September 18, 2012
Six years ago Laura Darnall and Lois Judy met on the sidelines of a Savannah soccer field while watching their daughters play on the same team. Darnall, then a kindergarten teacher, had developed an edible product she called “Candy Clay Dough” for her students to use in art projects. She brought the product to an end-of-the-year soccer party, where it caught the eye of Judy, a registered nurse. In 2008, the two teamed up and founded Fondarific, which makes fondant, a moldable icing used on cakes and other baked goods such as cupcakes and cookies. Today, Fondarific produces 14 flavors of fondant and its customers include bakeries, retailers, distributors and individual cooks across the globe.
In a year’s time, Fondarific went from production in a shed to a 1,500-square foot production facility to a 3,000 square foot facility. The firm was growing at a very fast pace and turned to the Georgia Manufacturing Extension Partnership (GaMEP) at Georgia Tech to help improve the production flow in the production facility it was occupying at the time and with overall growth planning.
Danny Duggar, a project manager with GaMEP’s Lean Services Group, used lean principles – such as reorganizing rooms to put work stations closer together, placing materials closer to the locations in the production process in which they are used and reducing wasted motion – to improve production flow. He also provided advice on equipment purchases.
Later, when Fondarific moved into its current 10,000-square-foot facility, Duggar oversaw production floor layout and spearheaded the company’s shift to increased automation in its manufacturing process.
Orjan Isacscon, Georgia Tech’s Coastal Region manager, also put Fondarific in touch with the Economic Gardening Program. The program, which is partially funded by Georgia Tech’s Enterprise Innovation Institute (EI2) and is run by the Technology Association of Georgia’s Savannah office, helped the firm optimize its website for search engines, provided insight on which companies are Fondarific’s biggest competitors and pinpointed which countries are strong markets for fondant.
- Fondarific’s relationship with GaMEP has paved the way for the company to grow to $2.5 million in revenues in 2011, and the firm now exports its product to Australia, Canada, Guatemala, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Spain and the United Kingdom.
- The company’s increased use of automation has reduced labor expenses by 18 percent, which in turn has allowed Fondarific to make its pricing more competitive.
- Four years after beginning operations in a 10-foot-by-14-foot building in Darnall’s backyard, the women received recognition from the U.S. Small Business Administration as 2012 Georgia Small Business Persons of the Year.
“We could not have done all this without Georgia Tech,” Darnall said.