MEET Taria, Ashley & Joshua: crafty confectioners and earth shattering entrepreneurs
Do you find yourself craving a candy bar? How about craving social change? Well, we have uncovered a way to combine the two. Whether you are looking to satisfy a craving or to find a meaningful party favor, you should meet the folks at Sugar-coated Radical. Taria, Ashley and Joshua are working hard to create a shift in consumer consciousness here in Atlanta. From the crazy (and awesome) flavors of their confection, the handmade design elements of their store and displays, to the fair trade sourced ingredients that permeate everything they do, Sugar-coated Radical is a great addition to Atlanta. Grab some of their chocolate goods and prepare to meet them.
Tell us about your project:
Taria: As a business we sell chocolate confections. We sell them because I do believe in making a profit and being self sustaining. We want to be sustaining while making social change. We are making an impact already by how we source our ingredients but we hope to one day make enough income to support other deserving projects.
Ashley: We realize that a lot of our projects are not going to make money. My background is in visual arts. When Taria and I met she wanted to know how I made money from art- I didn’t know. She told me you can have both, you can pursue your passion and express yourself while still being profitable. Some expressions don’t make profit, but you should find a way to maximize the ones that do to fuel the others.
How did you get started with your current venture?
Joshua: It started when Taria and I began working together at Highland Bakery. We had a similar notion and started to figure out how to make it happen. It blossomed from there with us taking small steps.
Taria: The steps looked really small on the outside but they were still big enough for people to stomp all over them. For us buying a blender was a big deal! What is amazing about Joshua and my’s relationship is helping him with the reevaluation of his own career, he is really talented. My own background is in pastry and chocolate. That is a really dirty industry. Currently a lot of people are pushing the boundaries in this industry but only in intellect. What can you do with sugar? It is fascinating but it is just food. People slave over it, but in the end people don’t even eat it half the time. Joshua had a lot of talent and experience in sugar items. We started looking at building things where the ingredients would tell the story on their own.
We found the space we just moved into last November, but someone already had it. We ended up in a different space because none of us could wait.
Ashley: We needed something cheap. We wanted a space that we could mess around in, something where the high cost of a store front wouldn’t hinder us. We needed a buffer where we could choose what days to be open. We also got an awkward space that helped to shape us. I don’t think that was part of the plan, but it became a big part.
What inspires you to do this work?
Taria: To be inspired in the food industry is hard. For us it isn’t just “I made a great pastry”, its “how did I impact someones life today”. In a usual business that is impossible to do, you are always thinking about the bottom line. I think about the bottom line often because we need to stay open. Having very little money really pushes creative boundaries. How can you do things with very little resources? What can you make out of scrap wood? Even if we are making lots of profit one day, I want to keep that attitude. I always think about a vendor on a street corner in a third world, I am inspired by how they operate. They have very little but they are making it happen, making genius out of nothing.
Ashley: Some of the greatest art took place in times where there was nothing to take from. No one wants to deliberately start from the bottom, but historically that is what spurs artistic innovation. I keep wanting the process to be romantic: “oh, we don’t have anything but we will get by”. But it isn’t quite like that. I used to think of artists in New York in the 50’s and how they were creating from nothing. Now I think maybe they got drunk all the time just to get by!
Taria: We can’t be afraid of our own success either. We are looking to express ourselves and make a social impact. I have to think that it is more than just me wanting to do this. Bring on the success because we can really change things.
What kind of impact are you hoping to have on the community- either local or international?
Taria: For the Atlanta community, we want people to pay more attention to their purchases.
Ashley: Not in a massive way, but more gradual. Where does chocolate come from? How about your shoes? You have to make subtle changes that make a difference.
Taria: People just need to pay more attention. Especially in the food industry. The more people pay attention, the more they become demanding, then quality of products will increase. And with quality purchasing comes quality of life for everyone. One of the things we want to show people is that anyone can create genius with anything they have. This business has challenged us- we all started with grand notions but were knocked down to reality. We have learned to work with what we have, and I think that is what we want to offer other people. How to make due with what you have available. We also want people to realize that business can look a different way. We are not always open the same hours with the same products. We have different things all the time. We want to serve as a wake up call.
Promoting ourselves at Gather Atlanta was important for us. We are not your average business. Because what we are doing is revolutionary, I know that working with the artist community is important. They are already pushing boundaries. I think they can identify with us and that they will enjoy the story of our products. We can also show them that art can be expressed in a different way, through food. Taste is just as important of a sense to manipulate as sight and sound. it hasn’t been explored as much as it can. We want to show food as an actual art.
