Broker Check


Episode 71: The Sweet Legacy of Family Business

In this episode of the Family Biz Show, host Michael Palumbos chats with Michael Speach of the Speech Family Candy Shop in Syracuse, NY. The episode delves into the intricacies of running a family-owned business, particularly one that has been handed down through generations. Michael Speach, representing the fourth generation of his family's candy shop, shares his journey from initially rebelling against the family business to embracing it after a personal epiphany during a challenging time in his life.

The discussion covers the history of the Speech Family Candy Shop, starting from Michael's great grandfather's initiation of the business and the subsequent involvement of various family members across generations. It highlights the seasonal nature of the candy business and how it impacted family traditions and vacations. Michael Speach candidly discusses the pressures of maintaining a legacy and the personal fulfillment he finds in the business, especially through customer interactions and the community impact of their products.

Key challenges faced by the business, such as staffing and resource management, are discussed, alongside the business's evolution from wholesale to retail and back to a blend that supports year-round operation. The conversation also touches on the importance of mental health, effective communication, and the value of external support networks and resources for personal and professional growth.

The episode concludes with Michael's vision for the future of the Speech Family Candy Shop, emphasizing growth, adaptation, and the continual pursuit of happiness and fulfillment in one's work, echoing a universal message for family businesses and entrepreneurs alike.

Episode 71 Transcript

Michael Palumbos: welcome everybody to the family Biz show. I am your host Michael Palumbos with Family Wealth & Legacy in Rochester, NY, hope everybody's. We have a very sweet show for you, pun intended. We've got Michael speech from speech candy, and it's the speech family candy shop in Syracuse, NY. Michael didn't know this when we, you know, reached out to him, but I've known the speech family Candy shop as you know from as a family business for years and so it was really cool. I'm really excited to get to do this. Welcome, Michael.

Michael Speach: Uh, thank you Michael for having me. I'm totally, totally happy to be here. Actually, just taking a moment.

Michael Palumbos: So I Into the show I just wanna I went out to your website and I thought there was something I love that. On your website that I just. That I thought was fair, you know. And then on your team talk. Name and your family, it says. The first fantastic thing about the speech family candy shops, that it's a family run business that has been handed down through the generations. You are the 4th generation running the family, you know, running the family candy shop. The second wonderful thing is that it's a family run business and we haven't killed each other yet and I just think that that is. Exactly where you're supposed to be. So I I really found that that. You know, be playing it out there and vulnerable. Sharing the you know the pros and cons of family and that's why this show. Really excited. We have a a small tradition. People have a different route, you know how they end up in the family candy shop or in the family business is different for everybody. And so, you know, take us through what was your journey? Was this like, you know, from the day that I was born I knew I was going to do this. Or what was your journey to get here and what we're kind of the stops along the way?

Michael Speech: So you know, obviously I grew up in the business, you know. My parents were the third generation through run the the family business and I actually have pictures of me in a crib. This in the background, making candy. So it's like, I mean that kind of, you know, definitely been there my entire life. It's been a part of my life. And then of course, everyone in the family was like, oh, you're going to take over when you get older. You're going to take over when you get older. And I'm like, is anyone. Yeah. And I'm like, did anyone ask me? So I got to a point where I said, you know what? I saw what a family business does to the family and so I. Kind of was a little rebellious. I actually said, you know, no, when I got to my teenage years, I kind of took a step back. I wasn't coming down to help during the holidays. I wasn't around to, you know, help make the candy or sell it. I just basically said, you know what, I need to take a step back. And do my own thing. So all throughout, probably from when I was 16, right about the time you could drive. Which I basically rebelled against the family business a lot. Existence and my friends were like, oh, your family runs a candy. And I wrote my eyes and just move on to the next topic. So I I went into a performance. I actually did a lot of theater and music in high school. And so I went to CC for two years under the electronic media and communications track. So doing television, radio and then at. After that I graduated. From OC and then basically got a full ride to a private school I went to. Production, theater, arts, production and design. So that was kind of where my passion was at the time. I loved the team work, I loved that experience. I loved the creative process to create something and. And until I got into the real world. And then realized how much politics played a role. 300 to that world. You know, realizing you know the difference. In the House and the non Union house and where I needed to be. And creativity and for my expression. Literally burnt myself out almost thinking about just the logistics of being in a profession that I was choosing to be in. So I I took. I took him a nice deep breath. And basically, uh, close out anything I was doing. Is mentoring. I was working with a mentor on Broadway. I had a whole bunch of off Broadway stuff ready to go. I was doing summer stock at the same time. Projects and basically came home and had a nervous breakdown. It was that summer I came home, I moved back into my parents house and I think I slept for three weeks. I really do not remember the first part of August of that year. It was August of 2007. OK, so and then oddly enough, yeah, it it's one of those things where you've invested all this time. Lots of money into doing something that you thought you loved. But that wasn't the case. But. Put into. A really weird situation where it was right before the New York State Fair. Family has had a stand there forever. Have like a food stamp. But we also have thusly had a candy stand where we would sell candy as well. And my mom came to me one morning at like five in the morning. She was on her way out to the fair to clean up and she was like, Michael, I know you're going through a lot, but I could really use your help. Could you make some fudge for us? We have some fudge made for the fair just to get us started. Just a batch or two, no problem. Like OK, so the next morning reluctantly I got up, got shower. It was first shower I had in weeks. My staff grab my computer, grab my music and I went down to the candy store and. That night my mom comes here and basically relieves me and says are you OK? And I'm like, what are you? I really. Really weird situation where it was right before the new. And our family has had a stand there forever and. Have like a food stamp, but we also have obviously had a candy stand where we would sell candy as well. And my mom came to me one morning at like five in the morning. She was on her way out to the fair to clean up and she was like, Michael, I know you're going through a lot, but I could really use your help. Could you make some fudge for us so we have some fudge made for the fair just to get us started. Just a batch or two, no problem. So the next morning, reluctantly, I got up, got shower, it was for shower I had in weeks. Grabbed my, grabbed my stuff, grabbed my computer, grabbed my music and I went down to the candy store and. Tonight my mom comes here and basic. Me and says are you OK? And I'm like, what are you? And on one of our big marble tables, it's like a 10 by 10 foot marble table we would use to make candy. Almost five or 600 pounds of fudge. Way more fudge than we would ever need an entire fair. But it just became it was like. Like having that? Like a light bulb goes off. I was just enjoying myself. I was enjoying the process. I knew the process could have been doing it my entire life, and that's kind of how it came to be. And by November. I was running the candy store.

