Moving to Reston is interviewing members of the community who run small businesses that serve the Reston area. In honor of Valentine’s Day, we spoke with Maura McKnight, Owner and Baker Extraordinaire of The Candy Drawer Confectionary, a small batch confections and baked goods company based in Reston.
Moving to Reston: Tell us a bit about your background and how you got into the chocolate/candy business.
Maura McKnight: My background is in childbirth, working at Fairfax Hospital in the Newborn Nursery and Postpartum, working for a group of three OB/GYN doctors and then 17 years as a Birth and Postpartum Doula.
After the birth of my first daughter, I was able to be a stay-at-home mom to her and two more daughters for 10 years. I honed my cooking skills and, with the girls, cooked up LOTS of delicious treats. During Thanksgiving weekend of 2012, my daughters and I made an incredible dessert spread, including barks & brittles. We gave our treats as holiday gifts that year. The recipients told us, “You guys ought to sell that stuff!” That gave us the idea for a family business.
Our company name came from the false front drawers in my kitchen, one of which was always filled with candy, like an old general store. It was, and remains, our Candy Drawer.
“The Candy Drawer Confectionary is set apart from many other companies in that it is woman-owned and family-run. … We use all “real” ingredients. We do not use preservatives. We cook in small batches, as quality and freshness are hallmarks of our business.”
—Maura McKnight, The Candy Drawer Confectionary
Moving to Reston: What made you want to start your own company?
Maura McKnight: After a couple years working for a doula agency, I left to start my own doula service, Labors of Love. It was a challenge, but very satisfying. I wanted to be in charge of my time and talents and be able to keep more of the money for which I was staying up all night, sometimes for days. After retirement from that career, the search was on for whatever was next. I couldn’t imagine working for someone else after 17 years as my own boss. The idea for The Candy Drawer Confectionary was born.
Moving to Reston: What sets Candy Drawer Confectionary apart from other chocolate companies?
Maura McKnight: The Candy Drawer Confectionary is set apart from many other companies in that it is woman-owned and family-run. My youngest daughter became my business partner, my middle girl hopped on board as our graphic designer and my eldest girl helps out with quality control and marketing. It started out of our love of all things sweet, the joy of making it and the excitement of seeing other people enjoy our products.
We use all “real” ingredients. We do not use preservatives. We cook in small batches, as quality and freshness are hallmarks of our business. We are the only company in the area that makes authentic British Fudges. We use recyclable, biodegradable and recycled packaging as much as possible. All of our products are made by real humans. We make every single caramel, bonbon, cookie, cake, chocolate bar, everything, ourselves and with the help of our assistants.
Moving to Reston: What chocolate/candy item did you made that failed? What’s your best seller?
Maura McKnight: Failures, ah we all have those, haven’t we?
One recent one was a fudge recipe made with chocolate chips. It sounded great, was fast and easy. However, after working with big blocks of real chocolate for more than a year and getting used to the taste and texture of “the good stuff,” one bite of that fudge was too much. I didn’t even send it to taste testers. It was that bad.
It took me many failures before I got the recipes right for the British Fudges we were asked to make for The Pure Pasty Company in Vienna. I’d take batch after batch of the Traditional English and Scottish Butter fudge to the chef, only to be told to go back and try again. Frustrating, but the day the chef said I got them right was a GREAT day!
Our best seller remains our Original Smoked Salt Hoss Caramel. Second is Smoked Salt Pecan Hoss Caramel, third is Black Salt Hoss Caramel. In the chocolate category, the S’mores Bonbons sell out at nearly every farmers market.
Moving to Reston: If there’s one thing everyone should know about Candy Drawer Confectionary, it is …
Maura McKnight: … We have a beautiful website that’s open all the time!
Moving to Reston: Anything else?
Maura McKnight: We take special orders for favors & gifts for parties of all kinds. We work at farmers markets [Editor’s Note: Maura and Candy Drawer appear at Wednesday’s Smart Market, located at the Wiehle-Reston Metro Station plaza) and special community events and will be starting chocolate molding parties for groups, dinner parties, showers, etc. We ship worldwide! One bite and you will agree that our quality can’t be beat.
For more information about Candy Drawer Confectionary, go to candydrawerconfectionary.com.
In an effort for local small businesses to support one another, Candy Drawer Confectionary is offering Moving to Reston readers 15% off your next order of $30 or more. Enter promotion code 15OFF at checkout. Valid for one-time use only. Expires Dec. 31, 2016.