with branded fudge cornerstones for Dalron Construction Limited.

Distributors move her product onto store shelves throughout the province. Sales representatives in Ottawa and southern Ontario arrange for her fudge to be used in fund raising efforts for schools and other organizations as far away as Manitoba and Quebec.

Business has been so swift that, after rapidly outgrowing three different facilities, she finally settled on a 4,000-square-foot building in Levack in 2004, where she has stayed with her three part-time employees.

Northwest Fudge Factory’s products have also drawn national attention, which Gorham attri-butes to sheer persistence and a refusal to be beaten.

When her first submission of a walnut-and-fudge concoction to the 2006 California Inspirations Walnut Contest failed to garner a response, she became determined to place.

“I’m stubborn, and I don’t like somebody telling me that I can’t do something,” she says.

The following year, she chan-ged the product’s name to “the much more marketable ‘Puck ‘n Nuts,’” and re-submitted the entry. She suddenly found herself duking it out on the competition floor with the likes of Lesaffre Yeast Company and La Rocca Creative Cakes, which supplies products to Loblaws.

Much to her surprise, Gorham won, not only the Confectionery category, but also Best in Show, which carried a $10,000 prize.

“I went from not even being a blip on the radar one year to winning the whole thing the next,” she says. “I’m pretty proud of that.”

Gorham’s driven nature has brought her ahead of the curve in international circles as well.

She has set Guinness World Records three times in the last five years, beating industry giant Eagle Brand by creating the world’s largest slab of fudge at 2,002 pounds in 2002, 3,010 pounds in 2004, and 4,444 pounds again that same year. Such records have largely been set for charity, with her most recent attempt raising $23,000 for Sudbury’s St. Joseph’s Villa. She’s hoping to beat her own record once again at another fund raiser for the long-term care facility in the coming months.

Gorham’s dedication to rea-ching out to the community doesn’t end there, however. With the flexible hours that come with running a wholesaling business, she organizes various public events in Levack, including Halloween “ghost town” parades and soap box derbies. She’s even built several soap box racers for local kids.

Coordinating events for the community has long been a passion for Gorham, who once organized an annual bike rodeo for local children during her days on the force. Having maintained this passion for helping others and youth in particular, Gorham says she now has the means to help give local kids the kind of wholesome and rewarding upbringing she had while growing up in the area.