Ladies of Licorice
15 Years of Licorice International
It started with $13.15. A number Ardith and Elizabeth of Licorice International still remember to this day.
It was the amount of first sale as the new co-owners of Licorice International, and, as they'd see over the next 15 years, far from their last.
“The dream was so big,” Ardith said.
She referred to the duo's shared dream of delivering the "world’s best licorice" to a small, but loyal community of licorice enthusiasts.
Their business, which is currently located in a converted warehouse on the corner of 8th and Q, came from humble beginnings. Elizabeth remembers packing and fulfilling orders in the basement of her own home and both Ardith and Elizabeth said they worked tirelessly to pursue their passion. The two searched, pre-internet, for contacts and hand copied all the names of photo editors around the country in order to send press releases and samples of their adolescent licorice company.
But their dream of wasn’t the only thing growing. The demand for specialty licorice inevitably brought the duo to the rapidly expanding Haymarket District.
“I remember looking outside the shop and seeing prairie. Now the Haymarket area has so much going on,” Ardith said.
Elizabeth said she remembers when all their hard work paid off.
“We were getting hundreds of calls a day," she said. "This was a good, but terrible problem because we couldn’t keep up with it. I remember we had to hire an out of work piano teacher to field all the volume of calls.”
It was an exciting but difficult time for the two as they watched their company grow rapidly.
“You just have to keep putting one foot in front of the other,” Ardith said.
When speaking with Ardith and Elizabeth there was no shortage of helpful advice. The licorice entrepreneurs have been through it all and after 15 years the two have yet to run into a problem they couldn’t solve.
“Work is fun," Ardith said. "Every once in a while there is a [stressful situation], but it’s fun work.”
When the duo started their business, they said they had help from many.
“Mentors," Elizabeth said. "You can’t manufacture good mentors. They come in to your life and they are a gift.”
Downtown Lincoln asked, besides one another, what most helped them over the past 15 years. Both replied, almost in unison, “our moms.”
They continued with stories of how their mothers would leave business cards at every doctor’s and dentist’s office they visited.
After 15 years of learning the ins and outs of their niche candy business, Licorice International have become mentors themselves. Their story is an inspiration to many aspiring budding businesses, both downtown and elsewhere.
Today, Ardith and Elizabeth are looking to the future. They hope to continue filling their niche and expand the availability of their goods.
Licorice International is also the only candy company that buys foreign licorice by the pallet. This massive quantity allows them to bring new unique ideas to distribution.
“We would like to kiosk the shop," they said. "Airports and even other candy stores. Nobody buys licorice by the pallet like Licorice International. It can still get bigger.”
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