Michael Palumbos: Wow. So it was all Therapeutic. I'm in this spot that I didn't expect. It kind of stunk. I went back to my roots and was just like, I don't have to think about this. I know what I'm doing. I enjoy the process and that helped you kind of make that turn. And then you're the rest is history, as they say.

Michael Speach: I and it was definitely. I mean, it's gonna be. 10 years on this November. So I mean just coming around the corner and yeah, it's, it's. It really is.

Michael Palumbos: I love it. Do you mind? And feel free to say not going there and with anything that I ask but you said. I got to be, you know, 1450. Started to feel that I was going to rebel because I saw how the family business work. What does that mean for you?

Michael Speach: And it's not a But I mean, our business being candy. Specific is a very seasonal holiday. I mean, it's a very seasonal product. So like all of the, all of the, all the big holidays you're working. So how starting in Halloween, going into Christmas, Valentine's Day, Easter, all of those times when like families would be getting together or going on vacation or doing parties or whatever. You know, here we are trying to make everyone else's holiday special, right? And then when we get to our day, so like Christmas Day, we're all set. So tired we don't even wake up to open Christmas presents. You know, like it. It's very jarring. And then also. And I look back and I think I asked my mom about this other day. I was like, why didn't we take our first family vacation? Like, once the girls were born, when was the first time we actually? And I think it was when I was 14. My father finally splurged. And we went to Disney World in the summer. You know, like. There's no holiday going on in the candy. And before the New York State fair. So you know. It was one of those things where you don't realize, you know, in. And in a small family business, how much of the business kind of takes over your life versus you living? That's the thing that I kind of wanted to rebel against a little bit.

Michael Palumbos: Got it. It's funny. I mean, you and I are a lot of likes my father. You know was in the financial services industry ever since I was you know little trying to think he made he was in worked for the Diocese of Rochester and then married my mom who already had two kids and my and he was like well let's see I don't think. The work when I've got a a family immediately. So he went out and started, you know, his practice back in the 70s. But why would you know he would come home for dinner but then he'd go back to the office. I watched that, and I'm like, I'm not doing that. I'm not. I'm gonna. I'm gonna go do something else. And I would, I didn't come back. I didn't, you know, start my practice until I was in the third minute, my 30s. I really you know took a a long route to go around doing it but I think having that moment of I'm not doing it and choosing to come back is so different than always being in there. And I and I get you know like pros and cons to both right. There is no right or wrong. But, you know, people that have that experience. Like, I didn't think it was an option. I just, you know, wanted to do this well because because they locked it is different than those people that did it because they didn't feel they had a choice and then they burned out and didn't ask themselves the question of what do I want to do? So it's, I think that's an important distinction. You and I both had that moment to be able to go away, do our own thing and then say I wanna come back. This is kind of fun.

I love serving. That we serve. I like, I'm. I feel like I'm an extension of their fans. It's definitely an extension of the you know the advisory committee and you know doing the those things and. And see things differently because I'm geeking out about my technical. Financial stuff and like, just like you peeking out about the making. Again creating some things so. Let's let's talk about how the company started four generations ago. What was the? You know, what are the? Highlights of the history. How's that?

Michael Speach: OK, I know you could talk for three hours about all the stories, but give us the the five minute version. That I just version, I get it. Didn't exist anymore, but no. So my great grandfather started the business. His name was also Michael, but obviously our name got changed. There was an Ellis Island change. There's a lot of conspiracy other of whether the family chose to make the change or that whether there was a change of was made for them. But all of the cousins kind of had variations. But my great grandfather came over in the late 1800s with a bunch of cousins from Italy and basically started working, doing a few projects here and there, and then actually went back to Italy for a little while after being here for a bit with his family. Did some stuff over there. I think he actually served in the Italian military. And then after he was that, to finish that, he ended up coming back to the US and that's when he finally like landed in Syracuse and that kind of became his home. I got married to my great grandmother who was living down in Portland at the time. So we have a lot of Cortland connections as well. Random jobs, like he was working with his relatives that had already been established here. One was a Mason, one was a guy who had a lumber mill and just doing those random jobs. And it wasn't until he got a job working for Coughlin Brothers, which is where he kind of learns the basic of understand, you know, essentials of making a cough drop. Sure. So he. The basis of a lot of, you know, hard candy recipes right there. I'm working for Coughlin brothers, which is actually right down the street from where we currently are on the north side. And after being there for one or two years, he ended up borrowing $1000, which back then in 1920, I think the average family income. So just borrow $1000. A lot of money, right. So, but was able to borrow that money, was able to buy equipment and he started making candy right out of the front part of his house. And that went right on through all the 20s and even during the depression. And funny fact is, you know, families couldn't get all of their rations or was rationed out. Acquire, but producers like my grand, my great grandfather who was actually making a product for a consumable product, their rations were different. So he was still able to get sugar and cocoa and nuts when other people couldn't so that he could do that process and continue to be open. So he all through depression. Doing pretty well actually, just to maintain the family at that point. You know, obviously every.

