Martha Ware, a marketing professional, had never worked in the food industry until 2018. Fast forward two years, and her dessert shop Mallow Box is thriving at locations in The Shops at Willow Bend and Legacy Hall here in Plano. Mallow Box is a unique stop for a delicious treat that has been thoughtfully handmade. Martha shared with us her journey into custom marshmallows and the ups and downs of running a business.
Martha, what made you decide to start Mallow Box?
In August 2018 on my husband’s birthday, I wanted to do something different. I went on Pinterest and found this cute bouquet of marshmallows dipped in chocolate with sprinkles. Seemed easy, but I realized I don’t like the marshmallows they sell in stores.
As a marketing person, I wanted to look at what kind of market marshmallows have. It turns out there’s quite a big market. So, I was like, ‘What if I try to make something different?’ Played with some recipes. Believe me, I made the most horrible marshmallows – from super sugary to super chewy – until I got something that worked for my taste. But I’m from Brazil, so my taste is different than American taste.
Three or four months into posting photos, I got an email from someone at Nordstrom at Stonebriar Centre. I started doing pop-up shops there once or twice a month for a full year. Not only did it give me exposure to the audience I was targeting but also gave me the chance to get a lot of feedback.
The marketing person at The Shops at Willow Bend contacted me and said, ‘Why don’t you come in and have a table for Christmas?’ We did a pop-up there for Christmas. We went back for Easter. Then we were offered a cart for summer. It was very hard, but it was an invaluable experience because we got to talk to people and give out samples. Well, 45 days later, there I was at the food court. It was crazy. I had never worked in food before. I had 45 days to develop all the branding, how the store was going to look, what we were going to do, and develop a full menu.
What is your menu like? Any favorite items of yours?
The menu has three main categories: s’mores bar, s’mores skewers and s’mores bowls. You can choose between nine flavors of marshmallows, and you can put your s’mores on graham crackers or a cookie. Then you choose the chocolate bar we put inside. We also use sauces and other toppings, and we toast the marshmallow for you.
We also have milkshakes. This month we have a Christmas milkshake that has been selling well. It is a chocolate peppermint milkshake, and it’s super pretty! We made a marshmallow in the shape of a Christmas tree and dipped it in green vanilla.
What is your favorite part about running Mallow Box?
Every business has its stressors, but the creative part is really cool. I love product development. I love creating the milkshakes. The other part that is really fun are the faces you see when people receive their order. The first thing 99% of people do is take a picture with it. It is very fulfilling.
My main goal is not only offering a product but also an experience. When people come here, I want them to have fun with us. I want people to come back. I don’t want people to come here and just have their order taken.
What has been the most challenging part?
The most challenging part is staffing the business. My staff right now is amazing, but it is a challenge I have dealt with in the past. Also, the pandemic has been really hard on everyone. We are lucky that we have diverse ways to put our product out there. We have the bar and the online store, and we are very active on social media. But no question, it has been a very challenging experience.
What are you most proud of?
I’m proud of the whole journey. When I started at The Shops at Willow Bend, I had a full-time job. A week after that, I quit my job. It was a leap of faith. I’m proud to have taken the risk. I’m proud of having created such a fun and unique product and brand. I’m proud of the people who work with me – they’re amazing. We opened a second location at Legacy Hall after six months at Willow Bend and in the middle of a pandemic. That’s also something I’m very proud of!
Any advice for other business owners?
Each person is different and each business is different. I would say just hang in there and don’t give up. Try to be creative. Focus on what you can do, not on what you can’t do – not on what you lost or what is gone, but what is ahead of you.
The Shops at Willow Bend
6121 W Park Blvd.
Plano, TX 75093
7800 Windrose Ave.
Plano, TX 75024