Although she lives in Vancouver, British Columbia, Louise Schonberg has always been closely tied to her Swedish heritage and culture. Those ties were strengthened in 2015 when she opened Karameller, a small candy shop in Vancouver’s quaint Yaletown district.
“I was inspired by my childhood memories,” Schonberg explains. “Karameller means ‘hard candy’ in Swedish.”
The shop quickly became a cultural and communal gathering place for Swedish expats living in the area, and not just because of its high-quality candies, all of which are imported from Scandinavia. The shop also upholds time-honored traditions like lördagsgodis, which means “Saturday sweets” and signifies the weekly pilgrimage to a candy store after children receive their allowance.
When the pandemic hit, Karameller—like all retail stores in Vancouver—was forced to shutter. And despite the small size of the candy boutique, the losses seemed large. Schonberg was cut off from her primary source of income, and the Swedish expat community living in Vancouver lost an important cultural touchpoint (not to mention the disappointment of the broader candy-loving community locally as well).
“When everything changes overnight,” Schonberg says, “little things that bring comfort or joy become even more important.”
Not content to let her business and customers wane, Schonberg acted quickly. After announcing the impending closure of Karameller on Instagram—which resulted in a flood of customers who purchased every last piece of candy in stock—she transitioned her focus to online sales.
“The website had always been an afterthought,” Schonberg says. “It never received more than a handful of orders a month.”
And yet, because the site was built the right way with the right technologies, everything was in place for the shop’s online resurgence.
“We set up Karameller’s eCommerce website and store network like we do for most of our clients—with a Cisco Meraki security appliance, Wi-Fi, video security, and Cisco Umbrella security to protect both staff and guests,” says Luis Giraldo, CEO of IT services company Ook Enterprises and also Schonberg’s husband. “When the pandemic hit, it was easy to make the transition because no reconfiguration was needed. The shop would have been behind the eight ball if we would have taken shortcuts.” Ook Enterprises and other Cisco partners are helping small businesses of all types adapt and grow:
With the help of some Instagram influencers and the #shoplocal movement, Karameller received 383 online orders and had its best ever month in April 2020. The size of the average online order was three times larger than in-store purchases. And through curbside pickup, handwritten notes, and personal deliveries, Schonberg has found ways to not only stay in business, but also fill cultural gaps and reconnect with the Swedish community in Vancouver.
“It’s been great to support our customers in different ways,” she says. “We all need a little candy in times like this.”
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Great Blog post andy!
This is a great story of tradition, inspiration and innovation. We are in great need for community and closing culture gaps. Amidst a time of pandemic and societal inequalities, these kids of stories are hopeful and a welcome find! Great article, Andy.
Reading this article and knowing that many small & local businesses are suffering not only from the current economic crisis but now an ethical one with rioting destroying their property and livelihood. It occurred to how big Cisco thinks, and how we move mountains collectively, using our powers for good. Wouldn’t it be super cool to feature a Small business monthly just like this Candy Store and offer an Employee purchase day that could potentially boost the shop’s sales through the roof?
Think “black friday” but Cisco Day. I’m off to go buy some sweet treats for my kids right now. Thanks for the feel-good diversion. xo
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