Michael Palumbos: That's interesting.

Michael Speach: So uh, and Every single child. And he had ten kids. Point in the business. So my great Uncle John and my great Uncle Joe both kind of ran the business at different times. And the interesting part of us was we did not actually have a storefront. It was all business to business transaction. So even though we've been around for over 100 years, our name isn't as widely you know. As like perched Hawk and all these other one. Had a shorter life, but just because they were in front of the consumer, we were always in front of the business owner. Got it. So it's a very interesting way to look at it. You know that a lot of other canisters like, well, why aren't you more well known? I'm like because we weren't branding ourselves that way. It was just making candy and getting it into a customer who is a business. To the consumer. And that went on for years and years and years until my parents took over in the 80s. So in the 80s when my parents took over, that was the first time they actually had a brick and mortar retail store that you could go in and actually shop and actually purchase candy. So it was really going from like a wholesale style business into retail. Only problem with that which they found out in the 90s and in the early 2000s was. Again, you're dependent on the season, so you're you're really. October through April, but then the rest of the year you gotta have something else. So when I took over, the big thing was going back from the retail and making an evening out to the wholesale side, which made the business more viable 12 months out of the year instead of just six.

Michael Palumbos: So when you talk about the wholesale side, is that like, is it like, uh? You know, what do they call, you know, patch package. Looking at white labeling it for other people or business to business or

Michael Speach: yeah, so right now our wholesale, the majority of our wholesale is business to business with our Branding, so it's speech family, candy shop packaging with our with our product in it. We do have a few collaborations that we do. One of them is with recess coffee, another local business here in Syracuse and we have a cloud product called recess chocolate. So it's their coffee or chocolate and we brand it together. And do some private labeling, but right now a big thing that we're. People want the small business aspect of product. So the fact that we aren't doing as much private labeling I think is more interesting to our clients now. Michael Palumbos: OK, very cool through the years. Obviously, I mean you when you talk about most people, when we talk about obstacles, when they talk again or if they go back that far, the depression was always one of them. So it's really you're one of the first that I've spoken to where you know you've been around for that many years and the depression wasn't but. Is it through the years? There's stories of, yeah, there's been a few obstacles here there. What were some of the obstacles in your family face through the years?

Michael Speach: A big Thing was A lot of it was the fact that the business really didn't have any. As far as, you know, who was running it, you know, it was basically, oh, you know, John wants to run it now. So everything moves over to John's house and then, you know, oh, Joe's gonna do it now, so everything gets moved to Joe. Or if the family moved to Portland, it so did the business. So there's a lot of those varying things there, I know. The majority of the brothers, because there were six brothers. I'm sorry, seven brothers. I think they all were in the service. Other so when they went into the military service, you know, obviously the business had to be handled by someone else. They're, they're you know their spouses or their children or you know maybe one of the sisters took it up. So I think that there was a lot of, it's a lot of like moving like a Tetris piece like how is this going to fit? It was very it wasn't like there was any rhyme or reason to it. You know, the way the business survived, it just kind of miraculously made it until, you know, my parents were like, hey. Let let us try it for a little bit. Michael Palumbos: That's very cool. Talk about, you know, having to Pivot. That's a whole different definition of having to pivot everything. You know, every few years or whatever. That's yeah, that's fun. Through the years, as we look at you know. Speech, family. Candy shop. What are some of the things that when you hear the stories that just make you swell up with the pride over what you know the families accomplished, whether it be recent or, you know, historically?

Michael Speach: Oh God, there's so many stories. One of my favorite stories though is like just the like a customer based story. We had a gentleman that used to come in every Valentine's Day and. Amen. He bought a heart box, like a nice sized heart box filled with chocolates for his wife for Valentine's Day. The following year he came back and he actually still had the box and we started talking and come to find out that he loved his life. His wife loved the box and she kept really good care. She after she had all the candy, she put tissue paper inside of it and wrapped it back up in the same outer box that it came in and took really good care of it. He was like, is there any chance I can refill this box? Absolutely. You know, and it's our box, I mean. She took very good care of it. Backup all that up for him. Just charge them for the chocolate and he was off. For several years and at a certain point, I mean, I was just expecting. Point, you know, like every year. It was kind of a really nice thing. Years later, his wife comes in with the box. Come to find out that. You know he passed away this past winter. And this was such a great tradition that they started, you know, every year he would. Back out of the house, she wouldn't know the box was missing. Um, he'd fill it and bring it back, and on Valentine's Day would be sitting out on the table. You know, when she woke up and. In the great tradition, and I wanted to keep that going. Uh. And and she was like, I'm gonna go over and visit my grandchildren. And so I thought it would be really great to bring kind of a tradition that Grandpa started, you know? So that was really like. Things on top of the fact that, you know, I've seen this guy every year. The years you know, to not have, you know, to now meet his wife who was wonderful and she's come in over and over again. She actually just recently passed away a few years back.

Michael Palumbos: so cute

Michael Speach: that story Things, and I think it says something about a tradition. You know, here I am making candy and selling it, and I have no idea what happens. Most of the time I don't understand. I don't know what happens after the fact. And here I am. I've become part of this family without even knowing it. That's kind of one of the wonderful things I love about being a small family business. Not just existing for yourself, you're existing for others, which is kind of beautiful and unexpected.

