Rowena Montoya | How I Started JulieAnn Caramels

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I met Rowena Montoya when I spoke at a Time Out for Women event in early 2014; I was immediately delighted by her story (turns out we are also both from San Jose).  Plus, I couldn't stop eating her caramels. They are delicious.  Enjoy her story!

When the economy came crashing down, it affected my husband’s business like so many others out there, a business that together, Frank and I had worked hard to build since 2000 and keep afloat even throughout harsh economic times – but ultimately we had to shut the doors and start over.

This overwhelming situation led us to start JulieAnn Caramels.

Throughout our lives we had seen our share of hardships growing up and in our life together. So we both knew that if we continued working hard—and working together—an answer would present itself. When my husband’s new job took him traveling all over the country to trade shows and other events meeting not only locals but people from throughout the world, I found a way to help him draw attention and build client relationships.

The answer was homemade caramels.

It wasn’t long before Frank was known as “The Caramel Guy” and people were asking where they could buy the delicious caramels he was always sharing.

The name, JulieAnn Caramels, came from a combination of names from two aunts who taught me how to cook and shared their family caramel recipe with me. These two women have been a huge, positive influence in my life. When I lost my mother at a young age, my one aunt and uncle took me in, welcoming me into a family environment I had never known. They instilled many of the values and beliefs that I still live by in my personal and professional life.

From the beginning, there have been naysayers who told me that there “isn’t anything new in candy” and they “have seen it all.” But there’s more to JulieAnn Caramels than just classic, handmade, delicious caramels. I’m driven by the creative process, product development and an innovative spirit. I’ve invented an array of flavors and taste experiences that are truly unique—and confectioners, vendors and customers are excited about it.

JulieAnn Caramels offers an exceptional array of flavors, including Eggnog, Pumpkin, Vanilla, Strawberry (with fresh strawberries), Coconut, Orange, Very Berry (which is a mixture of raspberry, strawberry and blueberry), Black Licorice, Sea Salt, Almond, Cashew, and Pecan. Some of our newer flavors include Chocolate, created in conjunction with Guittard Chocoloate. We cook the highest quality chocolate right into the caramel to give it the richest flavor. We also offer Maple Bacon, using Boar’s Head Pancetta and real maple syrup. It’s like bacon in a pancake!

For our more adventurous customers, we offer a walk on the wild side with Mango Habanero and Very Hot Cinnamon. I call the Mango Habanero a layered flavor. First you taste the sweet fruit flavor of mango, closely followed by the creamy butter of the caramel with just the right amount of kick at the end. Watching people try this caramel for the first time is always an enjoyable experience! And Very Hot Cinnamon is one of my new favorites, especially when covered in Guittard Chocolate. In fact, you can choose to get any of our flavors drizzled in chocolate to create an entirely new and delicious taste!

Not only am I proud of the caramels we’ve created, I’m also proud of the company we’ve built. We pride ourselves on providing women of great quality with a chance to work at the grassroots level of what we foresee to be an innovative and stellar candy business. While our employees are not limited to women, JulieAnn Caramels was established and initially staffed by women, from women in their 70s who help create our graphics and stock our stores to young women who are now ready to graduate high school with real-world business experience.

Today, JulieAnn Caramels are known throughout the world we are in multiple storefronts and schools around Salt Lake City, Utah. We’re regularly asked to participate as a preferred vendor in various food showcase conferences and events. And our online presence continues to grow, drawing in loyal customers from around the country. We ship regularly to all parts of the USA and are looking into international orders.

Yes, at the age of 50, Frank and I are starting over. We didn’t let one of life’s roadblocks stop us or even detour us for very long. Frank is once again doing well in his field and I am developing a career in the caramel business. I’m conquering another phase of life with my passion for caramels and my belief that I’m here to make a difference every day.

One caramel at a time.

Have you had to start over?  What is something wonderful that happened?


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