Everyone has stories from the 2008 Great Recession. Many of them involve loss of jobs, homes, businesses, even love. Unfortunately, there are not nearly enough recovery and turnaround stories to match those. Julie Ann Caramels out of Salt Lake, Utah, however, is one of them.

When Rowena Montoya and her husband saw their entrepreneurial transportation business grind to a halt as a result of tough economic times, both had to roll up their sleeves and start anew.

“When my husband, Frank, began a new job traveling to trade shows, he needed a way to grab attention and help build client relationships,” explains Rowena. “I had the perfect solution—I made him delicious, homemade caramels to share at his events. It wasn’t long before Frank was being asked where they could buy the delicious caramels. I saw the opportunity and stared building my business.” 

Poignantly, the new business reflects a previous cathartic moment as well. Dubbed Julie Ann Caramels, Rowena explains that the name has its origins from her two aunts, Julie and Ann, both of whom took her in at 15 when her mother died.

The aunts raised Rowena, teaching her how to cook, even sharing their family recipe with her for caramels.

“More than that, these two women had been a huge, positive influence in my life, instilling many of the values and beliefs that are still a part of my life and business,” she says.

Today, Julie Ann Caramels offers a wide line of products including its golden caramel nuggets, which come in more than 30 mouthwatering flavors.

“Just like how caramel used to be made, we buy our dairy locally and we use the freshest ingredients,” she says. The recipe features all natural ingredients, with each caramel also individually handwrapped and labeled.

Over time, Julie Ann Caramels has expanded its caramel creations with items such as caramel pretzel knots, caramel crispy treats, caramel s’mores and creamy caramel sauces in a variety of flavors.

If you were stranded on a deserted island with only one kind of candy, what would it be?

It would be a caramel. Not just any caramel, but a Coconut Dream caramel. The island I would be stranded on is tropical, so hence the marriage between coconut and chocolate. It’s the better of two worlds. Because it’s a caramel, it would be creamy and buttery and soft. Moreover, this caramel is a two-process caramel. We layer it with a dark chocolate and then we apply coconut for the second layer. It’s topped off with chocolate drizzle and coconut flakes. Something to dream about!

Below,  Rowena Montoya shares her biggest pet peeve, what excites her most about her job, and the issue that concerns her most in the confectionery industry. 

What was the last cool thing you saw online?

Chili Crunch Bar by Virva Chocolate.

When you were little, what did you want to be when you grew up?

To make a difference in the lives of others. That was done for me at a young age of 15 by my aunts. It has been a life-changing event in my life and I want to help others see that you are not a product of what you are born into, but what you can make of your life. I always wanted to be a great mother and wife.

What issues concern you most about the confectionery industry and why?

I just want something fresh and clean. I want to be able to read the ingredients and understand what they are. I want to see what I am buying. I love clear packaging.

What’s the last book you’ve read?

I just finished with Me before You by Jojo Moyes.

What is your pet peeve?

Messiness. I love things clean and organized 

What excites you most about your job?

I love to create. I learned to do that at the age of 15. I always love to tell people about my product. So when people tell me they have not had anything like this before, my favorite thing to say to them is you are right. I just invented it. Now I get to share it with you. Our tag line is: “A taste so amazing we just had to share!”