Michael Palumbos: Yeah. You know. You know and hard work go into the candy that you guys make and so you know, that's why you get people, you know, you, you a labor of love turns out this wonderful candy and through that they're like this is great. So the ripple effect. You know. You make in the, you know the sweetness that you put in there and. A huge impact. Well then you probably think, you know, I think we all when we look. Businesses, I think we underestimate the ripple effect that we have on the customers that we serve and and and and I think it's really important that we need to remember that you know what is the ripple effect of what we do. That's pretty cool because it was it was just you know it was husband and wife that it was grandma. So that story was passed on to them as well. I bet you there I I wouldn't be surprised if someday a kid comes in and tells that story that says my grandma used to told us about this story. So we're back. That's pretty cool.

Michael Speach: Yeah.

Michael Palumbos: What's it like Working with family everyday?

Michael Speach: A big cabinet back there. HAHAHAHA!

Michael Palumbos: For those listening to this show Uh, Michael is standing behind in front of the locked liquor cabinet. It's locked because you know, they when you're making some of these cordials and some of the other candies, right, you're using the liquor in those candies. But so the joke is, you know, when we're working with family, we may need that. Get us through.

Michael Speach: Well, there's a reason that the cabin is literally right outside my office, so. Oh. That way there. Family is great. You know, one of the things that I think that a lot of businesses have a hard time with the challenges is when you do have family, like siblings working together, is there's not a distinct definition like a line that is drawn. You know, like there's a point where you're my sister, but there's also a point where you're my employee. And that that's very. Is one of those hard conversations that a lot of people would rather. Even try to tackle. But my thing is if you don't tackle it up front, then you're gonna have a whole bunch of problems later on. She and I, we do, but heads a lot. Times out of 10 I get my way. OK, OK, well actually the other two she gets my way and then my mother gets her way once every 10 times. So. It's the dynamic between us is really great. She has strengths that she's really good at and she's able to you know how product out. Like if you leave her to her own devices, she can make almost every order that ever comes in the door. When you're clean, but that's, you know, we know that. So we know our strengths and we know where we stand. And I think we both understand our working relationship really, really well. And she keeps me in check where I will also keep her in check. Like sometimes she's like, do we really need to order this? I don't think it's going to sell and I go back and forth. It goes the other way and should be like, I really want to tackle this project first. I'm like, you should do this one first and then this project second. And This is why, right? So there's a nice balance. I mean, we do, we are still siblings. We are sister and brother. So we we do, you know, we do get into each other's heads sometimes. In and of itself, but. And like, you know, she knows I'm here early in the morning and she'll bring me a coffee randomly. You know, like I'm out at a meeting and on the way back I'll stop and pick up something like her favorite lunch, like the day before her birthday or something. So like we always are. Stand with each other and we can pivot when we need to. And you know, we've again, there's both. There's things that we do really well. She can say no, really well, I can't. So. Michael Palumbos: One of the Things that strikes me there's You know, just listening to some of the historical stories and whatnot is. There's like you said different people running the business at different times within the family and I'm sure that there were times that had caused some stress but it but it sounds like being able to say OK now is your time. Is something that has been. That's been given through the years. Like how is it with your, you know, your mom used to run the business and now you're running the business. How is that worked?

Michael Speach: You know. And all of it kind of came about. It really came. When probably in I wanna see the early 2000s. My mom and my dad have been running the business for 20 some odd years, and they had realized, after putting all of their heart and soul and money and effort and blood, sweat and tears into this business that was doing pretty fairly well, that there was nothing for them. Ferment. They didn't have anything to fall back on other than the equity of the building and the business. They at one point they didn't have health insurance and my father's health was not always the best. So my mom and dad, while my mom ultimately made the decision to. Go get another full time job. She actually went out and got a full time job with benefits. Right. Was also trying to run the. Wow. So she was trying to do like. And you know it. And it's super, super hard. And she, I mean. To this day, she still comes out and helps me after she leaves her job. I don't ask her to, but it's her. It's her way of. Being involved but. And that was something that they decided on. So when I came into taking over the business, it really came down to that summer. You know, your mother has to work and she needs to be able to focus on this. And my health isn't good. We're either thinking about liquidity. Selling it or just closing down and? So I kind of just fell into that conversation at the end of the New York State fair that year, OK? And my sisters both had full time corporate jobs. My my one sister Connie, who worked with me. Now, she was trying to help my mom as much as she could, but she was also working a 40 hour job, so. It kind of just happened that way. So when I took over, my my mom was like, here you go, here's the keys. You know what you're doing. It's like candy for years. Yeah, it was kind of like at this point, it was in my blood, literally, because I had probably been around sugar so much. But my dad was like, do what you can and we'll talk about it afterwards because I knew he was thinking, OK, well, once you make it profitable again, then we can talk, so. We, you know, I kind of went in with this. Give it my all for three years and see where we're at. Like at least I can. The business of flow, you know, there's the one thing I don't think. Uh, family members talk about, especially when it's a family business, the generational family businesses, this legacy guilt. Yeah, and I don't even know if that's a real term, but that's what I call it. You hit the nail on the head. Go with it. Keep telling us about it. It's just. OK, so all of these people. Ran this business that made it successful and made it. Thing that they could survive and live on. We have, you know, people like my great grandfather and my great aunts and uncles who were running it through the depression. So now you run it through the most devastating time of our country. And here I have in my hand and now I have to keep it alive. And here I am. I killed my first time. I gotcha within the first five minutes. You remember Tamagotchis dead like 5 minutes gone. And here I am running 100 year old business. Well 90 some odd year old business back then. Yeah, I I had so much stress and anxiety. Like I was like counting my pennies. They're working and it's something that we don't talk about enough because I had that weight on me for so long, yeah. Until I got to, I had gotten into a. Opportunity and started a really great partnership with another company. I finally felt that relief, and a lot of that came from my mother saying you're doing more than I ever could have accomplished when I ran the business. First. Back, but also kind of like a like a slap across her face, you know, like I felt like it's good and bad. Like, right, right, right. You know, I wanna be successful. I want you to be proud of me. But I also don't want you to feel guilty that you couldn't accomplish what I accomplished. So then the legacy guilt continues, but now it's going the opposite direction.

