Hot cocoa business explodes for mother and daughter

By Jared Janzen

HALSTEAD—It should come as no surprise that something named after a bomb would be as explosively popular as the SweetBombz that mother and daughter Amy Orem and RyleeAnne Jones started making and selling just before Christmas.

“We pushed over 300 bombs out the door for Christmas,” Amy said. “We were up late and had 12-hour days.”

She estimated they’d worked these long hours for three straight days to meet the demand. The last order was completed and picked up by 6 p.m. Dec. 23, leaving them a chance to relax before the holiday.

SweetBombz—also known as hot cocoa bombs—are hollow chocolate spheres filled with cocoa mix, marshmallows and other goodies. They’re a fun way to make a cup of hot chocolate. Simply place the bomb in a cup of hot milk or water, and the chocolate melts to flavor the drink. Amy and RyleeAnne recommend using milk instead of water for the best taste.

RyleeAnne scoops cocoa mix into an empty shell held by her mother, Amy.

Amy noted she wasn’t so much surprised at the number of orders they received as she was by the fact that they were able to complete them all. The two had never made hot cocoa bombs before until recently.

“At first we were kind of just messing around, and then we donated a couple to the Christmas Jingle downtown,” RyleeAnne said. “From there, we knew that some people wanted them local, so we just started to work.”

While hot cocoa bombs may be easy to use, making them is another story.

“It is time-consuming and very messy,” Amy said. “I think that’s why people don’t just get the stuff out and make a couple here or there.”

They had trouble finding the right molds, so they actually used spherical Christmas ornaments instead. They melt chocolate bark into half-spheres, and once they’ve cooled and hardened, they remelt just the edges by rubbing them on a warm skillet so they’ll stick together once the inside has been filled.

“We basically sit one night and do the shells, because that’s what takes the longest,” Amy said. “There’s actually two layers to that chocolate globe.”

They put hot cocoa mix and marshmallows inside, and then the SweetBombz are topped off with a drizzling of icing and sprinkles. They offered several variations.

“For Christmas, we did some regular [milk chocolate], some peppermint, and also some unicorn ones, which were really popular for the little girls,” RyleeAnne said.

The unicorn bombs have a white chocolate shell and include some colorful candies and sprinkles. RyleeAnne said decorating the final touches was her favorite part of the process.

“Definitely decorating,” she said. “Like the unicorn ones, we have a couple different ways to do them.”

Making SweetBombz is 15-year-old RyleeAnne’s first job.

“She wanted something to do, so this is her hobby, plus it’s her income,” Amy said. “So this was her spending money for Christmas. She paid Mom and Dad back for the supplies, and then she kept the income.”

She learned how to pay attention to detail and juggle customer orders coming in over Facebook, Instagram and word-of-mouth.

“You definitely have to work with people,” RyleeAnne said. “The positive feedback helps keep you going, because at some points you’re like, ‘Is it really worth it?’ Then seeing everyone and what they enjoy really makes you want to do it more.”

RyleeAnne Jones tops off a SweetBomb with sprinkles. She said decorating is her favorite part of the process.

Amy said they plan to keep making SweetBombz for future Christmases, as long as there’s a demand.

“A lot of them were saying it was definitely going to become a tradition after this year,” RyleeAnne added.

This week, Amy and RyleeAnne were starting to experiment with some variations, like caramel delight hot chocolate, Andes Mints, and Heath bars. They may also try a cappuccino bomb of fudge at some point.

The pair was planning on making more bombs this week for New Year’s, and they’re also looking ahead to Valentine’s Day. For Valentine’s Day, they plan to team up with Erin Rousseau, owner of the Copper Cactus, to offer a package deal on cookies and SweetBombz.

They’ll take special orders for birthdays, as well.

They tried to keep prices low for Christmas, but Amy noted they may have to reevaluate this to keep making a profit.

Amy and RyleeAnne have made T-shirts and business cards to promote their business. For more information or to place an order, visit the SweetBombz page on Facebook or Instagram.