Don Li’s eyes widen and dance when he talks about most of the possibilities.
Those possibilities include getting his invention into the next convenience store — or better, convenience store chain. His are the eyes of someone who dares to dream. And the eagerness shows when he brings the conversation back around to his ultimate goal for CoffeeCandy: to get his Greenville-made product on Starbucks shelves around the world.
The possibility of failure has no such effect on his countenance.
The eyes of the first-time entrepreneur show no concern whatsoever when Li is asked if he was nervous about leaving behind a solid career in software engineering for the uncertainty of creating a startup from a new product.
Li shrugs his shoulders to emphasize that he’s not worried and says, “I trust that people will enjoy the product.”
Li, who reminds us that Starbucks was once a startup, too, believes the path there is simple: create awareness, let people taste it, make them customers.
When SC Biz News first checked in on Li’s entrepreneurial journey, he had a product, a package and a website. He was selling product directly to a few customers in person and online, but he awaited South Carolina Agriculture Department approval to make wholesale sales that would put CoffeeCandy on store shelves.
Our original story: Long drives turn Greenville software engineer into candy entrepreneur
Agriculture Department approval now in hand, Li’s salesman shoes have been as busy as his dancing eyes.
CoffeeCandy is available now in seven retail locations in the Greenville area — six convenience stores and a supermarket:
At the Asia Pacific Super Market, they made a small sign to let shoppers know the product is locally made. A pouch of CoffeeCandy includes three pieces, which is equal in caffeine to one cup of coffee, and retails at Asia Pacific Super Market for $2.88 and for the same or similar price at the other retailers.
“It’s a start,” Li said, still with his dreaming eyes on the decision makers at Starbucks and ready for the challenges success may bring.
“When they’re ready to roll out CoffeeCandy, we will need to automate,” he says simply, inviting the challenge.n