Michael Palumbos: It's funny when as you're talking about that, I just. I see That so often the amount of pressure. Talked about or not talk about it, some of it is just the story and the person's head who is now the, the running the business. It's you know, everybody else would be fine if they sold the business, but it's that's what they feel and I and I'm dealing with a family right now that you know. The sun has no. Worrying about. The business going, he just doesn't. And I'm the, you know, on the other side of the country, it's just. It doesn't make. It doesn't make any logic. But like it's been around for over 100 years and I don't wanna be the one. And so I will figure it out some way, shape or form, even if I'm not the one running it, I'm going to get make this happen. Pressure to put on yourself too, you know, let's talk about just traditional business for a second. Non family owned businesses on average. Publicly traded companies last about 15 years. Less than that even. OK, so you know. Don't need to quote statistics or anything like that, but I guess my point is that we need to stop worrying about the shirt sleeves to shirt sleeves and put the pressure on. Am I the one that, you know, that lost the family business or, you know, stopped running the family business? I think we need to just be focused on the good stuff. Focus on the wonderful things that we've done, the time that we've been here, the the stories that we've created, the ripple effect of all. All the people that we've touched throughout the years that we've been around, I mean, think about, you know, how many employees work full time at the candy shop today?

Michael Speach: One of the problems we're having right now is finding full time staff, so. The majority of my staff is all part time, OK? So right now, full time, it's just myself and my sister, OK, everyone else are part timers. So there's, I think right now there's twelve of us right now, OK.

Michael Palumbos: But so whether it's part time or full time Things that are there, they go home from your place. And they, you know, whether they have children. Children or spouses or no? There are no partners, whatever the case may be. They go home and they interact with other human beings. Along the line and. So what happens at your? Happens with how you treat people and what you're doing with those people and the stories of, you know, the grandfather, the the husband and wife and the grandkids and and those things happening. It matters. It matters every single day. And you guys have been doing it for over 100 years. So let's talk about. I wanna talk about. Paint the picture for us. Season comes up. How many family members? How many friends? What's what is that like?

Michael Speach: It it's intense. So first of all, I'm a huge Christmas fan. I have been for years, my whole family has been for years, and So what ends up happening is Halloween. We actually closed a little early because we actually used to do a bunch of charity stuff for Halloween with kids and stuff, so we just kind of. Generally. Closing the store and move on, but typical. Today we're we're taking all the Halloween stuff down because we allow ourselves one day to. The candy store for the holidays and it's a huge transformation that goes from. You know, creepy to like so many Christmas lights. You wanna you know, you could go blind so we that becomes a huge party for me. So a lot of my friends and family will come and hang out and do that with us and I'll order pizzas or pasta or whatever, you know, obviously there's some wine and if my. Bring like 2 bottles of patron for herself and then she'll be great for about an hour and then I'll find her on the floor. But no, we actually it, it is. It's almost like a big party. And again, because you own a family business and all my friends and family know how crazy we are, we kind of do these like little kind of impromptu nightly. Get together so like if. Yeah, I get invited to these huge parties and I can't go because we're just too busy or like I have a third shift working and I can't leave. It kind of turns into, oh, Michael, Tuesday night, I'm coming down just so you know, if you need help. So then five or six people come down and they bring food and we hang out and we chat and we have a good time. But like we're packaging like a product for a corporate client, like or, you know, we're making fudge upstairs. Three pictures, you know, like. Really does become like smaller holiday parties, but it's just. By the candy store and. It's gotten into it. I have a great group of. Friends I have. A lot of my friends will even kind of just because I know how stressful it is. The experience of the candy store. I have a friend. Her and her boyfriend will actually help me on Valentine's Day. So instead of them going and having like a nice romantic party or an evening or whatever dinner, she will come bundle herself up. Her and the two of them will deliver Valentine's Day presents all day long. She's like Michael. There's nothing better than bringing a box of charm and strawberries to someone's face. Like all of that. And I was like, that's better than anything that I can do in my day. So, you know, every year, like I get the two of them automatically. So like stuff like that is just really. But everyone comes. I mean cousins that I don't see any other time during the year, they're like Michael, I'm not doing anything tonight. I'm coming down. I'm like. That's called for you, so I mean. It is. It's just wonderful. And. Still enjoy the holidays myself by doing these things. Umm, and then they know

Michael Palumbos: You know, 10 to 15 family members, it sounds like, or more. Wow. Yeah so.

Michael Speach: Comes like, oh, OK, and thank God, you know, if I'm here working really late, you know, they'll all Uber home and I'll plot my cotton and sleep on my floor in my office. Gonna be here at 6:00 o'clock the next morning, yeah.

Michael Palumbos: Right. Umm. Talked about how The family doesn't have you know, you really don't sell. You might celebrate you know, um February 18th as Valentine's Day or whatever. However, you, you know, figure out Christmas is big for you. Is there a family tradition? Does it totally off the the business side of things, but is there just a family tradition that you guys love?

