- John Walker
Why The Candy Factory is a Great Local Brand
“You saved my sanity. Let’s drink to that!”
David raised his martini glass to his fellow Candy Factory members gathered around the kitchen table of the industrial-reno space on the first floor of the Lancaster coworking space. He took a swallow and explained to the grinning throng that when he started his website development business, he had been working from home, alone with his thoughts and the challenges of a start-up. Joining The Candy Factory connected him with fellow entrepreneurs, it provided support, it widened his network, and it even provided new friends to join for a Friday afternoon drink.
The Candy Factory is a coworking space located in downtown Lancaster, PA. It has grown into six floors of a building off Queen Street where it offers a place to work at shared desks with access to business services like wi-fi and printers. The Studios were added in June of 2019 with private offices, conference rooms and a media studio. But The Candy Factory is much more than work space, it’s a place dedicated to community impact. Its mission statement says it tries to “foster our community and help spur the growth of small businesses in and around Lancaster City.”
Anne Kirby is the founder and owner of The Candy Factory and she explains that it started as a meet-up on My Space. “Back around 2005 I was working on my own and I felt isolated. So I emailed five people on My Space and invited them to a meet-up at Annie Bailey’s. Twenty showed up and it turned into a group that called itself ‘Creative House of Lancaster.’ That group eventually grew to over 80. It became clear that solopreneurs wanted to connect.”
This year The Candy Factory will celebrate its ten-year anniversary. And today it even offers child care in a program called Jelly Bellies. Anne explains that she learned how hard it is to balance parenthood with managing a small business and she seeks to help address that with flexible child care that can be reserved in two-hour blocks. Anne says it enables parents to “take a conference call or just take a deep breath while their kids are cared for.” It also enables these parents to network with others like them.
The customer experience that Anne and her staff have created is one that is welcoming and comfortable. She says she wants people to be able to network, but also to just be themselves in an inclusive environment.
The Candy Factory has grown through word-of-mouth but also through social media advertising and strategic partnerships. One of those partnerships is with The Ben Franklin Technology Partners which serves as a tenant and as the facilitator of a tech accelerator program designed to increase the growth of entrepreneurial activity in Lancaster County. This type of partnership makes The Candy Factory a downtown hub for small business growth.
So why is The Candy Factory a great local brand? Two main reasons. It offers an authentic and deeply satisfying customer experience; and it creates community. Spend a few minutes inside the space on a weekday morning and you can feel the authenticity. People like being there and it meets a need for them that goes beyond having a desk with wi-fi. It’s Anne’s vision come to life- people enjoy it because they can be themselves- the successful entrepreneurial version of themselves. The interior facilitates this with a variety of comfy spaces offering varying degrees of privacy.
And like all strong brands, The Candy Factory makes you feel like you’re part of something meaningful. You’re deliberately included in stuff and you’re gently pulled closer to others who are striving, like you are, to make it on your own. Anne says that The Candy Factory has always been guided and shaped by its members, and that just strengthens the community of members. And today that community is 230 strong and growing.
Back to the Friday afternoon martini party. Someone takes a draw from a fresh-made martini and grimaces. “It’s my first one,” he says.
David grins and says, “It won’t be your last.”
This post was written by John Walker, principal consultant at J. Walker Marketing. Contact John today to discuss your marketing challenges. John@JWalkerMktg.com.