Who are you collaborating with?
Ashley: The Good Food Truck. They struggle like we do but have a similar resolve to make things happen. We love the Dance Truck and want them to do a rain dance for us, but a rain dance to bring on awesomeness.
Taria: We hope to work with the Goat Farm in the future. We want to do some things out there since it is a great creative space.
Ashley: We will be working with the Good Food Truck to take our creations for a new thing at the Contemporary Arts Center called “Day Job” which is about artists having other means to make money. People who have a desk job in day and are a fire eater at night.
Would you like to see your project replicated or expanded?
Taria: I have huge plans. The chances to open more stores in other locations is high, that will be the easiest way to expand.
We also see expanding as having influence over the way things are done. Buying cooperatively is hot right now, but I think the way it is done has to change. If there was a way to have a giant cooperative, having partners all around the world, that would offer greater insurance for the farmers. Right now if a farmer’s crops fail or if an entire cooperative community fail, there isn’t much of a backup plan. But, if they were partnered with other communities around the world who didn’t fail that year, they would have a better chance. They could also drive better prices because they would hold more of the market. If a chocolate company wants to buy ingredients, they have to pay higher prices because the farmers would own everything! That is our eventual expansion goal. We sell chocolate, its a luxury item. For us to sell something like that in a way that isn’t sustainable or beneficial, is tragic.
Joshua: I personally would like it replicated elsewhere. For me it is a way to express myself, but I am also able to share it with colleagues in the industry. i am able to show them that there is another way of doing things in the industry, you can control it. They are really inspired by what we do, but they are afraid to move in this direction. I was afraid of the challenges at first as well. you are used to having every tool and ingredient you want, but it is freeing not to have them. I would love to spread that to other places.
What kind of help or assistance does Sugar-coated Radical need?
Taria: We just need people showing up at the shop. Like minded people to come in and and enjoy some chocolate while exchanging ideas. I don’t care if you buy something, just come in and see what we are doing. We host events on Sunday which are great. Lots of people come in and just hang out in the store and on the sidewalk. It is a great moral booster for us, we need more of those days.
Joshua: You don’t have to buy $50 worth of chocolate, we have $.50 pieces. Just come in and experience it.
What are some of the key issues you see in Atlanta?
Ashley: On a grand level, accepting mediocrity as the way to do things. It makes people apathetic. just doing something or experiencing something because its there. It is a big struggle in the restaurant industry. We market things to look one way, but don’t always follow thru. Like with farm to table. Restaurants market farm to table and they get one thing locally but everything else is very commercial. They might get lettuce from a farmer but buy coffee from a big conglomerate. That is mediocre.
Taria: People should challenge themselves more. There are a lot of different groups trying to make change, but they are not working together. They are not really making change because they are creating a bubble around their work. Change comes from interaction and i think people forget that it needs to happen often. They do something different once and then stop. That, and being apathetic effect everything. We want to bring that to light. I mean, we are just selling chocolate, it isn’t like we are approaching these ideas in a heavy way!
What are some of your favorite organizations in Atlanta?
Taria: I am all about the Goat Farm. I met with Anthony and got a tour. They are really shaking things up. The climate of art in Atlanta has shifted over the past few years because of what they do. They are a for-profit business created to support art and non-profits. They don’t seek grants, they don’t seek donations. Non-profit status works for some causes and organizations, but it isn’t the only way.
Ashley: That is really true for artist. Listening to artist talk about getting grants- that you have to apply months in advance- it is really disheartening. It stifles creativity. With the big arts funds, many smaller artists get overlooked. It can be very political. Having a local business looking to support smaller artists and organizations is great.
Taria: I love Dance Truck a lot. I have an obsession.
Ashley: The fact that they are stranded somewhere between portland and Atlanta is pretty brave. They raised donation to go but need to find enough to come back. Mad Housers is another one. They are very under the radar, which they need to be for what they are doing. They still need support and it is hard for them to get it. What they are doing is fantastic.
Taria: I love Wonderroot even though we haven’t done much with them. They are a big name, but still very grassroots.
Ashley: What’s great about them is where they started. They had this shabby little place and there was nothing over there, but they have turned it into something great.
How can interested readers get in touch?
Taria: Sugarcoatedradical.org. Usually they can call our store or cell phone, but we lost our charger in the move! It should be fixed soon. Also, we are open Thursday thru Saturday 12 to 7:00pm and Sunday 9am to 4:30pm. Come to the store!
What FEED’s your soul?