Michael Speach: Uh, well, years ago when I was much younger. Because again, the holidays get screwed up for us. We would always have. Holiday open house. We would actually invite all of our friends and family to our house. It was every. And after the first after New Years. So it's always this the following Saturday after New Year's Eve. That had this huge open house and we're talking like 4 or 500 people at our house. Oh yeah. Like, I mean, it was like, I mean, if we're not gonna be able to celebrate the holiday, we're going to celebrate big time. Because on top of that, that people go away for the holidays. So you can't make all the Christmas parties and everyone's so busy and then everyone's done with cookies when you get to Christmas Eve. Wrong. So to have like a nice little break and then have this huge. It was catered and. 500 people in our house with. Outside heated tents, it was it was like the biggest blowout every year and that would became like a huge tradition once I got older and, you know, our priorities all changed. We stopped doing the parties on that scale. But what we do now is so we don't really celebrate Christmas on Christmas Day. We'll typically do what the weekend after. Take a break. Like after working and all of my family is now in retail, right between my sisters and everyone else. And so a lot of the families in retail. So we're all exhausted when it comes Christmas Day, it's like no one wants to leave their house. So we'll just do it the following weekend and it's kind of become that tradition has been ongoing since you know, the party stopped. Parties were those were. And I was a kid, so I wasn't, you know, I wasn't an adult at that point, but I mean, I remember. Noon until probably 3:00 o'clock that morning, the following day, nonstop people in that house and, you know, food and people bringing stuff in with them. And just a good time. Like there would be a guy playing a piano upstairs on the second floor. There would be, you know. Oh, entertainment and karaoke down in the basement. I mean, it was just one of those, one of those parties that I, I, I really missed those. Sure. But to tackle that now. Oh my God. You know, it's like doing like a gala party that you have to have at the on center at this point, you know?

Michael Palumbos: Wow, good for you. That's fun. Um, as what you're looking, you mentioned that right now finding full-time people is hard. What would you say are some of the the pains or obstacles that you're dealing with as a, you know, small family owned business right now?

Michael Speach: What are your biggest ones that you're? Done. You know, right now I think the. Is huge right now, especially because. By hand. There's very little machinery. There's no automation. When you buy a piece of chocolate, that's been handled by at least two people on whether that was the person who made it and dipped it in chocolate, or the person who cupped it packaged it. So there's no, there's no room for any kind of. Variation in cost on that because you have to pay. You know you have to pay your labor and the law. Right now and you know, one of the biggest struggles I think I've been facing is, you know, we have this, you know, the minimum wage increase that's happening every year in New York State and I understand the living wage that I totally get it, but my thing is, does a 16 year old who's coming here for his first. Just deserve to make the same thing that my manager made four years ago at the same rate when I have to probably go back and wash the dishes that he's washing. That's a huge thing for me. Uh, you know, because I used to hire kids after. For a few hours and you know they. It is. Or they do some janitorial stuff, or they move boxes for me, or open boxes, or whatever. We need it. And now I'm like. You know, to offset that cost, you know you have to keep that in mind and then also like drivers. To pay my drivers and you know, because we deliver within a 20 mile radius of Syracuse. So now I have the cost of the fuel and then you have the cost of the driver and then someone's complaining that they're paying $25 for a delivery and I'm like. That's my gas in the car. That's basically me. I'm not making any money on the delivery that delivery site. On the delivery side, so that's a huge thing. The labor is big. The second thing I think is right now the logistics and the resources are changing. COVID really did a number on a lot of other businesses. Distribution, shipping is crazy right now. You know, there's products that I. Use every day that. A common product, but they're typically. With certain distributors and like, I'm finding myself like, Oh well, you have the base container that I need, but you don't have the lid. Reverse that like oh I always order the the conf. And they compact the lids and the bases separately. You why do you only have one? But it doesn't make sense. Ordering bases and lids together, but, right. So that becomes kind of an interesting thing, trying to source materials and following that track and watching the cost and all of that,

Michael Palumbos: OK. What Is your vision For the business 10 years from now.

Michael Speach: Oh. (Laughs). 10 years from now, I would hope that the business. To grow this year has been very interesting in that we weren't hitting our numbers in the first and second quarter that we were anticipating, especially post COVID numbers. So I'm hoping 10 years from down the line we're continuing to grow I'm. Praying and hoping that we continue. Our search right now, we are kind of as you can, as you can see, you know, we're kind of splitting at the seams right now. For me to hire four more people, I need more space and for the business to continue to be efficient, I need to hire four more people. So it's kind of like we're fighting ourselves and our growth. That hopefully maybe looking at a new facility for production as well as our sales and our shipping and distribution because that's becoming huge now with the Internet and our wholesale business is really jumped third quarter I think it's. Ever getting into fourth quarter and we've kind. Is this a new resources for ourselves? Yeah, ten years down the line, I would hope that I can actually have one more day off a week. And where I don't actually come into the building this is. My day off, but I have yet to not be here on a Thursday. By that, like I'm I'm here at some point on my day off and. But yeah, I hope to. Continue to grow. Maybe be able to bring in maybe one or two more full time. Help us in that process. Yeah, just keep moving forward III really that's that's. Thing right now.

Michael Palumbos: OK. Let's think. I asked you that I should ask you.

Michael Speach: Hmm. I don't know. I mean, we've covered a lot of stuff and it's funny. Every time I do an interview, there's new questions that come out. So it's always one of those, like I I love doing interviews just because some people ask some of the most random questions, but they're the most intriguing to me and I have to actually sit back and think about it. I don't know what's what's the question that you just think. Without you, I wouldn't, normally wouldn't ask.

