Catching up with Kirstyn Pearl of Seacoast Sweets
I have a huge sweet tooth, and somehow it’s gotten even sweeter since having a baby. I love cookies, brownies, ice cream (could always say yes to a strawberry milkshake from J.P. Licks), and especially cookies with ice cream. :)
I also love chocolate. and find myself grabbing a few squares of a chocolate bar each evening after Milo has gone to sleep. There’s something so satisfying about chocolate. There are so many food startups popping up around town, and it’s really exciting to see. I’ve been following Kirstyn Pearl, who founded chocolate company Seacoast Sweets, for quite some time. Her signature peppermint patty can be found in many specialty shops around town.
Recently, I caught up with Kirstyn and had the chance to ask her about her business, what she loves about living in the North Shore, and what she enjoys doing when she finds herself with free time in Boston…
Hi Kirstyn! Please tell us a little bit about yourself and how you came to start your business, Seacoast Sweets.
I’m a 28 year-old former financial analyst now running a chocolate company as if it were a tech start-up, ha! My grandfather made peppermint patties for our family during the holidays, and I saw an opportunity to do something more with this while attending Bentley University. He passed down the recipe and I simply sold chocolate to drunk friends on Friday nights. When I graduated, I put everything on hold to build my corporate career, only making product by request during the holidays. It wasn’t until I finished my MBA in 2015 that I decided to tap into the growing word-of-mouth and see what I could do with some exerted effort.
We know that you have incorporated some family recipes into your business. Could you tell us a little bit more about why those recipes are so special?
The peppermint patty is the only family recipe but it was the start! The roots of Seacoast Sweets are in those moments when I would go to my grandfather’s apartment after school to learn the process, and then selling what we made that day out of my dorm room.
For the recipes that don’t come from your family, how did you decide on what to offer? Did it take lots of research and time in the kitchen to figure out what the best recipe was?
I admittedly have zero culinary or chocolate background. That said, I’m a total foodie. I created the other flavors with a six-pack of beer in front of me and music blasting, there was certainly a lot of trial and error. Really, I just created flavors that I personally wanted to try and didn’t stop until I was satisfied with what I was eating. Lucky for me, a lot of people have similar taste buds.
Where can people find your treats?
Newburyport and Boston are the two hubs – we sell at a number of top stores in both locations (and surrounding areas), as well as free-drop off for online orders. We are also extremely active on the ground, currently at the SoWA and Greenway markets during the weekends, scheduled “Meet the Owner” pop-ups, popular summer wine & food festivals. A list of all stores and events can be found on our website.
Do most of your customers come from the region? Any fun customer stories to share with us?
I did get word that a major celebrity likes our peanut butter patties, his assistant specifically asking they be included in his order at one of our retailers. That was a pretty friggin’ awesome moment, especially since I am a big fan of his. I am always surprised at our customer reach, I even recently had a wine shop in Colorado show interest. Our heavy Instagram presence is to thank for this. Customer (I just wrote out “client”, my head is still very much in corporate mode) interaction and the new people I get to meet on a daily basis has been my favorite part of being a business owner.
We love your packaging! I would love to receive any of your treats as a gift. Was packaging a big deal for you?
Thank you! Packaging was extremely important and is a major contributor to our success. I am a big believer in first impressions – right off the bat, I had a website and a social media expert creating professional content. The packaging paired with this “fake it till you make it” foundation allowed me to secure some major corporate/retail accounts all while working out of my mom’s kitchen. I wanted to create a product that looked high-end but was something even my friends could afford. I thought of it as a bottle of wine – a “grab-and-go” host(ess) gift that looks substantial but won’t break the bank. The leg-up here is that along with this, we are also eye-catching and more thoughtful than something you picked up on your drive over to a friend’s house.
So we would assume you love sweets! If you’re looking for a sweet treat (that isn’t your own), what do you reach for? Any favorite ice cream shops or other local spots for a treat?
It seemed like there was a birthday celebration every damn day in the corporate world – I couldn’t even look at a cupcake anymore. That said, I never had it in me to turn down Georgetown Cupcakes. My absolute favorite.
We love Newburyport – such a beautiful coastal town! What are your favorite things to do in the area? Favorite ways to spend a free day?
I just moved back to Newburyport after living and working in Boston for the past 6 years. I’ve been rediscovering the area and am having so much fun doing so. You really can’t beat Newburyport downtown with cute shops like Port Plums and Sage Market & Design. Now that it’s summer (ok, it’s 50 degrees as I write this BUT May – let me pretend), I love sitting at The Deck in Salisbury which overlooks Newburyport’s waterfront – the prettiest view and great food/drinks. I also love getting take-out from Port City Sandwich Co. and escaping to Plum Island for an hour or two with my little siblings (10, 12, and 18).
If you were to spend a day in Boston, what would you do?
I spend many days in Boston – the city has my heart and I use any excuse to head in. Anyone who knows me knows I’m a total wanderer. My favorite days in Boston recently have been showing visitors around, playing tour guide. There is just so much to do and even when you think you know the city like the back of your hand, it’s easy to stumble across something new. I always, always, end up in Olives & Grace for my own shopping needs (we also sell there), it’s definitely the neighborhood hot spot – they carry really awesome local products that have a story, and the owner, Sofi Madison, has been just so great to us. The live music scene in Boston has gotten pretty damn good in recent years as well. I try to catch a live show whenever I can.
What’s next for Seacoast Sweets?
Well, we hope to take over the world. So there’s that. But in the meantime, my efforts right now are spent really solidifying the company foundation. I have a long list of new patty flavors, potential stores I’d like to be in, etc. and everyone is asking “when, when, when”, but it has only been a few months in which I’ve been able to give the “important stuff” my attention. Until January, I was working a full-time day job and making chocolate at night to get the orders out the door – very little time to put towards worrying about a strategy, my bottom line, or cost/time-cutting methods. It’s been nice to finally have time to get to those things. I did just launch a hotel collection which has been very fun – our first win was Hotel Commonwealth (TripAdvisor’s “Best Hotel in Boston”). I am hoping to go after some angel funding in the next few months as well – I think people forget that it’s really just me and one other employee making this all happen, my friends will step in a lot to help with the markets – it’s time I remove myself from the ground a bit and focus on the things only I can do and am best at.
Thanks, Kirstyn! We can’t wait to see what other delicious treats you create in the coming months. xo
Photos courtesy of Kirstyn Pearl.