One of our first Cookery members was Big Little Brittle and owners Dan Sigman and his wife, Lynn Pelka.
Their journey in food entrepreneurship started because Dan and Lynn wanted to gift family and friends something homemade for Christmas that wasn't the standard cookie tray or candy. They chose brittle. Dan found the initial brittle recipe in the Chicago Tribune. His first batch wasn't the best because Dan insisted that a candy thermometer wasn't necessary. He learned the hard way, and for 15 years, they have been perfecting their small-batch brittle with a big flavor.
A family member suggested they sell their brittle, and for a long time, the idea was on the back burner (pun intended). Eventually, they became food entrepreneurs, and Big Little Brittle was formed. Dan and Lynn sold brittle at their first market in February 2020 and received great feedback from their initial patrons.
Like many small food businesses, Dan and Lynn found farmer's markets a necessity for starting out. They discovered that the vendor community is very welcoming and open to sharing information. They have also enjoyed speaking with their customers and learning what people like. For Lynn, the best part of direct sales at the market is "watching a person's face when they try the brittle. It's very rewarding!"
The best part of direct sales at the market is "watching a person's face when they try the brittle. It's very rewarding!"Lynn Pelka
Teamwork makes the dream work
Dan is the mixologist and enjoys playing with flavors. He has been tweaking and perfecting recipes since that first Christmas. Early flavors included cinnamon cashew and maple pecan.
They now have 15 creative flavors, including seasonal favorites. The most popular flavor to date is Beach, which includes coconut, macadamia nuts, and rum. A close second is Maya, their version of Mexican hot chocolate with cashews, peanuts, and a chili kick to enhance the vanilla and cinnamon.
Dan and Lynn work as a team in the Cookery, making the most of their time. Dan watches over the stove, where he has his sugar mixture bubbling away. A candy thermometer is visible in each pot. Once the desired temperature is reached, additional ingredients are mixed in, and the molten brittle is turned out onto a baking sheet where Lynn takes over, spreading it out and cutting it into pieces. Once it's cooled, Lynn takes care of the packaging.
Creative sample solutions
Some food businesses were disappointed to learn that no food samples are allowed while Covid is with us, but Dan and Lynn found a way to package samples using a smaller version of their heat-sealed bags filled with tiny pieces of brittle. They give these out to curious shoppers at markets and always include a sample with online orders allowing people to taste new flavors and keep them coming back. Sample bags are one Covid practice the couple will continue in the future.
This past summer and fall season, the couple was selling their brittle at three weekly markets and were in the Cookery in the evening keeping up with demand. Dan and Lynn both maintain full-time jobs in addition to running their food business. Like many small food business owners, balancing their schedules is the hardest part. Now that their market season is finished, they hope to slow down production and take some time to plan their next step.
Growing their food business
Big Little Brittle can currently be found at Meraki Market in Elgin and River Street Collective in East Dundee. They also have a website and hope to drive more traffic there in the future to make online purchases. Most importantly, they received their wholesale license and are looking to expand their business. They intend to pursue ideas like corporate gifting and fundraisers.
Lynn likes the fact that being a food entrepreneur is always a learning experience. They are constantly adapting the business based on feedback and new ideas to make it better. Small changes like new graphics for their labels are the next upgrade.
Their website is the perfect place to find stocking stuffers for Christmas. We look forward to watching Big Little Brittle grow and supporting Dan and Lynn into the future!