Michael Palumbos: Yeah, let's you know what normally I don't get into People's products for the most part. But what is your favorite? What's your favorite candy?

Michael Speach: Uh, today, actually, I, one of the staff members, is helping me make caramel today. So whenever I'm doing any kind of caramel product, it's kind of like, I think it's the smell that gets me every time. Because then I'm finding myself like, OK, once we poured it out and there's a little bit left on the spatula, I'm eating against spatula as I'm walking away. Or like, I'll bring it into my office, like do paperwork and I'm like, literally. In Carmel, off the spatula. This is because we make so many different things. Like, I mean, one day I'll be in the Carmel, the next day if we're working in truffles, you know, maybe I'm like having a ganache afternoon and like, I'll go get some ice cream and put some nice hot ganache as they're pouring it into the truffle moles and that, that'll be my snacks the afternoon.

Michael Palumbos: When you look at You know. Or through the years? What is the the the solid performer over the years for you guys?

Michael Speach: Hands down, it's been the chocolate potato chips. Seller, they continue to be our biggest seller, their number one and number. List OK because we have variations of them. So, but yeah, the the milk chocolate covered potato chips are so our number one seller and. I think it's. I think it has something to do with the fact that it's kind of a little bit of a novelty. And it's just something we've been known for. I mean, we're even use. Containers we were using in the 80s, so that's kind of a little bit of. Not to the history in the past, but yeah, the child potato chips. I think it's the combination of the salty and the sweet. People love that. It works.

Michael Palumbos: right? Um. What is? Let's see, why is it, you know, growing the business 10 years from now, new location, putting those things together? Why is that important to you?

Michael Speach: You know, I think there's something What about, you know, leaving something behind? Is you. I actually had an amazing. This is kind of a little off topic, but I had an amazing conversation once with Bill Samuels junior, who is who was running makers Mark Distillery down in Kentucky. I actually got a chance to meet with him and chat and talk to him about stuff and he was like, here I am running this business this. And I'm just producing the same thing over and over again. So he ended up creating his own product, not. And one of the rules was don't screw up the whiskey. And that was the only thing that I think his predecessor, his parents told him. So he was like, OK, well I can't change it, but I can make something new. So he ended up creating another bourbon, which is now. Which is very, very popular among bourbon aficionados, but he actually put his name on the bottle, which is also kind of funny. So I think part of the growth for me is, you know, I'm in a space that my parents had found for the business and I'm utilizing it The best of my abilities and as I look forward into the future, I have a lot of aspirations. I think there's a great opportunity for us to do an event space that could be utilized. You know other other features other than just produce. I think there's a great opportunity, especially because I have a newfound respect and. Which of stuff like, you know, bourbons and whiskeys and. I also love music. I think there's a great opportunity to do. By speak easier bar or lounge that also is kind of. Pending. So like almost like a dessert lounge kind of an idea, which would be really great idea, you know, like, yeah, go have dinner at a nice fancy restaurant and then have deserted speeches, you know, like that's kind of a neat kind of a concept for me. And as we continue to move forward, we need, you know, this kind of, you know. Like kind of fighting an uphill battle. Because again. You're wrong. But no one knows who we are because for the first. 60 years of our existence, we didn't. On there so I'm. Working with like a 40 year old business, but actually it's 100 year old, 40 year old name, but 100 year old business. So really pushing it like now that we're tapping into a lot of new wholesale business outside of New York State. So we're reaching the Dakotas, we're reaching South Carolina, we're going like I literally shipped out 1/4 this morning that's going to Las Vegas to a gift shop. So getting our name out there is gonna be huge and I'd rather have the next generation, whether that be my nephews or another family member or whoever that happens to be taken. Have them. They start already before kind of stepping in where I was, where I was trying to like, you know, give. We are, you know. So I I don't want to leave it the same. I think, you know, part of life is leaving something in better shape than it was when you got there.

Michael Palumbos: Love it. Um. What advice would you give to family members listening to this right now? If you you got 10 minutes with somebody that's you know, struggling in their family business or about to enter their family business. Four things that they should know.

Michael Speach: I think the most important thing would probably be kind of what happened to me would be leaving my career Current theater and coming into the candy store. You know, I was getting to a point where I was dreading waking up in the morning. There's nothing worse than laying in bed. Go do what you're supposed to. And I found that happening. Earlier on when I go back and think about it when I was doing stuff. I'm just dreading a lot of my activities. Not to say that theaters and wonderful because I still support the arts. Sure, 100%. It just wasn't for me. For going and going to. Going through a mental breakdown, I mean I I cannot tell you how important I think the. The mental stability of. And if there's anything that I don't think business people. Is that our mental health is huge because not only are you trying to take care of yourself and your business, you're also have all the people under you who are relying on you and so if you're not even at 90%. How much can you be helping them and making them move forward? So one of my biggest things. You are not happy if you're not excited about your work, if you're not willing to come. Uh. Every day. I mean even after running the business for. Things are happening, or new ways of doing things. When you bring in new people, they might have better ideas, they might have different ideas that might be more beneficial. So I I'm a huge proponent of. Not happy in whatever situation you're in if you're not excited about. Happy to work with your clients, or if you're not happy, you know, creating a product or working on marketing or reaching out to the people that you need to. Successful change. Change it. Seen. I've seen people in their 40s, in their 50s. Realize I did this because I needed the money. OK, are you happy? Other than that, money has provided you with. Are you happy? I mean, right. I mean, they're driving around in nice cars, but I mean, are you happy? And you'd be surprised how many people would say no or. Well, then change it. You're still, you know, I mean. Tomorrow morning I woke up and I was not happy coming. I'd be. Connie, guess what? You're next. Let's go. I got the papers. Let's get this socket. Cause I would go in. My life is too short. And after everything we've been through with COVID after on the ups and downs of running a family business. Because I'm sure we've all experienced. You know, the UPS and the downs. It's just too it's just. If you're not happy, if you can't be excited about what you do. Be something that you're excited about.

Michael Palumbos: Yeah. And to your point, I think that that's for the generation that's currently running the business. Make sure that you're having conversations to help find out if it is, you know, the next generation's passion or not. Because if it's not, that's where a lot of the issues start to step from. Yeah, I'm going to, I'm going to arm wrestle you in here. I'm going to guilt you in here. But I haven't thought about whether this was something.

Michael Speach: Yeah. And yeah and I think that a lot of again It's those hard conversations that you don't like having with your family, you know, like, and I think it's one of the most important parts of it, is they're your family. They're supposed to love you unconditionally. And yes, you don't have to always get along and they're not always going to like you, right. You know, I've had the conversation with my sister right now. I don't like you. I love you. Cannot continue to have this conversation, and it's just one of those things that you. It's hard. Those are hard conversations. Have them. It just makes it worse because it just gets. Dial on top of a pile and eventually. You know, sometimes it's too far gone and you can't ever get it back.

Michael Palumbos: Yeah. Um. Organizations that you belong to to support you or books that you've read that you're like, Oh my gosh that was a great, you know, different, you know book that gave me a different perspective or a training that you went to. What are some of the anything popped to mind treat for you when I say that? Michael Speach: I have served on a whole bunch of different committees. I'm very involved with a lot of different charities and organizations. I do stuff with David's refuge, I do stuff with Loretto Foundation. We've done stuff with ACR health. And I mean, there's a whole list. I mean, if you've gone through some of our charity lists on our website, I mean, it's on and on and on and on and on as far as being involved with a bunch of organizations. We have an organization here in Syracuse calls the Syracuse Tip Club which? Um, networking business networking organization, which is kind of nice because we kind of. About business that we're all either involved in or something that's coming into town, you know, it's always nice because sometimes some of them someone has like in it, little bit of an edge on even the newspapers and the media. So you know, sometimes you're here and stuff and then three days later it's in the newspapers. Like I don't know about that. So it feels pretty cool. I, uh, you know we. We definitely find that we're doing a lot more, a lot more interpersonal stuff. So like I just joined an organization called met the Mankind Project, which is actually an international organization and basically helping men move forward in the world and be better at what you do and. What I'm learning through those through an organization like that. Better ways of communicating, simplifying what I'm saying and. Right, and we're on the same page. Down to just communicating properly and knowing how that works. I would say to anyone that's. Operation if you don't have a therapist. Have a friend who could be. Or someone that nods a lot like. Again.

Michael Palumbos: I have a book for you, And then I just finished reading. Feel just like you just said something that made me say, oh I gotta tell Michael about this. So it's called leadership and self deception. With your group and it fits all about what you just said. And it's like, you know, how do we talk to people as people? The problem not, as you know, not as. So how do we see and how do I be with people just? That is a person I can still be. I can still be firm. I can still be assertive. But how do I make sure that I'm doing that in a space? You know that where I'm seeing you as a person and talking to you as a person and not talking to you about the frustration and the problem that you're causing me right this second? Because at the end of the day, regardless of whether you're moving. Or you're doing, you know, financial services, or you are constructing or deconstructing or manufacture whatever it is. At the end of the day, it's people that run our business. And so the better. What you're talking about, you know, is adding to your EQ, adding to your emotional quotient and being able to be better at those things. That work. Then we create wonderful, wonderful things because. About people. So if we go back to that ripple effect that we talked about before, you know? Ah, Michael, this is been fabulous. I hope that everyone. I highly recommend going out and looking at the the speech family candy.com website. Take a peek at their about pages and the tour of the team. They they do them. As you know, they're not cartoons, but they're I don't. And they're not caricatures, but very coolly done. Very impressive. Umm, they have some candy that I didn't want to talk about on the show that I just think it's fabulous to to go taking a peek at. And they do some pretty neat stuff and I'm pretty impressive. And if you're in Syracuse, it sounds like if you just see speed, it doesn't happen just in Syracuse because it's in different gift shops and whatnot. But if you see speech candy out there? Yep. Now. Thank you, everybody. Um, you've been listening to Michael's speech from the speech family Candy shop and my name is Michael Palumbos from family wealth and legacy in Rochester, NY. This is the family business show. We look forward to having you listen in on the next episode. Have a great day, everybody.

If you’re a family business or a family business consultant and want to be on the show, share your story and help other family businesses, send us an email to producer@thefamilybizshow.com or fill out a contact form here!

*not affiliated with Lincoln Financial Advisors Corp.

Michael Palumbos is a registered representative of Lincoln Financial Advisors Corp. Securities and investment advisory services offered through Lincoln Financial Advisors Corp., a broker/dealer (member SIPC) and registered investment advisor. Insurance offered through Lincoln affiliates and other fine companies. Family Wealth & Legacy, LLC is not an affiliate of Lincoln Financial Advisors Corp. Lincoln Financial Advisors Corp. and its representatives do not provide legal or tax advice. You may want to consult a legal or tax advisor regarding any legal or tax information as it relates to your personal circumstances.

CRN-5338062-120722